Although he began his life as a humble lump of clay, Gumby has gone on to become one of the most beloved animated characters of all time. For proof, just look at the line of toys he has inspired. Since 1964, Gumby-related items have been churned out by the dozen and continue to be produced today.
Although the character’s popularity has experienced peaks and valleys over the years, Gumby toys past and present have remained consistently popular with both children and collectors.
Veteran animator Art Clokey invented Gumby, a little boy-creature made of green putty, for a 1953 short film called Gumbasia.
Around this time, Lakeside Toys introduced the first Gumby toys. There were bendy action figures that could be posed, and a Jeep that has become a favourite of collectors. During the 1960’s, Lakeside would also produce Gumby wind-up toys and an electric drawing toy. They even made little costumes for the bendable figures.
Gumby’s popularity continued to grow during the mid-1960’s and this inspired other toy manufacturers to get in on the act. For instance, kid book specialists Whitman Books created a series of children’s books built around the Gumby characters.
Another popular item was the Gumby Modelling Clay put out by Chemtoy. This toy allowed enterprising young animators to create their own array of Gumby friends.
When The Gumby Show temporarily ended its run in 1967, this also led to a slowing down in the manufacture of Gumby Merchandise. Just the same, a few Gumby items of interest continued to be produced during the 1970’s. One of the best was the ‘Gumby and Friends’ series of soft rubber figures put out by Perma Toys.
In the 1980’s, Gumby experienced a new wave of popularity thanks to a popular skit on Saturday Night Live, wherein Eddie Murphy portrayed a cranky adult version of the beloved cartoon character. This new notoriety led to a television show called The All-New Gumby and new lines of Gumby toys.
Jesco, Hallmark, Playskool, Trendmasters and Clay Art were among the many manufacturers who made Gumby toys like posable plastic figures, ceramic knick-knacks and plush toys. There were also Gumby Shrinky Dinks and Colorforms, as well as clothing – shirts, hats, jackets, etc.
The wide array of Gumby items that were produced at this time show what an important part of pop culture Gumby had become.
In the 1990’s, Gumby toys got another shot in the arm when Gumby: The Movie came out in 1995. Today, new Gumby toys continue to be a staple item at toy stores and novelty shops. At the same time, the classic Gumby toys are still traded back and forth eagerly within collector circles.
The legendary status that Gumby has acquired during his four-decade-plus career ensures that his little green face will stay familiar to toy buyers for many years to come.