Wednesday, January 20, 2010


There was a story in the paper yesterday that Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby, had died. He was aged 88. For the youngsters, Gumby was a green clay figure that featured in 233 episodes on US (and Oz) television over 35 years from 1955. Clokey reportedly named Gumby after the sticky mud he used to play with as a child, known in Michigan as "gumbo".

Gumby episodes were produced using the laborious process known as claymation. This involves clay or plasticine figures being moved slightly and photographed each time an alteration is made. After thousands of movements and shots, the images are played one after and another to form a continuous moving feature. This was the process used to make the Australian Harvie Krumpet, which won the Oscar for best animated short film in 2003.

In a world now dominated by CGI and computer special effects, it probably seems unbelievable that people made movies using such stop motion techniques. Prior to CGI, special effects in movies were frequently carried out using stop-motion with models. When you see monsters and dinosaurs fighting in various movies or King Kong swiping at planes in the original 1933 movie, you are watching painstaking stop motion photography using models moved a tiny bit each time and photographed.

I therefore commend to you a marvellous Christmas claymation short video I came across on YouTube. It is apparently from a show called Will Winton’s Christmas Celebration and features the Paris Bellharmonic Orchestra.

I loved it, but watch to the end. Also at the end is a joke using the line “His face rings a bell”.

This gives me the excuse to present a personal favourite joke that uses that line:
After Quasimodo's death, the bishop of the Cathedral of Notre Dame sent through the streets of Paris that a new bell ringer was needed. The bishop decided that he would conduct the interviews personally and went up into the belfry to begin the screening process. After observing several applicants demonstrate their skills, he had decided to call it a day when an armless man approached him and announced that he was there to apply for the bell ringer's job. The bishop was incredulous.

"You have no arms!"

"No matter." said the man, "Observe!"

And he began striking the bells with his face, producing a beautiful melody on the carillon. The bishop listened in astonishment, convinced he had finally found a suitable replacement for Quasimodo. But suddenly, rushing forward to strike a bell, the armless tripped and plunged headlong out of the belfry window to his death in street below. The stunned bishop rushed to his side. When he reached the street, a crowd had gathered around the fallen figure, drawn by the beautiful music they had heard only moments before. As they silently parted to let the bishop through, one of them asked, "Bishop, who was this man?" "I don't know his name," the bishop sadly replied, "but his face rings a bell."

{WAIT! Not through yet!}

The following day, despite the sadness that weighed heavily on his heart to the unfortunate death of the armless campanologist, the bishop continued his interviews for the bell ringer of Notre Dame. The first man to approach him said, "Your Excellency, I am the brother of the poor armless wretch who fell to his death from this very belfry yesterday. I pray that you honour his life by allowing me to replace him in this duty." The bishop agreed to the man an audition, and, as the armless man's brother stooped to pick up a mallet to strike the first bell, he groaned, clutched at his chest and died on the spot.
Two monks, hearing the bishop's cries of grief at this second tragedy, rushed up the stairs to his side.
"What has happened? Who is this man?" the first monk asked breathlessly. "I don't know his name," sighed the distraught bishop,

{WAIT! WAIT! Not through yet}

"but he's a dead ringer for his brother."

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