Video & DVD

Digging through the gems in this set, you might be struck by certain parallels between the life of Gumby and the genesis of the movies themselves (as discussed in this week's culture feature). The first films here, after all, send Gumby on a trip to the Moon that is an overt allusion to Georges Méliès' famous film; on a more fundamental level, this series wouldn't exist without the Méliès-like imagination of Art Clokey, who turned colorful clay into a charming little — what is Gumby, anyway? An alien? A mutant product of the Nuclear Age? A walking Fruit Roll-Up?

Who knows. The little green guy with the girlish voice is one of those increasingly rare birds, a kid-oriented entertainer who doesn't insult his audience's intelligence and wasn't created for the purpose of selling them crap. This set collects hours upon hours of his adventures (a single disc compilation is also available — but it doesn't come with a free Gumby doll), in which Gumby and his pals Pokey and Goo visit outer space, the farm, Hopi Indian villages, and Mirrorland. It's a ton of fun, linked in spirit as much as technique to its descendant Wallace & Gromit.

In traditional DVD fashion, this set includes cool archival stuff like the early, non-Gumby clay animation experiments that Clokey made in the '50s, interview material, and (almost a bit unsettling) a visit with the man who lent our bend-alicious friend his voice. It goes without saying that this green fella is a childhood friend infinitely superior to a certain purple dinosaur — but adults will get a kick out of him as well (whether they know him from childhood or are meeting him for the first time), and it's hard to imagine a better presentation of these imaginative clay antics than Rhino's new package.

7 DVDs, Kid Rhino Home Video, $99.95

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