Skip to content

Lessons on Innovation from our Clay and Cartoon Friends

July 30, 2009

Turning On Future Innovators – Science and Technology Should be Fun!

For our online museum of science and technology tip this week I suggest you and the kids visit The Science Museum in London. The below link will take you to the Wallace & Gromit exhibit, it is fun and educational. There are projects and contests on the site. It is sponsored by the Intellectual Property Office, equivalent to the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.


The Science Museum was founded in 1857 with objects shown at the Great Exhibition held in the Crystal Palace. Today the Museum is world -renowned for its historic collections, awe-inspiring galleries and inspirational exhibitions. It is presenting this delightful exhibit.

From the web site: “Who better to inspire the nation’s creativity and imagination than those masters of innovation and whacky ideas, Wallace and Gromit? The Oscar® winning duo will be at the heart of a new interactive family-oriented experience opening at London’s Science Museum on 28 March 2009.”


“Wallace and Gromit will be at the heart of this new interactive, family-orientated experience designed to appeal to a new generation of innovative minds. Visitors will take a tour of Wallace and Gromit’s home, 62 West Wallaby Street and interact with all kinds of exhibits along with some of Wallace and Gromit’s famous creations such as the Tellyscope II, the Piella Propellor and the Blend-O-Matic.”


“The exhibition contains innovations past, present and future and aims to stimulate a change in thinking and empower innovation and creativity. From the Kitchen to the Garden Shed, each room will accommodate a different aspect of the thinking process behind ideas. Innovators of all ages will learn how to protect their intellectual property, so that ideas deliver value to their creators as well as the wider world.”

I  am a big W&G fan and have been hooked on Nick Park since “Creature Comforts” which won the 1990 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Well before the creative Brits at Aardman were adding funny voices to their charming characters, Gumby, a clay-based animation boy, had an early run on U.S. TV starting in the early 1950’s. “Gumby is a green clay humanoid figure who was the subject of a 233-episode series of American television which spanned over a 35-year period. He was animated using stop motion clay animation.” Wikipedia.

While I can’t recommend watching a Gumby (or Davey and Goliath) show straight. Here’s a more fun way to see a Gumby and Pokey short “Robot Ruckus.” Thanks to the wise cracking MST3K robots, it’s OK for robots to put down robots. That’s why Tom Servo can say, “Robots just can’t fight clean” – and you can’t. A teachable moment.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K): Gumby in Robot Rumpus

“Sherman” says Mr. Peabody (Brian Griffin’s Grampy) “Fire-up the WABAC machine.”

Even before Gromit and Gumby, there was Grampy. Innovator, inventor and high-energy party thower, Betty Boop’s grandfather was one of my favorite characters. To this day, I use his creative intensity and leg wind-milling dance to celebrate brilliant solutions with the cry of “I’ve got it, Betty!” Talk about your Eureka moment.

Enjoy Betty and her easily-led-astray friends in this great 1935 video that introduced Grampy to the world. Come on we’re “On Our  Way to Grampy’s House!”

Bringing It All Back Home.

Now, that was a nice trip to London, the past and the year 3000. But what does that have to do with innovation in Oregon and the Willamette Valley?

“Will Vinton is the world-renowned Claymation pioneer who coined and trademarked the word and created some of the most innovative dimensional animation in history.”  Vinton’s work is displayed onsite and online by the Oregon Historical Society.

Featuring Will Vintons animation art collection, this exhibit illustrates the historic and ground-breaking evolution of Claymation.

Featuring Will Vinton's animation art collection, this exhibit illustrates the historic and ground-breaking evolution of Claymation.

From the OHS web site: “Claymation as practiced by Will Vinton was timely. At a minimum, it helped introduce audiences to 3D animation. At some level, it enthralled audiences and made them hungry for 3D animation – opening up the potential for 3D CG animation to become the dominant form of animation today.

Born in McMinnville, Oregon in 1947, Will Vinton’s interest in clay surfaced while studying architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. Will Vinton began making experimental 16mm films using his father Gale’s camera equipment.

Early works included: GONE FOR A BETTER DEAL, a documentary about “counter culture” and Berkeley in the 1960’s; BERKELEY GAMES and THE FIRST TEN DAYS about student protests; REPLY, an award winning short film; and numerous films involving architecture and architecture history.” From Will Vinton History.

Visit Vinton at OHS and enjoy this homeboy’s work, though clearly effected by his time at Berkeley. Here’s a bizarre and brilliant early work from one of the Valley’s most creative innovators. See the whole thing, it’s got (another – who speaks for the machines?) a psychotic robot brain and a Twilight Zone ending – my favorite kind.

Closed Mondays

Closed Mondays won an Oscar for best animated short film in the spring of 1975, the first film produced in Portland to do so.

Questions for the day: 1- Are dogs always smarter than people? 2- Do robots always go berzerk? 3- What happened between Vinton and Knight?

Th… Tha… Thas… That’s all for now folks.

Go forward, backward, outward or inward. Engage, enjoy and educate…

Don’t forget a towel and some crayons or clay.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: