Despite Gumby's positive demeanor, his origins stem from tragedy. When [Art] Clokey was 9, his father was killed in a car crash. He lived with his mother for a while, but when her second husband made her choose between him and her son, Clokey was sent to an orphanage. Fortunately, he was adopted by a good family. But Clokey wouldn't forget his father, whose head shape – characterized by a cowlick hairdo – would later provide the inspiration for Gumby's trademark lopsided head.
Above: Clokey animating the 1956 pilot episode of The Gumby Show. In this episode, embedded below, Gumby travels to the moon.
"He also used Robots and went in and out of books. Way ahead of his time. Art still has his child-like sense about him to this day," reads the caption for this photo on the website for Clokey's production company.