Their colorful faces and spirited action seem forever wedded to the time from which they sprang.
But neither Gumby nor H.R. Pufnstuf exactly left the public consciousness.
Both were kept alive by parody or near plagiarism over the years, from Eddie Murphy's Gumby parody on Saturday Night Live to the appropriation of the Pufnstuf gang for McDonald's commercials starring Mayor McCheese.
This season, the original works are out for the first time in lavish DVD boxed sets. Both are on Rhino - the seven-disc Gumby (690 minutes, $99.95) as well as the more modest three-disc overview, The World of Sid & Marty Krofft (120 minutes, $49.95).
And not willing to rest on the past, their creators plan new productions that will bring the characters into the 21st century.
Though there are more than 100 episodes of Gumby on the new gift set, including the original student art films from the '50s that led Art Clokey to his creation, work has begun on some new adventures.
"We're working on a Gumby movie," Clokey, 81, said from his studio near San Luis Obispo, Calif. That's in addition to a new Christmas special starring his second most famous characters, Davey and Goliath, due out next year.
There's a built-in audience for the green Claymation creature, says Clokey, who adds, "There's 50 million Gumby fans in this country."
`Piece of art'
The equipment they're using these days is slightly better than what was first used to bring Gumby and his pals to life. In particular, a frame-grabbing device lets animators see what they've just shot. "It enables the animators to do a better job animating," says Clokey.
The process is still painstaking, he says. "It depends on how many animators we got set up in the studio, but one animator can shoot 5 to 20 seconds in a day."
Things doubtlessly go faster with the flashy technology of computer animation, which has been behind such recent hits as Toy Story and Shrek. But something is lost, too, Clokey says.
"It's so artificial on the computers," he says, "it puts you out of touch with the artist and the animator."
It's as different as a machine-molded statue is from one that is hand-carved, he says: "One is a piece of art; the other is a piece of manufacturing."
The lasting appeal of Gumby, the wily green character with a slanted head, has to do with both his optimism and his material.
"One theory," says Clokey, "is that children identify with it because it's clay, and with clay, you touch it, and it changes. That's like children: You say something to them, and you touch them and they change."
Clokey says he didn't mind Murphy's Saturday Night Live impersonation of Gumby smoking a cigar and cussing out Raggedy Ann, because "it was a late-night show, and children weren't supposed to be watching it."
As for the recent Mountain Dew commercial using the Davey and Goliath characters - whose rights are owned by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - Clokey is not as happy. "We never would have done it," Clokey says. "I don't believe in peddling drugs to children: caffeine."
Drugs seemed part of the appeal of the Sid & Marty Krofft shows, but maybe it just was a product of its time - the late '60s and early '70s.
"We call it the Krofft look - a lot of color. You can smell a Krofft show when you see it," says Marty Krofft over the phone from Los Angeles. "You can't put a copyright on the looks."
Sid and Marty Krofft are the fifth generation in a family of puppeteers. They got their start in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus before their first TV series, H.R. Pufnstuf, introduced their style of fanciful lands with puppets that were more like freestanding mascot costumes worn by small people.
The new DVD box features an episode from each Krofft Saturday morning show: H.R. Pufnstuf, The Bugaloos, Lidsville, Sigmund & the Sea Monsters, Land of the Lost, Far Out Space Nuts, The Lost Saucer, Wonderbug, Bigfoot & Wildboy and Electra Woman & Dyna Girl.
"It's pretty nice to see how some of it that holds up," Krofft says. For all the work on the boxed set, though, he says, "you can get more. They're putting out Land of the Lost, all the episodes, on DVD. Probably all the H.R. Pufnstuf, and all the episodes of Sigmund. They're slowly all coming out."
There's something about the simplicity of the puppets, the swirl of colors, the frequent use of cheesy pop music and old Hollywood stars that made them campy delights that didn't go out of style, and in fact have been picked up by many other shows, not to mention the McDonald's commercials.
"Pee-wee [Herman] definitely copied us," Krofft says. "I think you can look at Smallville, and it smells of a lot of Krofft-looking stuff. I think Sid and myself initiated a very distinctive thing."
And there's a possibility they may be back on TV doing more.
Aside from continuing talk of an updated Land of the Lost miniseries and a pilot for a new Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, Krofft says, "I have a development deal at Fox for The Krofft Supershow that would go adjacent with The Simpsons if it goes on."
Roger Catlin is a reporter for The Hartford Courant, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.