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Cartoon Culture

Japan TV investigates Chinese rip-off of Gumby

Notice any resemblance between the two characters above? We didn’t either… but Japan’s NTV news reporting team did note certain similarities between the Shanghai Expo’s animated mascot, Haibao, and the USA’s own Gumby. They sent their people to interview the American owner of the Gumby copyright, Joe Clokey, about the issue. Here’s a clip (in Japanese, below) of the full report that aired yesterday (skip to 3:17 if you only want to see the part with Clokey).

(via Japan Probe)

  • diego

    the 2 characters are so different!

  • I agree. Ignoring the generic bell-bottom shape, generic oval eyes, and generic attitude, they’re totally different.

    My first impression was a capital A for animation.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Well, at least they tried for a fluff piece.

  • NC

    There are SO many more, better rip-offs. Why did they choose this one?

  • Vzk

    The Japanese right-wing media never misses a chance to bash China. Still, that was quite interesting.

  • Baron Lego

    I’d say that the Chinese mascot bears a far closer resemblance to the Bloo character from “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends” than Gumby…

  • Dylan King

    I found out the Totoro company made Haibao. I’m a bit surprised they couldn’t come up with something more creative.

  • Keith Paynter

    It looks like the bastard child of Gumby and the Terrytoons ‘face’ logo…

  • Scarabim

    The blue guy’s cuter.

  • Katella Gate

    I don’t see the problem, but then I’m still not sure why McDonald’s got spanked about the alleged McDonaldsland/Sid & Marty Croft infringement.

    If Mayor McCheese is an infringement of H.R. Puffinstuff, then every non-Muppet puppet built since 1963 owes Jim Henson royalties and damages.

  • Bob’s Big Boy hair

  • It’s cool to see Joe Clokey interviewed for this, though – such a nice guy and still keeping Gumby going and in the family. And still keeping him in clay, for the most part!

  • AAH

    The Japanese are hilariously awesome.

  • The “ripoff” looks more like a cartoon toothpaste wad.

  • Or elvis.

  • Its_Joseph

    It looks more like Bloo from that Fosterhome for Imaginary Friends cartoon.

  • Wayne

    It was 1979. I was riding the bullet train between Nagoya and Tokyo. Behind the rice fields, I saw a coffee shop, and above it a homemade painted sign with the name “Mickey”, and a poorly-painted portrait of the rodent in question. I saw another one called “Coffee House DONALD” with a picture of my favorite Duck. These weren’t a chain, but in those days, the Japanese weren’t all that careful about copyrights either. I remember seeing about 6 of such establishments from the bullet train.

  • mick

    I prefer the rip off

  • OtherDan

    I heard about this on the radio and did my little google image search to see this obscure Hi-Ji character-or whatever the hell he’s called. So, I’m glad you found it. Because, I couldn’t. What a joke. With that margin, we can call out just about any character in any movie or show for being derivative.

  • nick

    Around 10 years ago give or take Sony was licensing Gumby in Japan. I’m not sure if they still are but there was a spate of merchandise back then as well as DVDs.

    Wayne has or had a point though I would not compare mom and pop copycat use with a full size world expo. I would also think that the value of Japanese character goods outside of Japan has played an impact on Japan’s tolerance for infringement. It does make me wonder what would be the situation if China had more exportable entertainment and characters.

    My take on it is China is said to be spending something like 50 billion dollars on that expo and got some bad press not long ago about the full scale knockoff version of Disneyland. It’s interesting that it made the Japanese media first too. Then again I would think the Japanese media have less to lose by making it a scandal.

    I agree the character is different from Gumby in several ways, but still it either shows a lack of planning or disregard not to ask people in any of the dozens of countries Gumby happens to have aired about what they thought of a proposed character and be concerned it’s at a minimum bearing resemblance to Gumby when I presume the character is supposed to represent “better city, better life” and China. It does sort of say inadvertently that it’s okay to copy if it’s a bit different. Or maybe copying from a smaller foreign franchise is better.

    Gumby is a perfectly good ambassador for the city of tomorrow and should have gotten a pavilion.

  • AAH

    Also, bears a strong resemblance to “Sparkleman,” Crest’s character for children’s sparkly toothpaste, which appeared in the late 80’s. Obnoxious commercial featuring Sparkleman found here:


  • Wayne

    Right after I wrote my last comment, a Japanese TV show made mention of that in 70’s Japan, Mickey Mouse could still be seen on printed board games (not mere mom-and-pop stuff) among other toys, and that they were lax on restrictions. They also said that China seemed to be following in Japan’s shoes, “Olympics, unlicensed character usage, expo”. Several people on the panel didn’t think the expo character looked much like Gumby, either.
    In the past few years, Chinese theme parks have featured pseudo-Disney and Japanese cartoon characters, until asked to stop. So it’s not only about the expo.
    And yes, the character does look more like “Sparkleman” than Gumby!