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The Making of “Clayride,” a Methodist Classic


The film “Clayride: A Gallop Through United Methodist History” has long been a favorite of confirmation classes. The claymation project was produced in 1984 for the church’s bicentennial. Three decades later, we asked the two artists who crafted "Clayride" to give us the details “straight from the horse’s mouth.”

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(Clip from "Clayride") “Well back when our country was very young, John Wesley said, ‘There’s a job to be done.’ A young Francis Asbury said, ‘Send me!’”

For more than 30 years, "Clayride" has been a source of wisdom and wonder for confirmation classes and members of The United Methodist Church.

Gene Cotton, Songwriter: “I wrote it with kind of a touch of humor to it..."

(Clip from "Clayride") “And all the ministers went on a circuit ride.”

Gene Cotton: “...cause, if you were to do it like a history lesson you would bore them to death in three and a half minutes.”

Singer/songwriter and United Methodist Gene Cotton wrote the soundtrack.

Gene Cotton, Songwriter: “So, I had to write the song to the claymation. Things didn’t happen in sync with the beat or something, and that’s why there’s so many odd bars in it. There are, you know, 5/4 bars and it’s crazy.”

(Clip from "Clayride") “Well there were three different groups in those early days. They were goin’ their own separate ways.”

"Clayride" was produced for the church’s Bicentennial in 1984, using a medium popular at the time – claymation.

(Clip from "Clayride") “When someone yelled, ‘California gold!’ California: ‘Come and get it!’”

Greg Killmaster, “Clayride” Animator: “All I remember is that they left me alone to do whatever I wanted to do and that’s what I Ioved about it.”

Greg Killmaster went on to develop creatures for "Star Wars" and "Pirates of the Caribbean." But in 1984, the young artist found himself working day and night for weeks, alone in a studio, crafting figures and scenes out of clay and pipe cleaners.

Greg Killmaster: “The majority of it is filmed backwards. I was having trouble with the clay. So I went away for 30 minutes and I remember a couple of the characters were completely melted. It was so hard! I mean when I think back on it. It was like, I’m not saying it wasn’t fun. That was the challenge was that it was super fun doing it and I hadn’t done that much clay animation. So a lot of it was experimental to me. And I remember thinking a couple of times, ‘Why am I doing this? It’s SO hard!’”

Gene Cotton: “My favorite part is probably at the end when it says,  ‘We still have our fussing and fighting and fits, but we’re all still called United Methodists…”

(Clip with horse from "Clayride") “Now, ain’t that something?”

Gene Cotton: “…and that is something. Every time I watch that video I learn something new from it.”

Watch "Clayride" in its entirety.

Learn more about the history of The United Methodist Church

This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN.
Media contact is Fran Walsh, 615-742-5458.

This video was first posted on February 14 , 2018.