Saturday, April 5, 2008

Woody Woodpecker

Woody Woodpecker is an animated cartoon character, an anthropomorphic woodpecker who appeared in theatrical short films produced by the Walter Lantz animation studio and distributed by Universal Pictures. Though not the first of the "screwball" characters that became popular in the 1940s, Woody is perhaps the most indicative of the type.

Woody was created in 1940 by storyboard artist Ben "Bugs" Hardaway, who had previously laid the groundwork for two other "screwball" characters, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, at the Schlesinger/Warner Bros. studio in the late 1930s. Woody's character and design would evolve over the years, from an insane bird with an unusually garish design to a more refined looking and acting character in the vein of the later Chuck Jones version of Bugs Bunny. Woody was originally voiced by Mel Blanc, the voice actor who voiced Bugs Bunny and most of the other Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies characters. Blanc was succeeded as Woody's voice by Ben Hardaway and later by Grace Stafford, wife of Walter Lantz.

Walter Lantz produced theatrical cartoons longer than most of his contemporaries, and Woody Woodpecker remained a staple of Universal's release schedule until 1972, when Lantz finally closed down his studio. The character has only been revived since then for special productions and occasions, save for one new Saturday morning cartoon, The New Woody Woodpecker Show, for the Fox Network in the late 1990s/early 2000s.

Woody Woodpecker cartoons were first broadcast on television in 1957 under the title The Woody Woodpecker Show, which featured Lantz cartoons bookended by new footage of Woody and live-action footage of Lantz. Though less popular today, a repackaged version of The Woody Woodpecker Show is still frequently seen in television syndication. Woody has a motion picture star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 7000 Hollywood Blvd. He also made a cameo alongside many other famous cartoon characters in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.




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