Walter Lantz

Active - 1929 - 1986  |   Born - Apr 27, 1900   |   Died - Mar 22, 1994   |   Genres - Comedy, Children's/Family, Musical

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Biography by AllMovie

Over the years, animator Walter Lantz created some of the movies' most beloved characters including the laid-back Andy Panda, Chilly Willy, the sad-eyed ever-freezing penguin, and Oswald Rabbit, but his most famous creation remains the mischievous carrot-topped Woody Woodpecker. Born in New Rochelle, New York to a family of Italian immigrants, Lantz got his start cartooning for a local newspaper. He learned to do animation with Gregory La Cava and Isadore Klein at Bray Studios where they brought the Katzenjammer Kids, Mutt and Jeff and Krazy Kat to life. In the late 1920s Lantz moved to Hollywood and began working with Disney and then Universal Pictures. He founded his own production company in 1935 and it is there that most of his characters were created. Woody was inspired by a noisy woodpecker who kept disturbing Lantz and his bride Grace Stafford on their honeymoon at Lake June, California. Grace suggested that Lantz immortalize their feathered tormentor by creating a cartoon character. The red-headed troublemaker made his first film appearance in 1941. Through the years, Woody has been played by a variety of voice actors. He was originally to be voiced by Mel Blanc, but he was already under exclusive contract with Warner Brothers. It was Grace who gave Woody his staccato "huh hah hah HA ha" laugh. In the mid '50s, many of Lantz' cartoons, especially Woody Woodpecker episodes were packaged, re-edited and shown on television. The only new animation he did for them was to introduce the cartoons and to introduce segments in which Lantz appeared sharing his secrets of animation. In 1979, Lantz received an honorary Oscar to pay tribute to his contribution of such long-lived, unique animated characters.

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