When Blanc signed an exclusive contract with Warner Brothers, he was replaced by the man who originally designed Woody, Ben "Bugs" Hardaway, a former Schlesinger Studios animation director who had helped develop Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny. Woody received a permanent voice in 1952, when Lantz's wife, actress Grace Stafford, anonymously auditioned for and was awarded the job.
Woody through the years
The theatrical cartoon business was losing money in the 1950's. By 1956 there were only seven animation producers in the short-subjects business, and by the end of the decade that number would dwindle down to three. Movie theater owners were finding that they could release features with reissued cartoons, or no cartoons at all, and the audiences would still come.
Walter Lantz and his distributor,Universal Pictures, knew that the only way to subsidize the rising costs of new shorts was to release their product to television. Norman Gluck from Universal's short-subjects department made a deal with the Leo Burnett Agency to release some older Lantz product on television. Burnett handled the Kellogg's cereal account, and Lantz soon met with the Kellogg's people to sign the contract.
The Woody Woodpecker Show originally ran on the ABC-TV network from October 3,
1957 through September 25, 1958. Sponsored by Kellogg's, each episode featured
three theatrical cartoons, with new animated Woody wraparounds and live action hosting
chores handled by Lantz himself. The live-action segments were directed by Jack Hannah.
Hannah was fresh from the Disney Studio where he had done similar live-action/animation
sequences for the Disney show. Woody also appeared in animated commercials for Kellogg's.
The series was seen once a week, on Thursday afternoons, replacing the first half hour of
the shortened Mickey Mouse Club.
After the initial year on ABC, The Woody Woodpecker Show was syndicated until 1966. In 1970, it reappeared on network television, with 26 additional episodes assembled by Lantz for NBC-TV.
Cartoon character Woody Woodpecker sporting a makeover, courtesy of Universal Studios animators, appeared on the Fox Kids Network in new broadcasts which began airing Saturday May 8, 1999.
Forty new cartoons, the first new Woody adventures since 1979, were produced for Fox. Each new program consisted of three seven-minute cartoons.
Emmy nominee Bob Jaques, known for his work on the popular cartoon series ``The Ren and Stimpy Show,'' produced and directed the series. Jaques was joined by writer and story editor Jim Gomez, who has worked on ``Ren and Stimpy'' and ``Tiny Toons.''
``We are preserving (Woody's) great legacy by introducing a hip, contemporary Woody to a whole new generation around the world,'' Nancy Steingard, executive vice president of Universal Cartoon Studios, said in early 1999.
Billy West, who has worked on such animated pictures as ''Space Jam'' as well as ``Ren and Stimpy,'' voiced the new Woody. Also providing voices were Mark Hamill of ''Star Wars,'' Tress MacNeill of ``The Simpsons'' and Nika Futterman of ``Suddenly Susan.''
"...Meet My Boss..."
Find out more about Walter Lantz at the
UCLA Film/TV Archive--Walter Lantz page.
Ron Kurer's TOON TRACKER Home Page
For more on Woody visit
The Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia
The Woody Woodpecker Gazette
Van Eaton Galleries: Original Walter Lantz Cels, Drawings, and Model Sheets
Toonopedia's Walter Lantz Tribute
Universal's Official Woody Woodpecker Site
Chilly Willy's Sub-arctic WORLD!
THIS SITE ORIGINATED JANUARY 3, 1997
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