Friday, April 26, 2013

Walter (Woody Woodpecker) Lantz

Walter Lance with his animated alter-ego Woody

April 27, is the birthday of another famous animation giant by the name of Walt. If you can recollect the laughing bird call of his most most famous cartoon creation Woody Woodpecker you would probably also recognize his poppa- Walter Benjamin Lantz. He was born of Italian immigrants who like many at the time arrived in New York to start a new life in America. 

A couple of Universal "birdbrains"
Although by the 1920s he had already worked for various film chieftains  such as George Bray, Frank Capra and Mack Sennett, his big break came in 1928. It was then that he was hired by Charles MIntz as the director of "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit", the property that Mintz had been able to swindle away from the original creator, a young genius named Walt Disney. Eventually Oswald, seemed to wane in popularity and according to legend, Walt Lance and his wife Grace had been pestered during their honeymoon by a woodpecker who constantly pecked on their roof and the tree outside their window. As Lillian offered Walt Disney encouragement during the birth of Mickey, Grace did likewise for her husband regarding the bird and the result was a brash new animated personality named "Woody Woodpecker"

Walt Lance went on to create many more characters to keep Woody company and enjoyed a long relationship with Universal Studios only interrupted with a management change in the late 40s eventually reconciling in 1951 although with the phrase, "Faster Cheaper" in force by the new Universal Studios bosses. Walt and his wife Grace spent retirement painting and visiting children's hospitals where he would draw Woody while Grace did her famous Woody laugh to cheer the kids. Before he passed away in 1994 at the age of 94, he established a scholarship for animators at California Institute of the Arts while we celebrate the memories of a lifetime of animated creations.  BURBANK BUGLE-MP