WALTER BENJAMIN LANTZ (April 27, 1899 – March 22, 1994) was an American cartoonist , animator , film producer , director and actor best known for founding Walter Lantz Productions and creating Woody Woodpecker .
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Early years and start in animation * 1.2 The Oswald era * 1.3 The Woody Woodpecker era * 1.4 Retirement and death
* 2 Characters * 3 Awards * 4 See also * 5 References * 6 External links
EARLY YEARS AND START IN ANIMATION
Lantz was born in
New Rochelle, New York
While working as an auto mechanic, Lantz got his first break. Wealthy customer Fred Kafka liked his drawings on the garage's bulletin board and financed Lantz's studies at the Art Students League of New York . Kafka also helped him land a job as a copy boy at the New York American , owned by William Randolph Hearst . Lantz worked at the newspaper and attended art school at night.
By the age of 16, Lantz was working in the animation department under
Gregory La Cava . Lantz then worked at the John R. Bray
Studios on the Jerry On The Job series. In 1924, Lantz directed,
animated, and even starred in his first cartoon series, "Dinky
Doodle", and soon replaced George "Vernon" Stallings as head of
production (In the 1920s, Bray began to concentrate on competing with
Hal Roach , the "king of two-reelers"). Lantz moved to Hollywood,
California , after Bray switched to a publicity film studio in 1927,
where he attempted to set up his own cartoon studio with Pinto Colvig
, but their sound cartoons never got produced. In the meantime, he
worked briefly for director
THE OSWALD ERA
In 1928, Lantz was hired by Charles B. Mintz as director on the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon series for Universal Pictures . Earlier that year, Mintz and his brother-in-law George Winkler had succeeded in snatching Oswald from the character's creator, Walt Disney . Universal president Carl Laemmle grew dissatisfied with the Mintz-Winkler product and fired them, deciding instead to produce the Oswalds on the Universal lot. While schmoozing with Laemmle, Lantz wagered that if he could beat Laemmle in a game of poker, the character would be his. As fate would have it, Lantz won the bet, and Oswald was now his character.
Lantz inherited many of his initial staff, including animator Tom Palmer and musician Bert Fiske from the Winkler studio, but importantly he chose fellow New York animator, Bill Nolan , to help develop the series. Nolan's previous credentials included inventing the panorama background and developing a new, streamlined "Felix the Cat ". Nolan was (and still is) best known for perfecting the "rubber hose" style of animation . In September 1929, Lantz released his first cartoon, " Race Riot ".
By 1935, he parted company with Nolan. Lantz became an independent producer, supplying cartoons to Universal instead of merely overseeing the animation department. By 1940, he was negotiating ownership for the characters with whom he had been working.
THE WOODY WOODPECKER ERA
When Oswald had worn out his welcome, Lantz needed a new character.
Meany, Miny, and Moe (three ne'er-do-well chimps), Baby-Face Mouse,
Snuffy Skunk, Doxie (a comic dachshund), and Jock and Jill (monkeys
In 1940, Lantz married actress
Grace Stafford . During their
honeymoon, the couple kept hearing a woodpecker incessantly pecking on
their roof. Grace suggested that Walter use the bird for inspiration
as a cartoon character. Taking her advice, though a bit skeptical,
Woody Woodpecker in an
Andy Panda short, "Knock Knock ".
The brash woodpecker character was similar to the early
Mel Blanc supplied Woody's voice for the first three cartoons. When Blanc accepted a full-time contract with Leon Schlesinger Productions / Warner Bros. and left the Lantz studio, gagman Ben Hardaway , the man who was the main force behind "Knock Knock", became the bird's voice. Despite this, Blanc's distinctive laugh was used throughout the cartoons.
During 1948, the Lantz studio created a hit Academy Award -nominated tune in "The Woody Woodpecker Song", featuring Blanc's laugh. Mel Blanc sued Lantz for half a million dollars, claiming that Lantz had used his voice in later cartoons without permission. The judge, however, ruled for Lantz, saying that Blanc had failed to copyright his voice or his contributions. Though Lantz won the case, he paid Blanc in an out-of-court settlement when Blanc filed an appeal, and Lantz went in search for a new voice for Woody Woodpecker.
In 1950, Lantz held anonymous auditions. Grace, Lantz's wife, offered to do Woody's voice; however, Lantz turned her down because Woody was a male character. Not discouraged in the least, Grace made her own anonymous audition tape, and submitted it to the studio. Not knowing who was behind the voice he heard, Lantz picked Grace's voice for Woody Woodpecker. Grace supplied Woody's voice until the end of production in 1972, and also performed in non-Woody cartoons. At first, Grace voiced Woody without screen credit, thinking that it would disappoint child viewers to know that Woody Woodpecker was voiced by a woman. However, she soon came to enjoy being known as the voice of Woody Woodpecker, and allowed her name to be credited on the screen. Her version of Woody was cuter and friendlier than the manic Woody of the 1940s, and Lantz's artists redesigned the character to suit the new personality.
Lantz's harmonious relationship with Universal, the studio releasing
his cartoons, was jarred when new ownership transformed the company
into Universal-International and did away with many of Universal's
company policies. The new management insisted on owning licensing and
merchandising rights to Lantz's characters. Lantz refused and withdrew
from the parent company by the end of 1947, releasing 12 cartoons
Lantz used his TV appearances on The
Woody Woodpecker Show (which
began in 1957) to demonstrate the animation process. Later, Lantz
entertained the troops during the
RETIREMENT AND DEATH
By the 1960s, other movie studios had discontinued their animation
In retirement, Lantz continued to manage his properties by licensing them to media. He continued to draw and paint, selling his paintings of Woody Woodpecker rapidly. On top of that, he worked with Little League and other youth groups in his area. In 1982, Lantz donated 17 artifacts to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, among them a wooden model of Woody Woodpecker from the cartoon character's debut in 1941. The Lantzes also made time to visit hospitals and other institutions where Walter would draw Woody and Grace would do the Woody laugh for patients.
Woody Woodpecker was honored with a star on the Hollywood
Walk of Fame. In 1993, Lantz established a $10,000 scholarship and
prize for animators in his name at
California Institute of the Arts in
Some characters in the Lantz universe (both cartoons and comics) are Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (formerly), Andy Panda , Space Mouse , Woody Woodpecker , Inspector Willoughby , Homer Pigeon , Chilly Willy , Lil\' Eightball , Charlie Chicken, Wally Walrus, and many more.
* In 1959, Lantz was honored by the
* The Golden Age of American animation * The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal (1985) (produced and directed by Arnold Leibovit ) – a documentary about George Pal in which Lantz appeared as himself. * Walter Lantz Productions
* ^ Folkart, Burt A. (1992-03-19). "Walter Lantz, 93, the Creator
Of Woody Woodpecker, Is Dead".
The New York Times . Retrieved
* ^ "Meet my boss, Walter Lantz". The