Grace Lantz: Woody Woodpecker's heart and soul

The cartoon bird benefited from a feminine touch.

Behind lots of great success stories, there are great partners. While we might attribute a triumph to a single voice, the reality is often that a whole team worked together to avoid total catastrophe. That's often the case in media, specifically, where the limelight only allows for one person to shine at a time. In comedy, there's Jeannie Gaffigan who has co-written and produced every one of her husband Jim's standup specials. If you follow the career of filmmaker Peter Jackson, you'll see the name "Fran Walsh" appear over and over as co-writer and producer on all of his movies. Walsh isn't just a creative partner; she's Jackson's wife and co-parent of their two children as well.

In animation, another creative and romantic partnership was that of Grace Lantz and her husband Walter, creator of Andy Panda, Chilly Willy, and, most famously, Woody Woodpecker.

Grace began her life in show business as an actor at the age of 12. In a 1981 interview with The Times, Grace recalled her days in Vaudeville, when she traveled and performed with her father. The two were an entertainment duo called Boyle & Daughter, and they toured all over the world. 

Her marriage put an end to Grace's acting career but didn't snuff out her spark and her desire to perform. Even though her husband Walter was a successful cartoonist, Grace still wanted to work. She was a talented woman and wanted to express herself, regardless of whether she actually needed to in order to make a living. And so, when the time came for Woody Woodpecker to take on a new laugh, it was Grace's voice that was ultimately chosen as a replacement. 

Both Lantz and her husband Walter believed that Woody Woodpecker was a special character because he was such a lovable nuisance.

"He's everything we'd all like to be," said Grace, "uninhibited and always having fun. We don't let him get away with his pranks, but he always bounced back."

The secret to his success, though, may have been the love shared by the two people that brought him to life.

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6 Comments

same 10 months ago
Her real name was Grace Stafford and her husband Walter Lantz was actually of Italian lineage real last name Lanza
MrsPhilHarris 10 months ago
When I was a kid I loved Woody Woodpecker.
CoreyC 10 months ago
In the early Woody Woodpecker cartoons Woody was more malicious like MGM's Screwy Squirrel and Universal feared he would be cancelled so they soften his tone by having Grace Stafford Lantz to voice Woody.
Mark CoreyC 10 months ago
They also changed his look...in those earlier cartoons, Woody's eyes are crazy, he had buck teeth and I think he had a longer beak.

He got a total makeover...the screwy personality and voice (courtesy of Mel Blanc), as well as his looks were changed to a softer, cuter Woody, who became more of a re-actor than an actor (i.e., instead of being a troublemaker, Woody would become the victim of a villain, usually Buzz Buzzard, and have to get revenge. It's a lot like the transformation of Bugs Bunny).
DocForbin 10 months ago
In the early Woody Woodpecker cartoons, Woody was voiced by the "Man of a 1000 Voices" himself, Mel Blanc. Among others who voiced Woody over the years include Billy West (best known for being the voices of Stimpy on "Ren and Stimpy" and Fry on "Futurama"), who voiced him in the 1990s Fox Saturday morning series and Eric Bauza (who currently does his voice on the new Woody Woodpecker cartoons that are on YouTube and Kabillion).
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