Woody Woodpecker was based on a real bird

A disrupted honeymoon led to cartoon gold.

A loud enough nuisance can distract even the most Zen-like stoics among us. How often have you been working on something only to be interrupted by the sounds of construction? Or maybe a dog barking next door has kept you from concentrating. We can all relate to a tiny annoyance that builds and builds until we erupt. That's what makes Woody Woodpecker such a universal character.

While on their honeymoon in a small cottage, newlyweds Walter and Gracie Lantz found their peace disrupted. What should've been a romantic getaway nearly turned into a shootout when Walter threatened to gun down the pesky pest.

The winged irritant in question was, of course, a woodpecker. Walter Lantz was an animator and immediately began sketching cartoons of what would eventually become Woody Woodpecker. 

Ten years after the character's inception, Mrs. Lantz was keen to get in on the action, and was determined to voice the hit animated character. But her husband preferred to think of Woody with a male voice. And so, in the ensuing months, Walter Lantz auditioned six actors. Unbeknownst to him, Gracie also recorded an audition tape and stuck it in with the rest. Naturally, the judges chose Gracie's recording.

Woody Woodpecker wasn't just a successful cartoon; it was a merchandizing mega-power. According to a 1974 article in The Journal Times, there were sweaters, night lights, linens, cookie jars, watches, paper plates, swimming pools, lunchboxes, inflatable furniture, stuffed animals, puzzles, games, and books all adorned with Woody's feathered face. The market was completely saturated. Obviously, getting a percentage of all that merchandising money was enough to change the newlyweds' stance on woodpeckers.

"You never get tired of something you create that brings so much enjoyment to so many people," said Walter Lantz. 

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129 Comments

Suzies1952 6 months ago
There are a lot of different cartoons that me tv can show, more of a variety would be nice but when you added woody woodpecker, you just forgot the best bird cartoons, I think! and the best bird is? Tweety bird, I like those cartoons a lot better than woody woodpecker !
yilburger 10 months ago
Loving the Woody Woodpecker cartoons! It's nice to see them again after so many years. MeTv really shows a nice array of different characters and subjects besides just Woody. I recall when I was young that Woody came on TV in the evening and Walter Lantz introduced the cartoons himself in live action. Woody would fly down through the roof and Walter Lantz would fire up a cartoon on his movie projector. It's fun to read the credits to see what actors did some of the voices (some terrific character actors like Frank Nelson, Elvia Allman and Dal Mckennon) and who the animators were and who directed them. Credit also to Ben Hardaway who Bugs Bunny was named after. Cartoons rule!!!
Suzies1952 10 months ago
Love all the cartoons but I remember rocky and bullwinkle too but again my all time favorite is tweety bird! Please show more of them thanks for bringing back all the cartoons, it makes me feel younger by watching them
SammySetsuna Suzies1952 6 months ago
No Donald Duck or Daisy Duck?
GOOSEYGOOSE9 11 months ago
Please show the funny company
Who distributes the series please show the funny company on me tv
GOOSEYGOOSE9 11 months ago
Me tv should air the 1960’s Jonny quest and the porky pig show as well as dodo the kid from outer space from Joseph e Levine and robert maxwell
Definumitely like to see Jonny Quest show up on METV. They could play the Porky Pig theme before showing a Porky Pig cartoon on Saturday morning.
Didn’t Johnnie Quest have some sort of dinosaur that was a pet or am I thinking of another cartoon and did he have a friend named Raj? If my memory is correct that’s all I remember
Nick0 Coldnorth 11 months ago
No dinosaur, he had a small bulldog named Bandit and his Indian friend is Hadji. There were a few different Hanna-Barbera shows with dinosaurs though. Dino Boy had a baby Brontosaurus named Bronty, Mighty Mightor had a completely invented species of flying dinosaur named Tog, and a member of The Herculoids was an alien looking vaguely like a Triceratops, and Valley of the Dinosaurs which had a stegosaurus named Glump, and there is always the favorite dinosaur of the HB corral Dino in The Flintstones. I obviously watch way too many cartoons.
Moverfan Nick0 11 months ago
Then there was the Godzilla cartoon in the seventies with his little nephew, Godzooky (I kid you not). They weren't dinosaurs, but they looked a bit similar.
Coldnorth Nick0 11 months ago
Ok I got my cartoons mixed up. Thanks for explaining them. I do remember the little dog
Coldnorth Moverfan 11 months ago
I don’t remember that one at all. Thanks for all the info
Moverfan Coldnorth 10 months ago
It was on in the early to mid-seventies. I thought it was pretty good--although I admit that cartoon is still as close as I've ever gotten to watching a Godzilla movie.
Gossemer 11 months ago
Man I would love to see the Groovie Ghoulies again. I loved that show. So classic 70's.
epickett Gossemer 11 months ago
I forgot about the Groovie Ghoulies! I actually liked that one too. :-)
Moverfan epickett 11 months ago
Loved the Groovie Ghoulies! And the music! Their pet octopus played the drums, I think...
Atterev 11 months ago
I like Woody Woodpecker, hate to loose Tom and Jerry or Busg Bunny & Friends...Just please don't mess woth Flintstones or Jetsons...I love them so much they were apart of my childhood that I am glad to get back‼️
Gossemer Atterev 11 months ago
With you. These cartoons just help melt away the years. Like hanging with old friends
CharlesRocksClone Atterev 11 months ago
Your not losing Tom and Jerry .

7:00am Popeye
7:30am Tom And Jerry
8:00 Woody Woodpecker
9:00 Looney Tunes
Gossemer CharlesRocksClone 11 months ago
I can live with that :)!
LauraD 11 months ago
MeTV should try and get Felix the Cat, Rocky and Bulwinkle and and Augie Doggie.. I think that was the name
Bricat2001 LauraD 11 months ago
id rather they do the original 1920s felix then the color ones
lktornado360 LauraD 11 months ago
Felix and Rocky and Bullwinkle are owned by Universal, same as Woody, so it's not outside of the realm of possibility.
Bricat2001 lktornado360 11 months ago
the color ones? i thought some of the B&W ones were public domain?
Nick0 LauraD 11 months ago
Rocky and Bullwinkle would be great! They aren't owned by Universal and never have been. They have always been owned by Jay Ward Productions, which is run by Tiffany Ward, Jay's daughter. Currently television distribution rights are owned by WildBrain, who are also working on a series reboot with Tiffany Ward. Hopefully the new series will be better than the Amazon one was.
Moverfan LauraD 11 months ago
Augie Doggie & Doggie Daddy...who sounded like Jimmy Durante!
Coldnorth lktornado360 11 months ago
I have never seen the characters walk around Universal like characters do at Disney. I only go to Florida maybe they do it in California
DanDolgin 11 months ago
So if Woody Woodpecker is being added to the Saturday cartoon lineup, is one of the other cartoons to be eliminated to make room or will they add Woody to the lineup and eliminate the 10 to 11am Western shows in order to retain Tom and Jerry as well as Bugs Bunny. I would rather see more cartoons and fewer westerns on Saturdays.
Bricat2001 DanDolgin 11 months ago
they are removing the MGM cartoons on saturday's sadly :( i agree that there needs to be some sort of balance when it comes to the Saturday schedule. im assuming that TIWM will have the tom and jerry cartoons
Mistail1 DanDolgin 11 months ago
I love westerns!
Theyare moving the MGM cartoons to 7:30, right after Popeye.

7:00am Popeye
7:30am Tom And Jerry
8:00 Woody Woodpecker
9:00 Looney Tunes
thanks for clarifying!
Nick0 DanDolgin 11 months ago
Totally agree with that idea. MeTV runs way to many westerns very relentlessly. Rifleman twice a day, 6 days a week, among others, is serious overkill. I liked Rifleman for a while, but when the titles start, the channel gets changed in my house now. An even wider variety of Saturday morning (and more Sunday morning) cartoons would be even more welcome to me, especially the above posted idea of Rocky and Bullwinkle, among others. Another great one would be the 1967 Spider-Man, and maybe Underdog and the rest of the Total Television corral.
Coldnorth Bricat2001 11 months ago
Wayyyy too many westerns in a row. Not my favorite
yilburger 11 months ago
I wish MeTV would play all the Beanie and Cecil cartoons by Bob Clampett.
I like to see those on television again.
GOOSEYGOOSE9 11 months ago
Me tv should air king and odie as well as Tennessee tuxedo and his tales and underdog and hoppity hooper and Dudley do right and stingray and Astro boy and Gumby and davey and Goliath
Coldnorth GOOSEYGOOSE9 11 months ago
I loved Dudley Doright. Can’t remember who was always putting Nel in peril
Moverfan Coldnorth 11 months ago
Snidley Whiplash--he was not a nice person. Fantastic dresser, though...the tux, the cape, the top hat...
Coldnorth Moverfan 11 months ago
Now I remember. I just need a little nudge once in a while to kick start
GOOSEYGOOSE9 11 months ago
Me tv should air the funny company as well as the mighty hercules and dodo the kid from
Outer space and sinbad jr and Abbott and Costello cartoons and supercar and fireball xl5
MTEVENS GOOSEYGOOSE9 11 months ago
WOW! I saw Dodo the Kid From Outer Space, and I heard the beginning of the theme song. Can't remember the cartoon, but just the beginning of song. "Dodo the kid from outer space. Dodo something something human race."
yilburger GOOSEYGOOSE9 6 months ago
Shrinking Violet
GOOSEYGOOSE9 11 months ago
Me tv should have woody woodpecker and friends as well as Casper the friendly ghost on toon in with
Me
Moverfan GOOSEYGOOSE9 11 months ago
George Of The Jungle! And Super Chicken!
Avie 11 months ago
Walter Lantz was best friends with producer George Pal ("The War of the Worlds," "The Time Machine"), who also began his career as an animator (although of three-dimensional stop-motion puppets) and, as a tribute to his friend, Lantz, Pal always hid a Woody Woodpecker doll in plain sight somewhere in one scene in each of his films.
CharlesRocksClone Avie 11 months ago
Neat piece of trivia.
OVkid Avie 10 months ago
Thanks for that bit of information about the Woody dolls in those George Pal movies. I own both of the ones you mentioned on DVD, so now I'll watch them again and look for the dolls.
yilburger Avie 6 months ago
George Pal Puppetoons are phenomenal! Woody's pretty cool too.
GOOSEYGOOSE9 11 months ago
I seen woody woodpecker cartoons at Lacey drive in with my mom
Before every feature in 1972 before paint your wagon as well as a man called horse I did
Moverfan GOOSEYGOOSE9 11 months ago
Speaking of the old days at the drive-in, my folks took me to a LOT of Disney movies in the late sixties, early seventies (probably because I could go tear around the playground up near the screen and then fall asleep in the van on the ride home--not to mention I could be in my pajamas before we ever left home!). On one movie night (may have been The Boatnicks--look it up), they ran a trailer between films or whenever for something called The Other Side Of Bonnie & Clyde. Does anybody remember this film being in theaters at all? I don't want to see it, I'm just curious.
CoreyC 11 months ago
I liked the early Woody Woodpecker he was more malicious the he became boring especially when they brought in Knothead and Splinter.
TonyJohnson 11 months ago
Great News
I Love Those Woody Woodpecker/Chilly Willy The Penguin Cartoons.
I’m Sure Bill & Toony The Tuna Will Welcome Them w/Open Arms.
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