Today is profile day here on our boat, and with a great icon of world comics and animations that is still successful to this day, the American artist, animator and voice actor Walter Benjamin Lantz, or better known as Walter Lantz, creator of a of TV’s most iconic characters, Woody Woodpecker (Woody Woodpecker).
Walter was born in the city of New Rochelle, New York, to an Italian immigrant family, his parents Francesco Paolo Lantz (formerly Lanza) and Maria Gervasi, hailing from Calitri. The artist was born on April 27, 1899 and since childhood he has always loved to create, invent stories and draw, he started taking drawing classes at the age of 12 and from the first animated short he watched – Gertie the Dinosaur, by Winsor McCay, animated him. to go to this area, inspiring his career as an animator.
But it was in his first job as a mechanic, that Lantz met who would open the doors to the world of animation, it was one of his clients, Fred Kafta, who liked his drawings scattered around his garage, giving him a new job in New York. American, coordinated by William Randolph Hearst. After finishing working at the newspaper, he devoted himself to art school.
Years later Walter began working behind the camera in the animation department, under the supervision of director Gregory La Cava, but it was in 1924 that the animator began to gain importance at John R. Bray Studios in New York, so he began directing, animating and also stars in his first cartoon series, “Dinky Doodle”. In 1927 he moved to Hollywood, California where he worked for director Frank Capra and later as a writer for Mack Sennett comedies.
The years went by and Lantz’s popularity only increased, in 1928 he was hired by Charles B. Mintz to direct Universal’s Oswald the Lucky Rabbit animated series, in which he also voiced the character, which earned him many stories even before. of the series to be sold to Walt Disney, who became entitled to the character.
But Walter was starting out in his new studio in New York, along with fellow animator Bill Nolan, who would help create new series and projects, such as his first cartoon, titled Race Riot. It was in the 1940s that Lantz would gain more notoriety in the animation world, and it was during his honeymoon with American actress Grace Stafford that his most famous character was created.
The couple were enjoying their honeymoon when they heard a woodpecker punching holes in the roof, so his wife suggested he use it as inspiration for his new character, which he soon got excited about. Walter, who had already created other characters after Oswald, such as Meany, Miny and Moe, Baby-Face Mouse and Snuffy Skunk, but Andy Panda, who was the great thrust of the others and became the great protagonist of Lantz’s cartoons for the 1939 season. -1940.
Arriving home, the designer rushed to get the character design to Universal, which was not very well accepted because of its ugly and grotesque appearance, but the creator insisted so much, that they ended up accepting the idea. The first appearance of the Woodpecker was in the episode “Knock Knock” – in Brazil it was translated as “The Woodpecker attacks again”, starring Andy Panda.
The first voice actor for the character was Mel Blanc, who played him in the first three episodes, soon after the actor left the Lantz studio and went to Leon Schlesinger Productions/Warner Bros., which soon after the animator received an Oscar nomination with the Woody Woodpecker Song “The Woody Woodpecker Song”, which was featured in the cartoon “Blanket Policy”, in which Blanc’s voice appeared and Lantz received a lawsuit from the voice actor.
But that didn’t worry him, because he was looking for another voice, his wife, offered to do the voice, but he didn’t accept to do the interpretation of the male character. So Grace, who had not given up on the idea, secretly recorded a tape and sent it anonymously to Lantz’s team and without knowing that she was his wife, Walter ended up liking it and including the voice in the character. Grace played the voice of Woodpecker until Lantz closed down his studio.
Even after ending the activities of his studio Walter Lantz continued working with his characters, drawing the Woodpecker in comics, in addition to producing the documentary entitled “Walter, Woody and the World of Animation”.
In the documentary, old images of the character were used, suffering only dubbing edits and new sound effects. Lantz preferred to hide the unpleasant facts he had in his life as an animator, such as the Mel Blanc lawsuit. In it, he just explains that he decided he needed a new voice.
Walter Lantz was a great propagator of animations in the United States, he donated several of his works to the National Museum of History of the United States, including a wooden model used in the debut of the Woodpecker in 1941. In 1989, Woodpecker marks the his appearance in the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, where the character appears at the end along with all the puppets.
He was very productive and creative until the last moments of his life until the day he died at the age of 94, a victim of heart failure, at his home in Los Angeles, California in the United States.
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Walter Lantz – One of the biggest animators in the United States
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