33 Facts About Walter Lantz


Walter Lantz was an American cartoonist, animator, producer and director best known for founding Walter Lantz Productions and creating Woody Woodpecker.


Walter Lantz was always interested in art, completing a mail-order drawing class at age 12.


Walter Lantz was inspired when he saw Winsor McCay's animated short "Gertie the Dinosaur".


Walter Lantz worked at the newspaper and attended art school at night.


In 1924, Walter Lantz directed, animated and even starred in his first cartoon series "Dinky Doodle", which included the popular fairy tale animated shorts Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood.


Walter Lantz soon replaced George "Vernon" Stallings as head of production at Bray in 1924.


At the urging of his friend Robert G Vignola, 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.

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Walter Lantz resorted to odd jobs, one of them being a chauffeur.


In 1928, Lantz was hired by Charles B Mintz as director on the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon series for Universal Pictures.


Walter 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.


In September 1929, Walter Lantz released his first cartoon, "Race Riot".


Walter Lantz became an independent producer, supplying cartoons to Universal instead of merely overseeing the animation department.


When Oswald had worn out his welcome, Walter Lantz needed a new character.


Less than a year later on August 29,1941, Walter Lantz married actress Grace Stafford in Reno, Nevada.


Grace suggested that Walter Lantz used the bird for inspiration as a cartoon character.


Walter Lantz claimed that Alex Lovy created the original design for Woody, although many animators at the studio agreed that Ben Hardaway, who liked screwball characters, drew the original design.


In 1948, the Walter Lantz studio created a hit Academy Award-nominated song titled "The Woody Woodpecker Song", featuring Blanc's laugh.


The judge ruled for Walter Lantz, saying that Blanc had failed to copyright his voice or his contributions.


Grace, Walter Lantz's wife, offered to do Woody's voice; however, Walter Lantz turned her down because Woody was a male character.


Not knowing who was behind the voice he heard, Walter Lantz picked Grace's voice for Woody Woodpecker.


Walter Lantz refused and withdrew from the parent company by the end of 1947, releasing 12 cartoons independently through United Artists in 1948 into the beginning of 1949.


Financial difficulties forced Walter Lantz to shut down his studio in 1949.


From this point forward, Walter Lantz worked faster and cheaper, no longer using the lush, artistic backgrounds and stylings that had distinguished his 1940s work.


Walter Lantz used his TV appearances on The Woody Woodpecker Show to demonstrate the animation process.


Later, Walter Lantz entertained the troops during the Vietnam War and visited hospitalized veterans.

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Walter Lantz was a good friend of movie innovator George Pal.


Walter Lantz finally closed his studio's doors for good in 1972, because by then, he explained, it was economically impossible to continue producing them and stay in business as rising inflation had strained his profits, and Universal serviced the remaining demand with reissues of his older cartoons.


In retirement, Walter Lantz continued to manage his properties by licensing them to media.


Walter Lantz continued to draw and paint, selling his paintings of Woody Woodpecker rapidly.


In 1982, Walter 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 1940.


The Lantzes made time to visit hospitals and other institutions where Walter would draw Woody and Grace would do the Woody laugh for patients.


In 1993, Walter Lantz established a $10,000 scholarship and prize for animators in his name at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Santa Clarita.


Walter Lantz died at St Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California from heart failure on March 22,1994, at age 94.