His 1940’s design
|Created by:||Ben Hardaway|
|Voiced by:|| Mel Blanc (1940-1941)|
Danny Webb (1941-1942)
Kent Rogers (1942-1943)
Ben Hardaway (1944-1949)
Grace Stafford (1950-1991)
Cherry Davis (1988)
Billy West (1999-2002)
Eric Bauza (2017-present)
Woody Woodpecker is an animated cartoon character, an anthropomorphic red-headed woodpecker who appeared in theatrical short films produced by the Walter Lantz animation studio and distributed by Universal Studios. Though not the first of the screwball characters that became popular in the 1940s, Woody is perhaps the most indicative of the type.
Brought to the park by Universal Studios, Woody and friends remain there despite Universal no longer having a financial stake in the park. In the early 1950s, Blanc's voice would be heard saying "Guess who?" at the beginning of every cartoon for the duration of the Woody Woodpecker series.
In the earliest cartoons, he was essentially Lantz's answer to Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, being a strange hybrid of the two characters, with the energy, quirkiness, looniness, and demented nature of Classic Daffy merged with hints of the wiseacre attitude of Bugs—also enforced by the fact that they even got Bugs' and Daffy's voice actor for the first three cartoons! After the first batch of cartoons however, the wiseacre bit of Woody was casually dropped in favor of the more screwy aspects of his character. But things changed when original director Alex Lovy stepped down and ex-Disney animator Shamus Culhane took over direction of the shorts for a few years, ramping up the direction of the previous cartoons considered.
Woody first appeared in the short, Knock Knock alongside Andy Panda and his father. The woodpecker constantly pesters the two pandas, apparently just for the fun of it. Andy, meanwhile, tries to sprinkle salt on Woody's tail in the belief that this will somehow capture the bird. To Woody's surprise, Andy's attempts prevail, and Woody is taken away to the funny farm — but not before his captors prove to be crazier than he is. Woody's debut is what started his big time career. Since then, Walter Lantz continued to have Woody appear in new films and shorts for Universal.
Shamus Culhane Years
Shamus Culhane changed Woody considerably, as well as giving Woody his iconic redesign. His take on Woody was much more fleshed out than the previous incarnation — wheras the original character was just a mindless heckler that went about causing havoc on sheer principle, Shamus supplied Woody with more clearly defined traits so that we could understand why he was going about causing trouble — specifically, by estasblishing that he is a selfish, ignorant being who only stands for himself and will not stop at nothing to achieve his goals, regardless of whoever gets in his way. He also helped firmly establish Woody's trait of being a big food enthusiast (which did pop up in early cartoons, but wasn't a central part of the character) which served as the basis for many of his cartoons. However, Culhane's direction, for all of his improvements, made Woody a bit too unlikable, taking him from being a screwy bird to sometimes being flat out malacious in some episodes (i.e. The Barber of Seville).
But this changed yet again when Disney veteran Dick Lundy took the directors chair, and toned down Woody considerably, establishing that he cannot go crazy unless given a genuine reason to. By the 50s, at the behest of Universal, Lantz softened Woody more into a heroic character, with occasional bouts of his old antics time and time again. He is more heroic, calm, and kinder and outsmarts people for actual reasons (another similarity to Bugs Bunny). He is shown alongside foes such as Wally Walrus, Ms. Meany, Buzz Buzzard, Gabby Gator, and Dapper Denver Dooley. Besides enemies, he is shown with a niece and nephew named Knothead and Splinter and a girlfriend named Winnie Woodpecker.
Woody returns as the protagonist on the Fox Kids TV series, The New Woody Woodpecker Show. He is voiced by Billy West in this new series.
Woody appears as the neighbor of Wally Walrus and Ms. Meany. In this, he is more smart and sympathetic than his original counterpart. He frequently gets into mischief with Wally and Ms. Meany (who is his landlady), and Buzz Buzzard, who is prone to scamming and conning Woody.
Since Woody's debut, he has become a legendary icon. His popularity is bigger in Brazil due to the dubs of his cartoons in Brazilian Portuguese.
Woody was number 46 on TV Guide's list of the 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All-Time in 2002 and 2003. He came in at number 25 on Animal Planet's list of The 50 Greatest Movie Animals in 2004. The character has been referenced and spoofed on many later television programs, among them The Simpsons, American Dad, South Park, The Fairly OddParents, Family Guy, Seinfeld, Robot Chicken, Three's Company, and Flash Toons. Woody Woodpecker is the mascot for the Universal Studios Theme Parks. In 1998 and 1999, Woody appeared on the nose of the Williams Formula One Team, and in 2000, he became the official team mascot of the Honda Motorcycle Racing Team. A balloon featuring the character has long been a staple of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
In 1995, Woody starred in a series of Pepsi commercials with NBA superstar, Shaquille O'Neal.