Shake Your Tailfeather

August 16 2008

Ha ha ha ha ha! With controversial origins, one fact remains constant, the famed woodpecker made his first appearance in Knock Knock, a 1940 animated short staring Andy Panda. Famously known for his off-beat laugh, bright red feathers, and insanity, Woody Woodpecker was always ruffling feathers. Swooning women, stealing, and being conniving were his favorite past times. You could find his face on premiums, toys, comic books, and much more!

While on his honeymoon with his wife, Grace Stafford, Walter Lantz is said to have gotten the idea of Woody Woodpecker. During their cabin stay in Sherwood Lake, California, an exceedingly loud woodpecker kept “knocking”, disturbing their wilderness retreat. Not until it started raining did the newlyweds realize that the woodpecker had bore holes in the roof of their cabin. Wanting to shoot the annoying bird, Lantz restrained himself on behalf of his new wife’s request, thus the idea of crazy Woody Woodpecker was born.

The only problem with Lantz’s story: his honeymoon occurred one year after Woody made his debut supporting Andy Panda. Ben “Bugs” Hardaway is the other animator said to have created Woody. Hardaway was credited with providing Woody’s voice in the 1940s, as a successor to Mel Blanc. Not even one decade later, it was time again to change the voice of Woody. After reviewing several tapes for the woodpecker’s vocals, a winner was chosen by Lantz. Unknowing, Lantz had chosen his wife, Grace Safford, as Woody Woodpecker’s new voice!

While hot on the scene Woody Woodpecker had his own song, rightfully titled, “The Woody Woodpecker Song.” Sung by Gloria Wood and Harry Babbit, the song was an instant success, selling more than 250,000 records within the first ten days of its June 1948 release!

The wild woodpecker, continuing his success, had his first television show, The Woody Woodpecker Show in 1957. The half hour show featured Lantz’s cartoon, but also included new footage and live action footage of Lantz. Continuing through the 1950s and '60s, Woody Woodpecker finally retired in 1972 with 198 shorts under his belt. Then, in 1979, Lantz was honored with an Academy Award for Special Achievement

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