This three-disc set features 75 digitally remastered cartoons from The Walter Lantz Archive. The biggest star to come out of his productions is Woody Woodpecker and this set features the character in 45 cartoons, from his first appearance in 1940’s Knock Knock, an Andy Panda cartoon, to 1952’s The Great Who-Dood-It.
Over the 12 years, Woody goes through a metamorphosis.
Originally, he started out as an antagonistic wise guy, borderline lunatic, reminiscent of the early appearances of Warner Brothers’ Daffy Duck. This is no coincidence as two of the same men worked on both birds. The legendary voice actor Mel Blanc voiced Woody on his first four shorts. However, Woody’s iconic laugh, which Blanc had used previously for Happy Rabbit, a precursor to Bugs Bunny, was re-used for many years afterwards until Blanc sued.
Storyboard artist Ben Hardaway was also at Warner Brothers in the late ‘30s. Not only had he worked on characters like Daffy Duck, but his nickname “Bugs” was bestowed upon a soon-to-be-famous rabbit. He worked on Woody’s stories and, combined with some post-production work, took over the voice the character until 1949.
Woody is barely recognizable in his early days. He is more birdlike, his head and beak are elongated, he has a red belly, and his eyes don’t always look the same way. He’s much harsher than the cute little bird so many know today. His features get slightly refined over the years. In 1946 Disney veteran Dick Lundy began directing Woody's cartoons and toned the character down unless provoked. Lantz’ wife, Grace Stafford, took over as the voice of Woody from 1950 on, although the character didn’t talk as much.
Eventually Woody had regular foils to play off. The Swedish-accented Wally Walrus first appeared in 1944’s The Beach Nut. Buzz Buzzard debuted in 1948’s Wet Blanket Policy as did the Academy Award-nominated “The Woody Woodpecker Song” recorded by Kay Kyser. That was one of the eight nominations for the cartoons in this set, the other seven being for short subjects.