Walter Lantz (Lanza) – Woody Woodpecker Creator –

For those of us who remember Woody Woodpecker you may also recall Walter Lantz the wonderful gentleman that created him. Walter Lantz was born to Italian immigrant parents, Francesco Paolo Lanza and Maria Gervasi from Calitri.  Lantz’s father was given his new surname “Lantz” by an immigration official who anglicized it.

Walter Benjamin Lantz born on April 27, 1899 was an American cartoonist, animator, film producer, and director, best known for founding Walter Lantz Productions and creating Woody Woodpecker.

In 1940, he married actress Grace Stafford. During their honeymoon, the couple kept hearing a woodpecker incessantly pecking on their roof. Grace suggested that Walter use the bird for inspiration as a cartoon character.

In 1950, Lantz held anonymous auditions to find the right person to do Woody Woodpecker’s voice. Grace, Lantz’s wife, offered to do Woody’s voice; however, Lantz turned her down because Woody was a male character. Not discouraged in the least, Grace made her own anonymous audition tape, and submitted for the studio to listen to. Not knowing who was behind voice he heard, Lantz picked Grace’s voice for Woody Woodpecker. Grace supplied Woody’s voice until the end of production in 1972, and also performed in non-Woody cartoons. At first, Grace voiced Woody without screen credit, thinking that it would disappoint child viewers to that know Woody Woodpecker was voiced by a woman. However, she soon came to enjoy being known as the voice of Woody Woodpecker, and allowed her name to be credited on the screen. Her version of Woody was cuter and friendlier than the manic Woody of the 1940s, and Lantz’s artists redesigned the character to suit the new personality.

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Walter Lantz (Lanza) – Woody Woodpecker Creator
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