Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Animator Profile: Walter Lantz

Fig. 1. Walter Lantz
An American cartoonist, animator, screenwriter, producer and director, Walter Lantz is known for his own Production company: Walter Lantz Productions. He is renown for creating the character Woody Woodpecker. He was inspired by the woodpecker that was at a cottage, whilst he was on his honeymoon, and became his most famous character creation ever. Denis Gifford said, in her article on the animator, 'His achievements in animated cartoons never quite nudged those of Walt Disney or the Warner Brothers crew from the top deck, but were always welcomed by the movie-going masses who wanted little more than a six-minute spot of slapstick as filling in their double-feature sandwich' (Gifford, 1994).

Winsor McCay's cartoon short, Gertie the Dinosaur, was the first animation Lantz had ever seen, earning his first break from a customer named Fred Kafka who financed Lantz's studies at the Art Students League. By 16, he was working in the animation department, under Gregory La Cava. He had a hand in the series Jerry On The Job, moving onto directing, animating and starring in his first cartoon series, Dinky Doodle. Walter Lantz's dedication and commitment to art was demonstrated at an early age, with his talent recognised at his job placement, where his art was displayed on the bulletin board.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which was originally created by Walt Disney, came under Walter Lantz's direction after Charles B. Mintz hired him for Universal Studioes. The president of Universal soon fired Mintz and his brother-in-law, dissatisfied by the result. Lantz gambled for the character, earning it as his own. After wearing out the use of the character, Lantz began coming up with a line of his own characters, one of which rose above the others: Andy Panda.

Soon after, he created Woody Woodpecker, he was unsure of his potential, featuring him in a Andy Panda short. He then built a series dedicated to the character, which was re-designed later to better fit his new personality. The character idea had originated from his wife, Grace Stafford, who also anonymously auditioned and voiced Woody Woodpecker.

It became known that, 'The cute, forest creatures represent the general style of the Lantz studio since 1935. They oppose the nuttiness of Woody and the doctor, both screwball characters who manifest the kind of humor that would dominate the Lantz universe throughout the 1940s. The energy of the cartoon was only enhanced by the jazzy musical score of Lantz's newly-acquired musical director Darrell Calker and the wacky voice characterizations of Mel Blanc. In theaters, the short proved to be a major hit with audiences and it cemented Woody Woodpecker as an established star at the Lantz studio' (Unknown, 2011).

All of Lantz's art work is 2D based, who first began animating when he experimented with flip books. Many of his early work revolved around the anatomy of the human, despite generally working on animal designs, as such; never fluently presented itself as a fictional character. That was until Lantz took over Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, as he had gained a number of staff, one of which introduced 'pipework' which meant that the characters could function beyond the anatomy of the human, thus allowing squash and stretch movements. 

Brian Lemay said, noting on his influence to the community, 'Lantz's typical output was serviceable but uninspired. He followed Walt Disney's lead and hosted "The Woody Woodpecker Show" on TV in the late 1950s, showing his young viewers how cartoons were made in fascinating weekly installments' (Lemay, 2011).

Walter Lantz received 4 'outstanding' awards throughout his life; receiving honour from Los Angeles City Council; receiving the Annie Award; a special Academy Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, in chronological order, representing his own work, ability and dedication to art. The special Academy Award, honoured his influence globally which was displayed in his 'unique animated motion pictures' and demonstrates the level of contribution to 2D art.



Gifford, D. (1994) The Independant. Accessed at:

Unknown. (2011) The Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia. Accessed at:

Lemay, B. (2011) The Animated Cartoon Factory. Accessed at: