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With arguably the most famous laugh of any cartoon character in history, Woody Woodpecker pecked his way into our lives through a 1940 Andy Panda theatrical short entitled Knock Knock.
Woody continued to appear in short films throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s, and in 1957, the Kellogg’s company packaged these theatrical works into the syndicated package The Woody Woodpecker Show.
Walter Lantz created the famed bird, and in the show’s early days, the animator would host from his office, demonstrating how cartoons were made by showing the viewers at home such essentials as painting cels and drawing storyboards.
Woody, an obnoxious mischief-maker, would usually star in the shorts, occasionally taking a backseat to his friends Andy Panda, Wally Walrus, Gabby Gator, Buzzy Buzzard, Oswald the Rabbit, and Arctic penguin Chilly Willy.
Woody was by far the most politically incorrect and audacious character of his time. In an era when cartoons were trying to promote a positive message or somehow prove educational, Woody was breaking taboos left and right.
The early theatrical shorts were chock full of sexual innuendo, tobacco use, and rampant alcohol consumption. One episode even showed a hotel bill with a charge for “Cocaine” (all of which were later edited out before hitting the airwaves). While other cartoons were trying to do the right thing, Woody was joking, fighting, stealing, and antagonising.
Woody didn’t always come out on top though. Sometimes he dug himself in a little too deep. Perhaps “if Woody had gone to the police, this never would have happened,” but then we wouldn’t have had so much fun watching him try.
After a three-year run from 1957-60, The Woody Woodpecker Show was not seen on network television again until 1970, when it made its Saturday morning debut.
Although his physical appearance was slightly altered and updated, Woody was as big a troublemaker as ever. The immortal show has lived on in syndication ever since leaving network TV in 1977.
In 1999, a brand new Woody Woodpecker Show debuted on the Fox Kids schedule. Woody, Buzzy Buzzard (now simply called “Buzz”), Wally Walrus, Chilly Willy, and Willy’s dog pal Smedley were joined by newcomers Winnie Woodpecker, Knothead, Splinter, Dapper Denver Dooley, and Mrs. Meany.
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The Beary Family
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