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Woody Woodpecker (late 1961-1972)

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Woody Woodpecker (late 1961-1972)
Woody Woodpecker Title Card (Season 5).jpg
Before Woody's awful gross-out feature film, this was the first (and untill that point thankfully only) decline in his theatrical career.
Genre: Comedy
Running Time: 5-8 Minutes
Country: United States
Release Date: January 9, 1962 – September 1, 1972
Created by: Walter Lantz
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Starring: Grace Stafford
Episodes: 83

Woody Woodpecker is an American animated short film theatrical series by Walter Lantz that ran from 1940 to 1972. In 1940, the character debuted on the Andy Panda cartoon "Knock Knock" before Woody's solo cartoon run one year later. In 1944, Woody's design changed (especially his hands and feet) as well his personality, which made to be Walter Lantz's high-rated and Universal´s flagship franchise.

While 1940-1943 (or Season 1) got a mixed reception, 1944-1955 (Seasons 2-3) got universal acclaim and 1956-1961 (Season 4) shorts got mixed to positive reception, the same can't be said about the 1962-1972 shorts (or Seasons 5-6), which were not well-received by critics and fans alike due to their low budget animation, not bringing back the classic characters from the 1944-1961 shorts and the severe toning down of Woody Woodpecker's personality from a crazy yet likable screwball prankster into a bland, serious straight man as of "Franken-Stymed" (1961).

Why This Era Is "A-A-A-Awful"

  1. Much like the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts Looney Tunes cartoons, budget problems heavily affected this era.
    • During the mid-50s, the movie industry was suffering and losing money due to the rise of television, meaning lower budgets for cartoons. By 1956, there were only seven animation producers in the short-subjects business, and by the end of the decade, that number would dwindle to three. Walter Lantz and his distributor, Universal Pictures, knew that the only way to subsidize the rising costs of new shorts was to release their product to television. Norman Gluck, from Universal's short-subjects department, made a deal with the Leo Burnett Agency to release some older Lantz products on television. However, when The Woody Woodpecker Show debuted on ABC-TV on the afternoon of Thursday, October 3, 1957 and became so successful, Walter Lantz happily decided to return to his theatrical cartoon business.
      • Because of said budget problems, only a minimal set of characters could be used, most notably the titular character Woody Woodpecker. As a result, other popular Woody Woodpecker characters are nowhere near to be found.
      • While it doesn't look bad for the earlier Walter Lantz cartoons of 1956-1961, by 1962, the animation would hit rock bottom.
  2. Quantity over quality: The series ran way longer than most theatrical cartoon series of the time, especially Looney Tunes, and while most theatrical cartoon series such as Mickey Mouse, Popeye the Sailor, Tom and Jerry and Droopy ended their theatrical runs between the late-1950s to the 1960s decade, the series went on for much longer until 1972, which means by the time the series ended Woody Woodpecker ran for a total of 32 years between 1940-1972. Worse, during this era, Walter Lantz doesn't run the Woody Woodpecker franchise properly, as every year lots of episodes of the show are produced in the littlest of time possible, with each episode being released into theaters at least once or a few times a month every year. As a result, the series would sometimes jump the shark in this season because of this.
  3. Poor and bizarre animation that ranges from being bland to plain uncanny, creepy-looking (mainly in Sid Marcus shorts), and/or simplistic. It bottoms out in many of those cartoons directed by Paul J. Smith, whenever the animation was done by Les Kline, which had animation quality that wouldn't feel out of place on television of the time.
  4. It's filled to the brim with many bad shorts like:
    • "Voo-Doo Boo-Boo" (which ended Jack Hannah's career on a terrible note)
    • "Shutter Bug"
    • "Woody's Clip Joint"
    • "Skinfolks" (being the worst of them all)
    • "Dumb Like a Fox"
    • "Sioux Me"
    • "Woodpecker Wanted"
    • "Janie Get Your Gun"
    • "Hassle at the Castle"
    • "Lonesome Ranger"
    • "Monster of Ceremonies"
    • "Losta Luck"
    • "Shanghai Woody"
    • "Chili Con Corny" (also counts the worst)
    • "Bye, Bye, Blackboard" (which ended the classic era of Woody Woodpecker with a bad note)
      • Some shorts had bad endings, where Woody loses or receives unfair retribution at the end.
  5. Some cartoons have their plots being mishmashes of animation and gags from older, better cartoons.
  6. Some, if not, tons of animation errors.
    • There are also too many times where Woody's design goes off-model.
  7. Very weak writing.
  8. Woody Woodpecker's personality has been drastically changed to be the exact opposite of what he originally was; he went from a crazy yet likable screwball prankster which is what he was famous for into a stale, bland-as-wheat protagonist. However, he's still likable.
    • By this era, Walter Lantz wanted Woody to appeal more to kids, so he slimmed down Woody's design into a pointy, stiff-looking "cute" design. On top of that, Woody was completely derailed as a character—whereas earlier he was a selfish heckler who only stood for himself, he was watered down into a bland hero-type character.
  9. Unlikable characters, such as: the photographer from "Shutter Bug", Louie the Lion from "Woody's Clip Joint", Uncle Scrooge from "Skinfolks", and Fink Fox (a rip-off of Hokey Wolf without the humor and charm). However, the worst and biggest offender of them all is Mrs. Meany, who is outright abusive towards Woody, just like Tom's owner from the Gene Deitch Era of Tom and Jerry. Thankfully, she got her redemption in The New Woody Woodpecker Show.
  10. Bland title cards, usually with plain white or yellow lettering on a blue background, became common in 1965, and from 1966 on they were almost universal (at least some other low-budget studios throughout the 1960s, including Format Films from the Jack Kinney Popeye cartoons through the Larriva Eleven and the 1967 Daffy-Speedy trilogy, crafted attractive, occasionally striking title cards).
  11. Bland and uninteresting music by Clarence Wheeler and Walter Greene than before, making the cartoons feel something out of a DePatie-Freleng cartoon than a Woody Woodpecker cartoon.
  12. Poor quality sound effects that do not match with Jimmy MacDonald and Treg Brown's sounds.
  13. Some of the cartoons' plots in this era are rip-offs or rehashes of older, better cartoons, for example, "Woody's Clip Joint" is a rip-off of 1944 short "The Barber of Seville", but without humor and charm, and "Woody the Freeloader" is a rip-off of 1955 short "Helter Shelter".
  14. Much like "Chief Charlie Horse" and "Heap Big Hepcat", some shorts contain Native American stereotypes, especially "Greedy Gabby Gator", "Short in the Saddle", "Tepee For Two" and "Sioux Me".
  15. Unfunny, repetitive, frustrating, unoriginal, and/or boring humor.
  16. This era did not even have any impact on the Woody Woodpecker franchise as a whole as most of its elements (such as Woody's "more serious" personality from this era, and any new characters introduced in this era) are largely ignored in later Woody Woodpecker revivals. You can watch the 1940-1960 shorts and the later Woody Woodpecker revival shows (e.g. The New Woody Woodpecker Show, Woody Woodpecker (2018)), skipping these 1961-1972 shorts, and anything too important would not be missed.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Some great/decent shorts likes:
    • "Rock-a-Bye Gator" (one of Jack Hannah's decent shorts)
    • "Home Sweet Homewrecker"
    • "Three Little Woodpeckers"
    • "Secret Agent Woody Woodpecker" (depending on your view)
    • "Ship A-Hoy Woody"
    • "Flim Flam Fountain"
    • "Gold Diggin' Woodpecker"
      • The cartoons directed by Sid Marcus are good in some cases, especially when Art Davis is in the animation crew.
  2. Art Davis, Al Coe, and debatably Ray Abrams provide some decent animation as the 60s decade went on.
  3. The awkward animation and music can make for unintentional comedy. It can also be good in some scenes.
  4. After this era, Woody would revert to his original personality.
  5. Grace Stafford, Dal McKennon, Daws Butler, Paul Frees, and June Foray voice the characters well, as always.
  6. Some characters from classic shorts like Buzz Buzzard appear in these cartoons.
  7. The theme music is still great. The rest of the music most specifically can be catchy, even if it's not as great as the past cartoons.
  8. The title card for "Buster's Last Stand" (1970) is the sole exception to the rule that 1966-72 title cards are all bland. The same can be said with Rocket Racket (1962), Tepee For Two (1963, while a bad short), Science Friction (1963), Dumb Like A Fox (1964), and Woody's Clip Joint (1964, while also a bad short).
  9. Animator Virgil Ross gives a college try at times among the 1971 releases, and Volus Jones is on hand for 1972.
  10. The background artists put more detail and polish in their work than most of the cartoons deserve.
  11. As mentioned on WIS #8, Woody is still likable.
  12. Some fans might like these shorts, especially those from Brazil.


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