Mel Blanc once called the original Woody Woodpecker ugly, and yeah, we sort of agree

He's everyone's favorite little cartoon freak.

NBC/Universal

Not all cartoon characters were drawn to be cute. They can't all be Granny or Tweety Bird. Some cartoons have to take one for the team and be a little bit ugly in the name of comedy. One of these cartoons just happens to be Woody Woodpecker.

You might remember Woody Woodpecker from his series of cartoons, or from any of your waking nightmares. While Woody Woodpecker is undoubtedly funny, there are a few different qualities that some people might find...annoying, to put it lightly. However, it turns out that the original design for Woody Woodpecker wasn't quite as adorable as the bird you've grown so accustomed to seeing.

According to Mel Blanc's memoir, That's Not All Folks! Woody Woodpecker began his animation journey with a very different appearance when he originated at Walter Lantz Productions. Blanc was actually given a special sneak preview of the early drafts of Woody Woodpecker, drawn by Ben Hardaway, who had previously worked for Warner Brothers. Hardaway wanted Blanc's opinion on his character design, and Blanc certainly didn't mince words.

Blanc wrote, "He [Hardaway] gave me a call, and I drove over to Lantaz's studio to meet him. 'What do you think?' Ben asked me, holding up a prototype drawing. 'Ugliest damn thing I ever saw,' I replied."

At the time, Walter Lantz and Ben Hardaway were already hopeful that Blanc would be willing to provide a voice to the little woodpecker, and while Blanc was eager, he was nothing if not truthful. 

Blanc wrote, "The original Woody was repulsive with a capital R: He had a peaked head topped with a sharply angled comb that looked like it had been styled in a wind tunnel. A narrow beak so long, its pointy tip was a zip code away. Short, swollen arms and legs. In all, a sorry spectacle."

Blanc goes on, but we'll spare you all the details, mainly because Hardaway's original design wasn't the one used in finished Woody Woodpecker cartoons. Blanc explained, "Mercifully, he soon underwent a transfiguration. His beak was pruned, his limbs thinned, and his red comb was drawn so that it fell forward like a feathery pompadour, making him much easier on the eyes."

Watch The Woody Woodpecker Show on MeTV!

Saturdays at 8 AM

*available in most MeTV markets
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9 Comments

Runeshaper 26 days ago
I'm glad WW was changed for (hopefully) the better!
CaptainDunsel 26 days ago
Here's a good rundown of Woody's evolution over time.
https://walterlantz.fandom.com/wiki/Woody_Woodpecker_Through_the_Years
chris70 27 days ago
Woody Woodpecker was always my favorite, but I also like the 2 magpies, heckle and Jekyll. I wish me t v would show some of those old cartoons
Coldnorth chris70 26 days ago
The older cartoons are the best
SalIanni Coldnorth 21 days ago
You'll get to see a lot of the older cartoons like Bugs Bunny, Scooby-Doo, and Yogi Bear on the new MeTV Toons channel, which was just announced today and will be available starting June 25, but not in the real Cold North. Thanks a lot, guys!
Coldnorth SalIanni 20 days ago
We deserve some laughs, chuckles, giggles and guffaws like southern folk.
forthekids 28 days ago
Other performers provided "Woody's"voice..until Mrs.Grace Stafford Lantz..Walter Lantz' wife performed the voice for Walter's most famous animated animal character.
top_cat_james_1 29 days ago
Yes, Woody's design was refined over time, but not right away as Blanc and "MeTV Staff" imply--The original "ugly" Woody did indeed appear in the first few cartoons, and while not long afterward his color scheme was simplified and his buck teeth removed, he kept his stumpy legs up until the tenth cartoon.And his backward crest remained for a decade.
justjeff 29 days ago
Mel was somewhat mistaken.

The "Ugly Woody" *was* used in the earlier cartoons, and he was more manic - and to me, funnier. The Woody you now know was toned down in both looks and actions - perhaps to appeal to a wider children's audience for TV...

Remember, the theatrical shorts were made (in many cases) for kids *and* adults... Oh, and by the way MeTV writers... "and I drove over to Lantaz's studio to meet him." Another lack-of proofreading gaffe misspelling LANTZ... You guys *really* need a good, sharp peck on the head by Woody! 😒
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