Woody Woodpecker was based on a real bird
A disrupted honeymoon led to cartoon gold.
A loud enough nuisance can distract even the most Zen-like stoics among us. How often have you been working on something only to be interrupted by the sounds of construction? Or maybe a dog barking next door has kept you from concentrating. We can all relate to a tiny annoyance that builds and builds until we erupt. That's what makes Woody Woodpecker such a universal character.
While on their honeymoon in a small cottage, newlyweds Walter and Gracie Lantz found their peace disrupted. What should've been a romantic getaway nearly turned into a shootout when Walter threatened to gun down the pesky pest.
The winged irritant in question was, of course, a woodpecker. Walter Lantz was an animator and immediately began sketching cartoons of what would eventually become Woody Woodpecker.
Ten years after the character's inception, Mrs. Lantz was keen to get in on the action, and was determined to voice the hit animated character. But her husband preferred to think of Woody with a male voice. And so, in the ensuing months, Walter Lantz auditioned six actors. Unbeknownst to him, Gracie also recorded an audition tape and stuck it in with the rest. Naturally, the judges chose Gracie's recording.
Woody Woodpecker wasn't just a successful cartoon; it was a merchandizing mega-power. According to a 1974 article in The Journal Times, there were sweaters, night lights, linens, cookie jars, watches, paper plates, swimming pools, lunchboxes, inflatable furniture, stuffed animals, puzzles, games, and books all adorned with Woody's feathered face. The market was completely saturated. Obviously, getting a percentage of all that merchandising money was enough to change the newlyweds' stance on woodpeckers.
"You never get tired of something you create that brings so much enjoyment to so many people," said Walter Lantz.