Cartoonist. He was the creator of the cartoon character “Woody Woodpecker”. Born to Italian immigrants in New Rochelle, New York, he attended the Arts Student League of New York. In 1922 he took a job with Bray Studios where he worked on several comic series including “The Katzenjammer Kids”, “Happy Hooligan”, and “Mutt and Jeff”. He introduced his first original cartoon character, ‘Dinky Doodle’, in 1924. In 1927, he moved to Hollywood, California and after a brief period as a gag writer with Mack Sennett, he took a position with Universal Motion Picture Studios working on their 'Oswald the Lucky Rabbit ' animated shorts. He soon developed his own characters such as ‘Andy Panda’, ‘Chilly Willy’, and ‘Winchester the Tortoise’. By 1935, he became an independent producer of animated shorts. Between 1932 to 1956, he was nominated ten times for an Academy Award for Best Cartoon Short Subject. In 1940, he married actress Grace Stafford. It was during their honeymoon, that a woodpecker hammered continuously on their roof and Grace suggested that he use it for a cartoon character. Through that inspiration, his most famous character, ‘Woody Woodpecker’ came to be. The character debuted in an Andy Panda cartoon called 'Knock, Knock' in 1940. The character's fist voice, Mel Blanc, was soon lost to Warner Brothers Studios, and Lantz opened auditions for a new voice. His wife anonymously submitted an audition tape as was chosen to be the new voice of the character. The couple worked together on ‘Woody Woodpecker’ until the end of production in 1972. During the Second World War, his studio produced cartoons that were used as training films by the United States Army and Navy. In the 1950s and 1960s he produced educational films, feature films, and “The Woody Woodpecker Show” for television. By then, he was the last independent producer of theatrically distributed cartoon shorts, only closing when it became economically impossible to continue in 1973. In 1979, he was presented with an honorary Academy Award for his contributions to the art of animation. In 1982, he donated a wooden sketch model of Woody Woodpecker to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. In 1993, he established a $10,000 scholarship for animators at the California Institute of the Arts. He succumbed to heart failure at the age of 94. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard.
Bio by: Iola
Maria "Mary" Jarvis (Gervasi) Lantz
Michael F Lantz