Characters: Woody Woodpecker
Woody, in "Smoked Hams" (1947)
"Is this trip
really necessary? Sure it's necessary! I'm a necessary evil!"
—Woody, from the opening of Ration Bored
, in his more Jerkass
Debut: Knock Knock (1940)
A prominent example of the Screwy Squirrel
character, Woody Woodpecker was the star character of the Walter Lantz
cartoon studio and is the mascot of Universal Studios note
. In the earliest cartoons, he was essentially Lantz's answer to Daffy Duck
and Bugs Bunny
, being a strange hybrid of the two characters, with the energy, looniness and demented nature of Classic Daffy
merged with hints of the wiseacre attitude of Bugs—also enforced by the fact that they even got Bugs' and Daffy's voice actor
for the first three cartoons!
After the first batch of cartoons however, the wiseacre bit of Woody was casually dropped in favor of the more Screwy Squirrel
aspects of his character. But things changed when original director Alex Lovy stepped down and ex-Disney animator Shamus Culhane
took over direction of the shorts for a few years, ramping up the direction of the previous cartoons considerably, as well as giving Woody his iconic redesign. His take on Woody was much more fleshed out than the previous incarnation — wheras the original character was just a mindless heckler that went about causing havoc on sheer principle, Shamus supplied Woody with more clearly defined traits so that we could understand why
he was going about causing trouble — specifically, by estasblishing that he is a selfish, ignorant being who only stands for himself and will not stop at nothing to achieve his goals, regardless of whoever gets in his way. He also helped firmly establish Woody's trait of being a Big Eater
(which did pop up in early cartoons, but wasn't a central part of the character) which served as the basis for many of his cartoons. However, Culhane's direction, for all of his improvements, made Woody a bit too unlikable, taking him from being a screwy bird to sometimes being flat out malacious
in some episodes (i.e. The Barber of Seville).
But this changed yet again
when Disney veteran Dick Lundy took the directors chair, and toned down Woody considerably, establishing that he cannot go crazy unless given a genuine reason to. During his direction, Lundy essentially turned Woody into an ersatz Donald Duck
, mixed in with Woody's typical Screwy Squirrel
tendencies. By the 50s, at the behest of Universal, Lantz softened Woody more into a heroic character, with occasional bouts of his old antics time and time again.
- Alliterative Name
- Animated Actor: As shown by the live action segments of the original Woody Woodpecker show.
- Annoying Laugh: Trope Codifier.
- Arch-Nemesis: Wally Walrus, Buzz Buzzard, Gabby Gator and Ms. Meany. It's not the full list of the enemies he got over the series' lifespan, but those are probably his best known ones.
- Art Evolution: Woody's early appearance looked like a bizarre, ghoulish mix of a woodpecker and a ragdoll. He eventually got streamlined into more handsome and cuter designs from the mid 40's and onward.
- Attractive Bent-Gender: He's done crossdressing on a handful of occasions, and he's just as effective with it as Bugs Bunny.
- Big Eater: Woody's appetite was a frequent source of many plots.
- Breakout Character: Woody originally appeared in an Andy Panda short in an attempt by Lantz to deliberately invoke this trope. It worked.
- Captain Ersatz: Of Daffy Duck and the rabbit from "Porky's Hare Hunt", with some traces of Bugs Bunny in the earliest shorts. These aspects were dropped later on, and Woody became more of a playful trickster and foil character in the vein of Donald Duck and Barney Bear.
- Catch Phrase: "Guess Who? Ha ha ha HA HA, ha ha ha HA HA, ha ha ha HA HA, hehehehehehehe!"
- Characterization Marches On: In the newer cartoons, Woody is much more relaxed than in his early shorts, where was a manic heckler.
- Composite Character: Originally a hybrid of Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny in his earliest persona, but became a Screwy Squirrel and Donald Duck hybrid when Dick Lundy took over the shorts.
- The Determinator: Once Woody sets his mind on a goal, no force on Earth will stop him.
- Flight: Being a avian, Woody is very much capable of flying, although this ability was usually dropped after the early shorts in favor of him using Super Speed.
- Jerkass: Particularly in the shorts directed by Shamus Culhane.
- Karma Houdini: Happened very frequently in the early shorts.
- Nominal Hero
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Makes use of this several times.
- Screwy Squirrel
- Took a Level in Jerkass: The Culhane shorts.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist
- Villain Protagonist / Heel-Face Revolving Door: Prior to Dick Lundy and later Lantz toning down the series, Woody could often be a character with few redeeming qualities - he was a selfish, self-serving troublemaker who wasn't above harassing or hurting other people to get what he wants. However, whether Woody is a Anti-Hero, trickster or villain really depends on the short and the time period of the character. However, while many shorts portrayed him as causing trouble for others around him, be it knowingly (stealing gas, heckling poppa panda by tearing holes in his roof, breaking into a hotel owned by Wally Walrus, etc.) or just out of carelessness or ignorance, he is seldom portrayed as malicious, and more mischievous and playful, or just irritated by his hapless foes, and he rarely instigated the conflicts in the first place. And in the 50's shorts and onward, and in New Woody Woodpecker Show, he was given more sympathetic qualities.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: In "Chew Chew Baby", "Drooler's Delight" and "The Woody Woodpecker Polka".
Woody and Wally, in "The Beach Nut" (1944)
Debut: The Beach Nut (1944)
Woody's original set in stone rival of Swedish descent, Wally was made to serve as Woody's short tempered comic foil, as Elmer Fudd was to Bugs Bunny
, or as Squidward is to Spongebob Squarepants
. Slow witted, but short tempered.
- Alliterative Name
- Butt Monkey
- The Cameo: Wally made a cameo alongside Woody in the ending of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
- Demoted to Extra: He was brought onto the "underdog" cast section when other characters, which can be obviously referred to as bad guys, like Buzz, Dooley and Dirty McNasty came up. At least not until the New Woody Woodpecker Show.
- Friendly Enemy: Sometimes to Woody in The New Woody Woodpecker Show.
- Funetik Aksent: Has a thick Swedish accent.
- Interspecies Romance: He's willing to date women who are birds.
- Leitmotif: My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean has became one for Wally whenever he cooks or has dinner. The first instance of it, The Beach Nut, has both Woody singing this song and Wally happily humming it. Well, it could end there, but then he does the same thing in The Dippy Diplomat and Chew-Chew Baby.
- Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: At a couple of points in the series, he rents his own apartment. At another, he becomes a butler in Mrs. Von Glutton's mansion. And then he suddenly gets a mansion of his own, which means he can pretty much put work away.
Buzz and Woody, in "Wet Blanket Policy" (1948)
Debut: Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
comic foil, Buzz Buzzard is a sleazy, greedy conman who will stoop to any depths to get what he wants.
- Alliterative Name
- Captain Ersatz: Buzz is one of the Donald Duck character Ben Buzzard, a character director Dick Lundy created for the Donald Duck short The Flying Jalopy when he was working at Disney.
- Jerkass: Possibly the only character in the series who is more of this than Woody.
- They Killed Kenny: Several of the old cartoons ended up with him dying.
- Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: And the only thing that remains intact is his wish to make money the dirtiest (and yet easiest) way possible, while keeping himself away from any taxes.
Debut: Real Gone Woody (1954)
Woody's girlfriend. While she only appeared in one
of the original theatrical cartoons (and in a very one-dimensional role at that) she became a recurring character in the comics and became much more prominent in the newer show. Similar in personality to Woody, but much more dignified.
Knothead and Splinter
Debut: Get Lost (1956)note
Woody's Nephew and Niece respectively.
- Bratty Half-Pint(s)
- Canon Immigrant: The characters originally appeared in Lantz's New Funnies comics (1952-), but were later brought into the cartoons.
- Chaste Toons
- Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Splinter is a rare female bird example of shirtless cartoon animal.
- Retcon: In the earliest comics, the kids were Nuthead (sic) and Splinter; both were boys; and the pair were Woody's adopted wards, not his relatives. First Splinter became a girl; then Nuthead became Knothead; then (in the cartoons) the pair became nephew and niece.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Splinter
An ugly, nasty, and occasionally smart-alecky old lady who often gets the better of Woody if he causes her trouble. First appeared late in the series, but became a regular very fast. Also a frequent player in The New Woody Woodpecker Show
, often as Woody's short-tempered landlady.
Debut: Calling Dr. Woodpecker (1963)
- Grande Dame: Occasionally, depending on the prestige of her job.
- Fail O'Suckyname
- Jerkass: Especially in Bye Bye Blackboard.
- Meaningful Name
- Old Maid: While the subject doesn't come up very often, an occasional New Woody Woodpecker episode features her looking for a date, sometimes Wally.
- Slapstick Knows No Gender
- Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Sometimes she works for a company or institution (she's a schoolteacher in Bye Bye Blackboard, a sheriff in Janie Get Your Gun); other times, she's just doing something on her own, such as birdwatching or archaeology.
Debut: Life Begins For Andy Panda (1939)Walter Lantz
's second star character after the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
series ran out of gas. Started off as an infant, but gradually grew up to become The Everyman
. Woody Woodpecker made his debut in his 5th short. Phased out by 1949, but made a cameo in the 50's short The Woody Woodpecker Polka. While he wasn't a recurring character of the series, his shorts were usually shown alongside Woody's in the original Woody Woodpecker show. Appeared in 27 shorts total (28 if you count his cameo in The Woody Woodpecker Polka).
Debut: Chilly Willy (1953)
A little penguin living in Fairbanks, Alaska who, oddly enough, hates the cold and goes out of his way to find warmth. While not directly connected to Woody Woodpecker, his shorts were aired alongside his on the original Woody Woodpecker show.
- Art Evolution: Initially, Chilly just looked like a Woody Woodpecker clone with flippers and black and white feathers. When he directed the second Chilly Willy short, Tex Avery created the much more distinct design that we know and love.
- Butt Monkey: Not as much as his enemies though.
- Everything's Better with Penguins
- Flat Character
- The Generic Guy: He's adorable enough, but doesn't have much in the way of personality — which might be why he tends to be shoved Out of Focus for many of his cartoons, while his antagonists get most of the screen time.
- Better Chilly cartoons make him into a mischievous, almost demonic little squirt. Unfortunately, it's not done often enough.
- Misplaced Wildlife: He's a penguin from Alaska.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Even more so than Andy Panda. Just look at him!
- The Voiceless: Chilly frequently shifts between this and speaking.