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Panel Praises Woody Woodpecker at DVD Set Launch

12 Jul, 2007 By: Chris Tribbey

Film critic Leonard Maltin needed no prompting to wear his Woody Woodpecker T-shirt to the Mann Chinese 6 Theater in Hollywood on July 11.

“This is my childhood. I grew up watching Woody Woodpecker every week and seeing (creator) Walter Lantz every week,” he said. “I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Woody and Walt.”

Apparently so did the other 200 people who showed up to an event celebrating the July 24 DVD release of The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection from Universal, the first time Woody is making it to DVD. The DVD includes more than nine hours and 75 episodes of the legendary cartoon, including eight Academy Award-nominated short features, behind-the-scenes footage, a documentary, and a full episode of “The Woody Woodpecker Show.”

The event featured a screening of some of the DVD cartoons, which was preceded by a panel discussion about Woody and Lantz by voice actors, cartoon producers and Maltin. Voice actor Maurice LaMarche (“Pinky and the Brain,” Futurama”), voice actor June Foray (“Woody Woodpecker,” “Rocky & Bullwinkle”), director and producer Phil Roman (“The Simpsons,” “King of the Hill”), Maltin, voice actor Billy West (“The New Woody Woodpecker Show,” “Futurama”), and panel moderator Gordon Meyer of StoryMakers, which hosted the event, engaged in an hour-long conversation about the character, and the characters behind the character.

“He didn't wait for any rules,” West said of Woody and the differences between cartoons of then and now. “I loved it that he would peck a few holes in your head. That's for me … the restrictions of today, which I can't understand, is that he can't peck anybody in the head.

“Cartoons were supposed to remove you from reality, not make it real.”

Maltin agreed: “We all grew up watching them, and we didn't become ax murderers. That's the advantage of home video over broadcast: You can choose to watch it, you can choose to show it to your kids.”

Woody remains an important cartoon to a lot of people, because of the character's attitude.

“There was something about those early Woodies that had that energy, that was fun … that infectious laughter,” Roman said.

Of the laugh (Heh-heh-heh-HEH-heh), which was pieced together and then sped up, West said that when slowed down it sounded like “a woman who had a few mai tais at the Chinese restaurant.”

“It was the first cartoon I ever fell in love with,” LaMarche said.

Lantz was praised by all the panelists as a talented and kind man who would give anyone in the animation business a job.

“Very early on, he showed ambition,” Maltin said. “He was a showman. By the 1920s he was doing his own thing … mixing live action and animation.”

Maltin said that now that Woody Woodpecker has finally made it to DVD, it's time for other classic cartoons, such as Betty Boop, to get their due.

“If you can tell me a good reason why there isn't a Mighty Mouse DVD, I'd like to hear it,” Maltin said. “I think it's wrong to sensor these and lock them up in the vault.”

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