Walter Lantz

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Full Name:

Walter Lantz

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New Rochelle, New York, USA


Walter Lantz was born on April 27, 1899, to a family of Italian immigrants in Westchester County, 16 miles from New York City. Watching Gertie the Dinosaur immediately ignited his passion for animation. While working as an auto mechanic by day, he met a shop customer who helped young Lantz start his career as an artist by paying for his Art Studies League classes.  At the age of sixteen Lantz began to draw cartoons for the newspaper, and by 1922 he had moved to New York City to work at Bray Studios. There, he collaborated on cartoons such as Happy Hooligan, The Katzenjammer Kids, and Mutt and Jeff, as well as creating his own cartoons, including Pete the Pup and Dinky Doodle, which premiered in 1924. 

Bray Studios went bankrupt in 1927, leading Lantz to seek greener pastures in California. There, he found work as a gag writer for Mack Sennett before he was hired by Universal organize its new animation studio. At Universal, he helped on the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit series, the rights for which he won in a card bet with Carl Laemmle. He also created characters such as Lil Eight Ball, Winchester the Tortoise, Andy Panda, Chilly Willy, and, of course, the incredibly popular Woody the Woodpecker. While many of Lantz’s characters and concepts, such as Chilly Willy and the “Walter Lantz Cartune Specials” were rather derivative of Disney’s, he and Walt Disney remained friends for much of their lives. 

In 1973, Lantz retired, the last independent theatrical animation producer in America. In 1978, Woody the Woodpecker became the first fictional character to be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 1979, Lantz received an honorary Academy Award for his contributions to animation. Walter Lantz passed away in 1994, at the age of 94, one of the most popular and successful animators in American history. 

Honors and awards

Annie Award: Winsor McCay Award 1973; Awarded Lifetime Achievement Academy Award, 1979


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