Illumination Entertainment, the animation house behind last year’s global blockbuster “Despicable Me” and this year’s somewhat less-successful (but still profitable) “Hop”, is now developing a feature film around the classic cartoon character Woody Woodpecker, with “Blades of Glory” co-writers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky in talks to pen a story that will modernize the character for contemporary audiences.
Woody Woodpecker was co-created by Walter Lanz and Ben Hardaway, with his first appearance being in the 1940 animated short “Knock Knock” as voiced by the famed Mel Blanc (though Blanc would ultimately only voice the character four times before moving on to work exclusively with Leon Schlesinger Prods., which later became Warner Bros. Cartoons).
The brazen, maniacal Woody became a huge hit in a series of shorts during WWII, though the character would reach his greatest and most lasting popularity beginning in the late 1950s, when “The Woody Woodpecker Show” began airing on ABC (albeit in the more lovable, Disney-esque form he’s become most known for). For the majority of his run, the character was voiced by Lantz’s wife Grace Stafford.
In 1985 Lantz, who owned the animation house that produced the cartoons, sold the Woody shorts to MCA/Universal, which repackaged them as a new syndicated series and, later, produced an all-new show centered on the character entitled “The New Woody Woodpecker Show”, which ran on Fox Kids from 1999-2002.
Now it appears Woody may be back in business once again, in a big way; according to The Hollywood Reporter, which broke the story, Illumination is hoping the film will serve as the kick-off to a new franchise.