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Woody Woodpecker could be heading to the big screen for the first time in decades.
Illumination Entertainment, the Universal-based animation house behind Despicable Me and next year’s Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, is working on a feature project centering on the crimson-coifed cartoon character. John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, who co-wrote the Will Ferrell comedy Blades of Glory, are in talks to develop a story.
Woody Woodpecker first appeared in a short in 1940. It was co-created by cartoonist Walter Lantz and voiced, in his initial outings, by Mel Blanc, the future voice of Bugs Bunny. The character was initially rambunctious and brash, a huge hit during World War II-era America, but he mellowed into the ’50s, even developing a love interest and a recurring nemesis Ben Buzzard.
A theme song was introduced in 1947 and was nominated for an Oscar for best song, the only song from a short film ever to be nominated in the category. [Listen to the song below.]
What locked Woodpecker’s place in pop culture was a move into television in the late ’50s, first with the syndication of his shorts and then with the production of cartoons. His widespread appearance lasted decades, imprinting on several generations’ worth of children.
Universal bought the library of shorts and the rights to the character from Lantz in 1985. The move to capitalize on the asset mirrors an effort throughout Hollywood to mine value from properties that studios already own.
Illumination and the writers will seek to create a story that modernizes the character, hopefully launching a franchise in the process.
Altschuler and Krinsky, repped by WME and 3 Arts Entertainment, were exec producers and writers on Fox’s King of Hill and worked on the long-gestating feature version of The Jetsons.
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