Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m going with theatrical shorts starring Woody Woodpecker, featuring various shorts from 1941 through 1961 that have been released together on disc in The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection.
Here’s a list and quick plot description for each of the cartoons included in this set (for my comments on the individual cartoons, click on the title to go to my previous reviews):
- Woody Woodpecker (1941) (Length: 6 minutes, 58 seconds)
- The woodland animals think that Woody Woodpecker is crazy, and so he goes to see a psychiatrist.
- The Screwdriver (1941) (Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)
- Woody is speeding through the countryside in his car, and decides to pick on a traffic cop watching for speeders.
- Pantry Panic (1941) (Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
- Woody Woodpecker ignores the advice of the weather groundhog, and a cold snap hits, leaving him without any food. Then a hungry cat comes a-calling, but finds himself fighting with an equally hungry Woodpecker!
- The Hollywood Matador (1942) (Length: 6 minutes, 58 seconds)
- Woody Woodpecker takes on the bull Oxnar The Terribull in the bullring.
- Ace In The Hole (1942) (Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)
- Stable boy Woody Woodpecker longs to fly in the planes, but the bulldog sergeant refuses to let him.
- The Loan Stranger (1942) (Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)
- When Woody’s car breaks down, he gets a loan from a loan shark (or wolf in this case). After thirty days, the wolf comes to collect, but Woody won’t give him the money!
- The Screwball (1943) (Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)
- Woody Woodpecker tries to watch a baseball game without paying, but has to deal with a policeman trying to stop him.
- Ration Bored (1943) (Length: 6 minutes, 51 seconds)
- Disregarding the idea of conserving gas and tires, Woody Woodpecker goes out for a drive, only to run out of gas at the bottom of a hill. He and his car are then smacked into a junkyard, where he siphons gas from a few other vehicles, including a cop car (with the cop in it).
- The Barber Of Seville (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 56 seconds)
- Woody Woodpecker stops in at the Seville Barber Shop for a haircut, but the owner is out for his physical. When an Indian chief and a construction worker come in, Woody proceeds to wreak havoc on the two men.
- The Beach Nut (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)
- Wally Walrus has come to the beach to relax, but Woody Woodpecker keeps pestering him.
- Ski For Two (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)
- As he looks through various travel brochures, Woody Woodpecker finds one for the Swiss Chard Lodge which promises good food, so off he goes. When the proprietor, Wally Walrus, throws him out for not having a reservation, Woody decides he’s still going to get the food he wanted!
- Chew-Chew Baby (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
- Wally Walrus kicks a very hungry Woody Woodpecker out of his boarding house (for nonpayment of rent). Looking in the newspaper, Woody finds a personal ad for Wally, and decides to answer it disguised as a woman.
- Woody Dines Out (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 42 seconds)
- Woody Woodpecker is hungry, but all the restaurants that he can find are closed. Finally, he discovers a place that specializes in stuffing birds, but it turns out to be the establishment of a taxidermist!
- The Loose Nut (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
- Woody Woodpecker is out playing golf, but his ball goes into a wet patch of cement. He quickly gets into a fight with the city worker who was trying to smooth it out, and they keep fighting as the worker tries to get Woody to fix it.
- The Reckless Driver (1946) (Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)
- While driving on the highway, Woody sees a billboard reminding him to renew his driver’s license. Going to the department of motor vehicles, he tries to renew it with officer Wally Walrus.
- Fair Weather Fiends (1946) (Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)
- Everything is just fine for Woody Woodpecker and his friend, Wolfie Wolf, as they sail around on their boat, eating all day long. Then a storm leaves them stranded without food on an island, and hunger sets in.
- Woody The Giant Killer (1947) (Length: 6 minutes, 47 seconds)
- With a housing shortage, Woody Woodpecker can’t find a place to stay. Buck Beaver gives him some magic beans, and a beanstalk takes him up to the giant’s castle in the clouds.
- Wet Blanket Policy (1948) (Length: 6 minutes, 25 seconds)
- Woody Woodpecker is pushed by insurance salesman Buzz Buzzard into signing an insurance policy… with Buzz as the beneficiary!
- Wild And Woody! (1948) (Length: 6 minutes, 40 seconds)
- In the town of Rigor Mortis, Arizona, outlaw Buzz Buzzard has a habit of killing off every sheriff. However, Woody Woodpecker decides to take the job, and gives Buzz a run for his money!
- The Woody Woodpecker Polka (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)
- Woody Woodpecker wants to get in to the barn dance for the free food, but Wally Walrus, the ticket taker, won’t let him in without paying. So, Woody decides to dress up as a lady to get in free!
- Born To Peck (1952) (Length: 6 minutes, 38 seconds)
- An elderly Woody Woodpecker looks back on his life as a baby.
- Termites From Mars (1952) (Length: 6 minutes, 21 seconds)
- The Earth is being invaded by the Martians! However, as Woody Woodpecker quickly finds out, these “Martians” are a bunch of termites out to eat up his home!
- Under The Counter Spy (1954) (Length: 6 minutes, 22 seconds)
- A dangerous criminal called “The Bat” has stolen a secret formula, but has left the bottle in Woody Woodpecker’s house while evading the police. Woody mistakes the bottle for his tonic, and finds himself supercharged as he goes after “The Bat!”
- Niagara Fools (1956) (Length: 6 minutes, 12 seconds)
- Woody decides to try going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but a guide forbids him from doing so.
- The Bird Who Came To Dinner (1961) (Length: 6 minutes, 17 seconds)
- Woody Woodpecker thinks he’s got it made when he poses as a toy woodpecker that a wealthy woman buys for her son. However, the son is very abusive towards all his toys, and intends to “play” the same way with his new toy!
Woody Woodpecker made his debut in the Walter Lantz Studio Andy Panda cartoon Knock Knock (1940). With audiences reacting strongly to the character, the animation studio quickly spun him off with his own series starting with the cartoon Woody Woodpecker (1941). For his first three appearances, the character was voiced by Mel Blanc, but Mel signed a loyalty contract with Warner’s Leon Schlesinger Productions, which ended his run in the Woody Woodpecker theatrical shorts (although the character’s laugh that he did was used as a stock sound effect for most of a decade). As time went on, Woody underwent several changes, both in terms of design and voice actors. Many potential foils, such as Wally Walrus and Buzz Buzzard were introduced to the series as well. For most of the 40s, the Woody cartoons were distributed by Universal Studios, but in the latter part of the decade, United Artists briefly took over when Walter Lantz and Universal couldn’t come to an agreement. During that time, George Tibbles and Ramey Idriss wrote “The Woody Woodpecker Song,” which became the series’ theme song. Going into the 1950s, Walter Lantz signed with Universal again, and his wife Grace Stafford started providing the voice of Woody. The latter part of the decade saw Woody make the jump to television, where his shorts were syndicated as part of The Woody Woodpecker Show. New shorts were still being produced for theatres, but that came to an end in 1972 when Walter Lantz had to shut down his studio as a result of production costs getting too high. Eventually, Walter Lantz sold all his shorts to Universal Studios, who later produced more Woody Woodpecker TV series.
For the most part, I really did not grow up with Woody Woodpecker cartoons (although I at least had something of an idea of who he was), so all the cartoons in The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection were new to me. Suffice to say, I enjoyed many of the cartoons in this set, with several that really stood out for me (in a good way). Outside of its treatment of a Native American chief, The Barber Of Seville (1944) really managed to be fun, especially with its music. Some of the shorts that featured Wally Walrus as his nemesis left me in stitches, especially Ski For Two (1944), Chew-Chew Baby (1945) and The Reckless Driver (1946). There were only two cartoons in this set that featured Woody dealing with Buzz Buzzard, but they left a strong impression on me. Admittedly, of the two with Buzz, Wet Blanket Policy was slightly weaker, but mainly because of “The Woody Woodpecker Song” carrying over beyond the opening credits, which obscured some of the opening dialogue (I have no idea whether the short has always been that way or if it was a mistake on this set). I did think that (as far as the cartoons included in this set are concerned) the series got a bit weaker as it went on, but the later Niagara Fools managed to be enough of a return to form that kept me laughing from start to finish! I wouldn’t call all of the shorts in this set memorable, but it was a fun introduction to the character of Woody Woodpecker. The biggest complaint is that this set doesn’t contain a large number of Woody Woodpecker shorts, including his first appearance (although everything included is at least put in order of original release). I certainly would enjoy looking into more if they are ever released (so yes, I do recommend this set)!
As far as how these shorts look on Blu-ray, I would say that this set has mixed results. To me, most of the earlier shorts included look really good, with nice, vivid colors. To me, one of the weakest looking shorts is The Beach Nut, which seems a bit fuzzier than others. The opening credits on a number of the latter shorts also don’t look as crisp, but, apart from that, the rest of the shorts look much better. Overall, this set certainly isn’t up to the quality that I would find in a Warner Archive release, but, for all intents and purposes, this is likely to be as good as we might get for Woody Woodpecker in the meantime.
The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection is available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios. The whole set has a runtime of two hours, fifty-five minutes.
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