Animation History
March 27, 2013 posted by

Walter Lantz Thru United Artists

When Walter Lantz met with Universal in 1947, to renegotiate his contract, the studio played hard ball. It wanted to completely own all of the Lantz cartoons in perpetuity. But Lantz, heavily in debt but understanding the long term appeal of his stars in merchandising and sensing the potential of future television exposure for his library, refused to give in. Instead he took his animators, as well as Woody Woodpecker and Andy Panda, over to United Artists.

Released between December 1947 and March 1949, the twelve cartoons Lantz made for United Artists are some of his best – and perhaps the last great ones (Tex Avery excepted) his studio produced. It didn’t work out for UA – Lantz patched up his relationship with Universal in 1950 – but at least the studio provided Lantz with a shot of additional publicity it otherwise wouldn’t have received in the late 40s.

Below is a four page UA press book from that era, which touts Lantz and his shorts, his history as an animation pioneer, and ways to use Lantz merchandise (comics books, dolls, etc.) to ballyhoo his films. There are also some great ad “slugs” (on page 4 below) and a special display (page 3) illustrating how a cartoon is made. I’ve never seen this “special display” piece any larger, but I’ve blown it up as far as I can below. See if you can read it. Click thumbnails below to enlarge.

lantz_ua-1 lantz_ua-2 lantz_ua-3 lantz_ua-4


Here is the first UA release, one of the best of the bunch, The Bandmaster (1947) directed by Dick Lundy.


  • And for those interested in who animated what in The Bandmaster, see this page [Click Here].

  • Not completely related, but one of my favorite scenes in the entire history of film is the Woody Woodpecker segment in George Pal’s DESTINATION MOON (one of the first, if not the first, things Lantz did when he reopened). Not because of any merit in that segment, but just the idea of grown, executive men sitting around in suits at a fancy dinner watching projected Woody Woodpecker cartoons is something truly magical.

  • Noticed how Andy was starting to look more Mickey-like when Fred Moore was at the studio.

  • I wonder how much, if any of a factor, the success of “The Woody Woodpecker Song” had in the eventual Lantz-Universal rapprochement. Since it only made it into the final three Woodys of the UA period (and was obviously tacked onto the opening of “Wet Blanket Policy”), the breakout hit may have been too late to keep Lantz’s UA deal from falling apart, but since one of the first shorts after restarting with Universal included the second attempt at a musical hit, “The Woody Woodpecker Polka”, someone at Universal along with Walter must have thought it was a good promotional tool.

    • I have children’s records (45 rpm) of “The Woody Woodpecker Waltz” and “The Woody Woodpecker Twist.” Talk about milking a good thing.

  • Page two of the brochure lists a cartoon called “Tin Can Concert” that was not part of the UA releases (Repaced with Drooler’s Delight?) Did they make a story and then scrap it? And if so, did it have anything to do with the Lantz cartoon of 1961 called “Tin Can Concerto”?

    • I’ve never seen/read anything about TIN CAN CONCERT, other than whatever was prepped for that cartoon was abandoned when Lantz reopened in 1950. (Same goes for an abandoned Woody titled CAT-NAPPY.) With that in mind, the Doc cartoon Jack Hannah made twelve years later under the same title does seem a little archaic, more in tune with the kind of cartoons Dick Lundy made in the ’40s. So who knows. SLEEP HAPPY, PUNY EXPRESS, and DOG THAT CRIED WOLF (originally starring Andy Panda) were all written and partially laid out before Lantz closed.

  • These cartoons were very good. Probably my favorites amongst the UA releases are “Banquet Busters, ” “Dog Tax Dodgers,” and “Drooler’s Delight.”

    • My favorite from the Lantz UA period is the 1948 Andy Panda cartoon “The Playful Pelican.” This one deserves to be on the next Lantz collection if indeed one should happen to be announced.

    • Brian, “Playful Pelican” appeared in the first collection set. It’s included in the “Woody Woodpecker Show” bonus feature.

  • Did UA also have reissue rights to any of Lantz’ previous shorts during this period? Or did Universal’s exchanges continue to actively promote and sell the Lantz library cartoons?

    • Universal still had the rights to keep in release or reissue Lantz’s previous cartoons during this late 40s period – and they did!

  • Great to see that Fred Brunish Woody painting was used in publicity.

  • Well-done cartoon, I thought. Ben Hardaway’s file at the Truman Presidential Library is quite interesting.

  • I had never seen this cartoon before. I smiled and chuckled through the whole thing, beginning with Andy’s punctuated conducting style (which is off-rhythm, making it even funnier). What a delightful toon — clever, funny, and beautifully animated. In addition, it’s clear that Darrell Calker’s orchestra was as good as any major studio orchestra anywhere. The musical accompaniment is superb.

  • I read about this in the past few months – maybe in Jeff Lenburg’s book about Walter Lantz. Not only was he a very good “cartoon guy” – maybe not outstanding, like the Warner Bros. boys, but good – but he was an _excellent_ businessman and negotiator. More power to him! (I wish Universal would continue their Woody Woodpecker and Friends series – aw, nutz.)

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