Guess who? Anyone who has ever visited Universal Studios knows that Woody Woodpecker is always represented in merchandise some way or another–though he’s not seen as a costumed character as often as he used to be. So it’s no stretch to imagine some corporate suit attending the park on his or her free VIP pass, being reminded that the company actually owns this character, and wondering, “Hey, with every property any kid ever remembers being turned into movies again, why aren’t we monetizing this guy?”
What’s weird is the decision to gear said attempt at monetization primarily towards Brazil. Maybe because of the rainforest, they think Brazilians will have a unique affinity for a character who’s anti-deforestation? As initially reported by Brazilian entertainment site Tommo, the live-action/CG blend (a la Alvin and the Chipmunks and Yogi Bear) will “show a turf war between the playful and mischievous woodpecker and the swindler Lance Walters (frequent Star Wars videogame voice actor Timothy Omundson) and his girlfriend Brittany (Thaila Ayala).” Walters, named after Woody creator Walter Lantz, wants to build his dream home, but runs afoul of Woody, presumably when he tries to obtain lumber from the trees where the red-headed woodpecker lives. The shoot has been taking place in Squamish, British Columbia, and star Ayala is big in Brazil.
This wouldn’t be the first time something like this has happened — a Top Cat animated feature was previously made for the Mexican market, and as Cartoon Brew points out, “many classic American cartoon characters (with the exception of Disney’s) are better recognized abroad where their cartoons are aired regularly on television.” Woody is known in Brazil as Pica-Pau, which has kind of a cute ring to it.
The film is directed by Alex Zamm, known mostly for direct-to-video sequels like Inspector Gadget 2 and Jingle All the Way 2 that featured none of the original talent. In addition to Zamm and his usual writing partner William Robertson, the script is also credited to sitcom vets Paul A. Kaplan and Mark Torgove (Spin City, The George Lopez Show). Cartoon Brew had previously reported that Illumination Entertainment were planning a larger-budget Woody film with frequent Mike Judge collaborators John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, and they still may be…perhaps Universal wants to test the waters with a relatively inexpensive, low-risk production first to see who remembers.
If it works out, there’s a whole Walter Lantz Productions library ready to be mined. While the company lost the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit back to Disney, there have to be people out there who remember Chilly Willy, Inspector Willoughby, and Andy Panda besides me.
Are you a Woody fan, glad to see the character return in any form? Or is this more of a “Hu-hu-hu-HA huh?” Tell us what fits your bill in comments below.