Walter Benjamin Lantz (April 27, 1899 – March 22, 1994) was an American cartoonist, animator, film producer, and director, best known for founding Walter Lantz Productions and creating Woody Woodpecker.
Early years and start in animation
Lantz was born in New Rochelle, New York to Italian immigrant parents, Francesco Paolo Lantz (formerly Lanza) and Maria Gervasi from Calitri. According to Joe Adamson’s biography, The Walter Lantz Story, Lantz’s father was given his new surname by an immigration official who Anglicized it. Walter Lantz was always interested in art, completing a mail order drawing class at age twelve. He saw his first animation when he watched Winsor McCay’s cartoon short, Gertie the Dinosaur.
While working as an auto mechanic Lantz got his first break. A wealthy customer named Fred Kafka liked his drawings on the garage’s bulletin board and financed Lantz’s studies at the Art Students League. Kafka also helped him get a job as a copy boy at the… read more