Thursday, August 25, 2011

Origin of Chilly Willy

Walter Lantz News Flash: I learned today that Chilly Willy came about because Walter Lantz wanted a new character to replace Andy Panda. (Andy's last cartoon – or cartune as Lantz often wrote the term – was in 1949.)

According to the Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia, “In 1953, Lantz wanted a new character, and one of his directors, Paul Smith, began work on a cartoon entitled Chilly Willy. This cartoon features a little penguin, more similar in design to the ones found in 1945's Sliphorn King of Polaroo than the Chilly Willy we think of today, voiced by Sara Berner. This cartoon set up the general formula of Chilly wanting to find warmth that most future Chilly Willy cartoons would adhere to...”

The Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia (a great site to check out) goes on to state that although the first Chilly Willy short was not a success, Lantz was determined to have a penguin as a lead character. “...when Tex Avery returned to the studio in 1954, Lantz asked him to make another attempt at getting the character to work. Avery didn't feel a 'little fuzzy wuzzy penguin' would be particularly funny, so he decided to pair Chilly Willy with funny co-stars. The first of these cartoons, I'm Cold … introduces Smedley the dog, Chilly's long time co-star.”

My research shows Chilly Willy's last cartoon was in 1972. He had a very good run, having cartoons reguraly produced for two decades.

Chilly Willy became one of Lantz' major stars.
Like many adults today, I have fond memories of watching Chilly Willy cartunes as a child. Along with Woody Woodpecker and Andy Panda, Chilly Willy is definitely one of Walter Lantz' main stars. I highly recommend renting or buying the Woody Woodpecker and Friends DVD sets. If you were a child between the 1940s and 1970s, you will love these sets of classic animation. They also make excellent gifts for friends and family members who grew up in the 1940s to 1970s.

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