Tuesday 27 September 2022

3-D Woodpecker

Walter Lantz’s Hyponotic Hick was part of the new 3-D craze in 1953, but it used techniques seen in cartoons years earlier. There are scenes with the illusion of depth is made by the foreground moving at a faster pace than the background. Tex Avery was doing this at Warners in the ‘30s. It happens a lot in this cartoon to create a 3-D effect.

Then there were characters coming at the camera, like a Disney cartoon from the late ‘20s. Here, Woody Woodpecker jumps at the camera lens, but then director Don Patterson cuts away before the woodpecker can reach it.

Later, Woody leaps again. Unlike an old Disney character, he doesn’t blacken the lens or go past it. He quickly fades out, which would seem to make 3-D less effective.

Top Cat James notes in the comments that I said nothing about the rivet scene. Actually, this one works well. Buzz Buzzard accidentally swallows a bucket of rivets and spits them out toward the camera. The drawings are on ones; director Don Patterson times it well.

Three drawings in a scene of Buzz 3-D'ing it for the camera. To me, Buzz goes forward and in front so fast, the effect is lost a bit.

You’ll notice the characters have thicker ink lines in some scenes than others.

All of Lantz’s animators got credit on this, as well as technical director Bill Garity.

According to Variety in August 1953, the cartoon was scheduled for release with Universal’s Wings of the Hawk, and “If UI continues to make 3D product, then he expects to tag along with shorts in same technique for companion pictures.” Money-conscious Lantz told the trade paper the cartoon must gross $100,000 to break even, because it would cost him approximately $60,000 when it went into release.

It turned out to be Lantz’s only 3-D short. He was looking at other things. Variety also reported the same month that Sara Berner had been hired to voice Chilly Willy, more staff had been hired and at year’s end, Tex Avery would be joining the studio. Ol’ Tex came up with some shorts far more enjoyable than Woody Woodpecker serving a summons.


  1. What, you didn't dig the BURP rivets either?

    1. You know, I don't know why I skipped that because it's one 3-D effect in the cartoon that works well.

  2. Not a great cartoon. I knew something was up when I watched it three months ago.

  3. I still vividly remember Devon Baxter providing that the first 3D shot of Woody skating down the slope being animated by Ken Southworth. Don Patterson between The Redwood Sap and 1954-ish was done by Southworth and not Patterson as credited in the shorts. I'm not sure how to really summarize that very well, but I figured I would mention.