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Woody Woodpecker "with his innate chutzpah and brash demeanor, ... was a natural hit during World War II. His image appeared on US aircraft as nose art", Wikipedia says.

Why was Woody Woodpecker a "natural" hit during WW2? (Note that the word "natural" is used on Wikipedia.) Reading "natural" along with "Bugs Bunny" and "Daffy Duck," "Woody Woodpecker" was a "screwball" or "comic relief" character that Hollywood produced for children in the early 1940s.

I understand that the character had or represented something that people felt at that time. What was it, and why did Hollywood produce such characters for American children during this era?

(Bonus question) Can someone show a picture of a US aircraft where, during WW2, Woody Woodpecker was painted? I see "nose art" on Wikipedia but haven't found one.

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I found a few shots of a B24 which appears to feature Woody in its nose art. – Nigel Harper Jun 3 '13 at 21:31

2 Answers 2

Woody Woodpecker was actually created in the 1930s and went through several changes before being presented to the public in his first cartoon short in 1940. His second carton, titled appropriately enough "Woody Woodpecker", had a higher level of energy and featured a jazzy musical score that apparently appealed to adult audiences. The fact that his cartoons were more outrageous, made people laugh, and featured rousing musical accompaniment no doubt contributed to his overall success.

Keep in mind that these cartoons were produced as shorts for showing in theaters, and not on television. Most of the movie going public during this time period was adults, and not children, so I believe you are incorrect in assuming that these cartoons were made expressly for children. Most American children would not actually be exposed to Woody until 1957 when he was first broadcast on television.

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In the early 1940s, World War II was ranging. A high priority for elders at the time was to get the minds of young children off the war (while urging boys in their late teens to get ready to fight). The psychology is similar to that of other "crisis" periods such as the Revolutionary and Civil wars. These comic characters served as "babysitters" (and role models) for young children at the time.

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Historical sources for this assessment? – DVK Jun 5 '13 at 12:44
The ward "wars" is linked to the book "Generations," by Willian Strauss and Neil HoweThe relevant chapter is about the so-called "Silent Generation," the children born in the 1930s and early 1940s (who are now elders such as Warren Buffett). – Tom Au Jun 5 '13 at 12:47
it'd be better to explicitly quote from the book :) – DVK Jun 5 '13 at 12:49
The book didn't discuss these characters. But it discussed "similar" ones, "Spanky," and "Alfalfa," and "Little Rascal." I thought it was too much of a stretch to transfer them to this discussion. Basically, I've cited the source and the relevant chapter, but you'll have to read the whole context to determine what is right and wrong. You'll also have to read at least two more chapters about the earlie Revolution and Civil War crisis periods. Basically, I've synopsized about one-third of a 750 page book in one paragraph. – Tom Au Jun 5 '13 at 12:53

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