'Woody Woodpecker' In Development Under Universal And Illumination Entertainment

Illumination Entertainment, the animation house sheltered at Universal that turned out Despicable Me and is responsible for next year's release The Lorax, now has a new subject. The company will make a film featuring Woody Woodpecker, the impetuous red-headed cartoon character created in 1940.

THR says that John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky (Blades of Glory) are in talks to develop a story. Universal has held the rights to the character since 1985, but we haven't seen much use of Woody in the past few decades. As classic cartoon characters go, in fact, he's one of the least exploited.

That could all change if this works out, since the goal of Universal and Illumination is to modernize the character and create a new approach that will power a franchise.

That will take quite a bit of work, as Woody wasn't the most story-oriented character. He also isn't part of quite the same sort of lineup that Warner Bros. characters enjoyed. If you want to make a Bugs Bunny movie, it ends up being a movie that has Bugs and ten other widely recognizable characters. Who do you put in the Woody movie? Ben Buzzard, and... who else? All but the best Woody cartoons were pretty clearly runners-up in the entertainment department. Quick: name your fave Woody Woodpecker moment that isn't the character's title sequence. I bet most people have to think about that, and many won't be able to come up with one.

That might make for a good blank slate, but it's also not a particularly rich starting point for writers. I'll be really curious to see what they manage to come up with. And maybe Francis Ford Coppola's new friend Dan Deacon can do the score.