Tom Klein | Woody Woodpecker & The Avant-Garde

Tom Klein | Woody Woodpecker & The Avant-Garde

Tune in Tuesday, September 20, as KXLU Los Angeles proudly presents Center Stage with Mark Gordon featuring special guest LMU Animation professor Tom Klein.  He will be talking about Woody Woodpecker & the Avant-Garde: A Collision of Animation, Art, Avant-Garde Film and Politics presented at LMU’s Laband Gallery

Center Stage with Mark Gordon airs Tuesdays at 7PM (PST) on KXLU Los Angeles, 88.9 FM and streaming at

Animator Shamus Culhane worked at the Walter Lantz studio from 1943-1946 and wanted to use avant-garde techniques within the Woody cartoons he directed. Klein praises Culhane as a pioneer who pushed the envelope to create these fascinating, bold art experiments that he hid in plain sight.

Amidst the turbulence of World War II, artists, animators, filmmakers and musicians found a sense of freedom and unexpected sources of inspiration in Los Angeles. The American Contemporary Gallery in Hollywood was a gathering place for a creative community eager to see the latest art exhibitions and screenings of classic and avant-garde films. Among the attendees was a young director, Shamus Culhane, who began to experiment at Walter Lantz Productions, bringing surprising modernist artistic references and film techniques into mainstream animated Woody Woodpecker films. The results brought Woody to his peak as a brazen character, embodying the shifting tenor of early 1940s cartoons.

Woody Woodpecker & the Avant-Garde explores varied elements of Culhane’s creative inspiration and production, along with paintings and watercolors by Jules Engel, Oskar Fischinger, Losar Feiltelson, Knud Merrild and Byron Randall.

First public display in decades of rare production materials from the Walter Lantz Archive/UCLA Special Collections:

·      Storyboards and character development art from Woody Woodpecker’s debut in “Knock Knock” (1940)

·      Cels, backgrounds, and storyboards from a U.S. Navy training cartoon, “The Enemy Bacteria” (1945)

·      First-time HD film transfers of director Shamus Culhane’s innovative film experiments

·      Paintings and by Northern California artist Byron Randall that have not been seen in Los Angeles since the 1940s

·      Man Ray’s 1923 “Le Retour à la raison”

[Return to Reason]

·      Maya Deren “Meshes in the Afternoon” (1943)

This exhibit celebrates a landmark gift to LMU School of Film and Television from the Walter Lantz Foundation. Along with the gift, the Foundation donated several works of art, many of which will be on view.

Woody Woodpecker & the Avant-Garde is on view September 22 – November 20, 2016, and is co-organized by LMU’s School of Film and Television, College of Communication and Fine Arts and Laband, with generous cooperation from Universal Studios.