Dick Lundy Release dateJanuary 22, 1951 (U.S.) WriterHeck Allen, Ben Hardaway
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Puny Express is an American cartoon, and the 32nd animated cartoon short subject in the Woody Woodpecker series. Released theatrically on January 22, 1951, the film was produced by Walter Lantz Productions and distributed by Universal-International.
In the Old West, Cowboy Woody comes to town and notices an ad at a western post office advertising for a new mail delivery rider. He is hired but is warned about the bandit Buzz Buzzard who has been stealing the mail and killing the carriers. Ignoring the warning, Woody sets off. Eventually, Woody runs into Buzz and they begin battling for Woody's mail pouch and it contents. After they use every trick and move they can against each other, Woody finally is able to both outwit and outlast Buzz, and finishes their long battle by knocking him cold. Then with his pouch in hand, Woody goes to finish delivering the mail.
Puny Express was the first Woody Woodpecker short made after a two-year hiatus. Several changes took place in the interim. For starters, Woody's top knot was pushed forward (instead of slicked back), and his head became rounder, thanks to a redesign by animator LaVerne Harding. In addition, the diminutive woodpecker became shorter.
Woody was not the only one to get a new look as his main foil Buzz Buzzard has been redesigned as well. In the previous films, Buzz had brown or black feathers on his head; beginning with this film he would now sport a red/crimson head for most of his appearances in the series.
Puny Express also marked the beginning of a more refined trademark laugh, courtesy of Grace Stafford. Stafford eventually provided the voice for Woody regularly in 1953, while just providing his laugh for the 1951-52 releases. This new version of Woody's trademark cackle is heard at the beginning and end of Puny Express. Mel Blanc's more infectious version of Woody's laugh (heard in all previous Woody entries) was utilized during the short as well. Blanc's laugh would be used sporadically moving forward, until Stafford's version became the "official" sound. However, Woody's "Guess Who?", also supplied by Blanc, would be utilized until the end of the series in 1972.
Beginning with this entry, all Woody "cartunes" contained minimal dialogue. Voice artists would instead be called upon to perform vocal effects (shouting, yeowing, gasping, etc.) for characters when needed. Other times, Lantz would use archive recordings for the characters' voices. Woody's only line in Puny Express is his signature line "Guess Who", which is recycled audio of Mel Blanc from 1941's Woody Woodpecker. It would be similar to other theatrical cartoon series' from other studios like Tom and Jerry (MGM), Road Runner (Warner Bros.), and The Pink Panther (DFE Enterprises). This would continue until 1954.
Puny Express also marked Walter Lantz's return at directing a Woody Woodpecker "cartune" since the early 1940s. Prior to the 1948 layoff, director Dick Lundy had begun production on Puny Express, which along with Sleep Happy was one of two Woody Woodpecker shorts that storymen Ben Hardaway and Heck Allen had storyboarded and scripted. As such, this is Lundy's final effort as director on a Woody short, although he does not have on-screen credit. When the studio reopened in 1950, Hardaway, Allen and Lundy were gone. Lantz finished production on both films as writer (he had written addition material on both) and director. Lantz would then serve as director, and become head writer, for the next nine entries in the Woody Woodpecker film series.