December 1953 - 1972, released theatrically
Walter Lantz Productions
hilly Willy was a
penguin who starred in a series of self-titled theatrical shorts
from 1953 to 1972. He was probably Walter Lantz Productions
second most popular character behind
Woody Woodpecker. In
1957, Chilly Willy made a successful transition to the small
screen when his theatrical shorts aired alongside other Walter
Lantz cartoons on The Woody Woodpecker Show.
A penguin has two
main concerns, staying warm and finding food. Chilly Willy spent
a great deal of time attempting to fulfill both of those needs.
He may have looked cute and innocent, but woe to the poor soul
who stood in his way of finding either, because Chilly was
nothing if not persistent.
In nearly all
of the earliest cartoons Chilly Willy's nemesis was a dog
named Smedly (often wrongly spelled Smedley), who acted as
caretaker or guard dog for some establishment that Chilly
Willy raided to find shelter from the cold or a free meal.
Chilly was fairly easily foiled, but he kept returning no
matter how many times he was booted from the premises. A
common scene involved Smedly throwing Chilly out a door or
window or escorting the penguin far from the grounds, only
to find that by the time he turned around or got back Chilly
Willy would already be there, as if he had never left. He
also had a habit of just appearing in the most unlikely of
places, such as sardine cans or closed vaults that had no
way of being accessed. Later friends who would join Chilly
Willy in his exploits were a polar bear named Maxie and an
albatross named Gooney.
Sara Berner provided the voice for
Chilly Willy in the very first short, Chilly Willy,
however the pesky penguin didn't speak again until the mid 60s,
when Daws Butler took over the voice chores for the penguin. In
fact, Daws Butler did most of the voice work for the series, and
the voices he provided for the main characters were largely
inspired by, or would provide the inspiration for, more familiar
Hanna-Barbera characters also voiced by Daws. Chilly Willy's
voice strongly resembled Elroy from
The Jetsons (although not
initially - Chilly's voice changed), Smedly's voice was
identical to Huckleberry Hound, and Gooney's voice was a dead
ringer for Peter Potamus.
Despite the fact
that penguins are indigenous to the southern hemisphere, the
creators placed Chilly in whatever location they found
convenient. The first cartoon took place in the South Pole, but
he was later often found in Alaska and even in the Alpine
Mountains in Switzerland. Perhaps Chilly Willy was just looking
in all the wrong places for a warm climate?