Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Fourth Greatest Cartoon... Ever!

Daffy-blogging, essay 1 of 15 blog entries on
Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th Century

Part One, Daffy as He Sees Himself

 Chuck Yeager once said, "Rules are made for people who aren't willing
to make up their own."  Duck Dodgers, space hero (as well as ship pilot
and ace navigator), would doubtless agree.

Duck Dodgers:  Fearless in his encounters with strange aliens.

Expert with all kinds of advanced weapon systems, Duck Dodgers is
not afraid to escalate the situation when his honor is on the line.

A very charismatic duck, Dodgers' aura shines like a supernova when
he proudly announces his name.

Part Two, The Fourth Greatest Cartoon... Ever!

The celebrity status of Chuck Jones hit record height back in 1994 when a survey of 1,000 animation professionals gave four out of the top five slots to Chuck Jones’ cartoons:

  1. What’s Opera, Doc? (1957)
  2. Duck Amuck (1953)
  3. The Band Concert (1935, the one exception—a Disney short directed by Wilfred Jackson)
  4. Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th Century (1953)
  5. One Froggy Evening (1955)
In retrospect, this top five appears a little Jones-heavy even for a Jones fanatic like myself.  But Jones was riding a crest of popularity at the time buoyed by virtue of living a long and active life, by publishing a best-selling memoir called Chuck Amuck in 1989, and by lucking out by having his cartoons consistently accessible to the general public.  I sure can’t blame these 1,000 animation professionals for loving these shorts.  Taken individually, they’re great choices.

Our focus is #4, Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th Century, a very funny cartoon with some fantastic science fiction imagery and a classic fadeout.  It stars Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, who had already racked up 34 years of combined stardom between them by 1953, and a relative newcomer to the Warner Bros. universe, Marvin the Martian who was first introduced to earthlings in 1948.

Duck Dodgers usually gets credited to Chuck Jones, but it might be more accurately described as a product of the Chuck Jones unit at Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc.  As director, Jones was the boss responsible for a great deal of the short’s artistry but ultimately this was a group effort that required creativity from all.  Here’s the short list of Jones’ crack Duck Dodgers team:

Warner Bros. was organized to churn out cartoons, counting on assembly-line efficiency at a minimum of expense.  Jones and his team were more ambitious than that.  When they latched onto a concept that inspired them, they had the talent to dazzle.  Duck Dodgers was one of those concepts.

Reference Sources
Chuck Amuck by Chuck Jones
Chuck Reducks by Chuck Jones
Hollywood Cartoons by Michael Barrier
Looney Tunes: The Ultimate Visual Guide by Jerry Beck
Warner Bros. Animation Art by Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald
7 Minutes by Norman M. Klein
That's All Folks by Steve Schneider
Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume One DVD set, Duck Dodgers commentary by Michael Barrier
Friends at the IMDb Classic Film message board including Rollo Treadway, Chloe Joe Fassbender, Illtdesq, and Fish Beauty
... and an occasional sneak glance at Wikipedia entries (but always double-checking everything!)

Watch Duck Dodgers...
Purchase Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume One DVD set at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Rent Disc Two of Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume One DVD set at Netflix or other rental service.

© 2011 Lee Price

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