Thursday, November 24, 2011

Funny Little Things

Daffy-blogging, essay 9 of 15 blog entries on
Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th Century

Part One, Funny Little Things

Blink and you miss it:  Daffy gets so angry at Porky that he sticks
his hand straight through his head.

Daffy takes the evaporator on the right that goes to the airport
and not the evaporator on the left that would presumably take
him to the Warner Bros. studio.

I love the flying taxi modeled on a submarine.

How did they miss the misspelling on "stratosphere"?

Marvin's Matomic Masher is built on the model of a cash register,
complete with "SALE" tab.

Part Two, The Star of Our Show

Daffy as Duck Dodgers.
Psst…  I’m going to let you in on a secret.

Daffy is not really Duck Dodgers.  It’s all just an act.

Daffy’s enablers at Warner Bros. didn’t understand him at first.  It took years for them to get a full grasp of his character.

In his first movie appearance in Tex Avery’s Porky’s Duck Hunt (1937), Daffy stole the movie from everyone around him simply by being a
Daffy in Porky's Duck Hunt (1937).
manic nutcase.  “I’m just a crazy darn-fool duck!” he babbles to Porky and, truthfully, that just about covers it.  You can sense the charisma though.  In retrospect, you can see the star power.

Nearly all the Warner Bros. directors worked to get a handle on Daffy’s personality in the early 1940s.  Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, and Robert Clampett all struggled to find the key to the duck’s undeniable charm.  (In a way, watching Daffy in shorts from this period is like watching Humphrey Bogart movies prior to High Sierra (1939)—there’s a strong character there but it isn’t channeled properly yet.)

Daffy as Duck Twacy in The Great Piggy Bank
Robert Clampett probably realized the truth first.  In The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946), Daffy hallucinates that he’s a police detective.  “Nothing’s impossible to Duck Twacy!” he slobbers.  But, of course, he’s not a real Dick Tracy but just a dream of himself as Dick Tracy.  And even that doesn’t quite capture the real Daffy…  There was one further realization that had to be made.

Daffy isn’t a barnyard dreamer like in The Great Piggy Bank Robbery.  He’s an actor, a born performer.  That’s why he’s not really Duck Dodgers but something much more entertaining than a genuine space hero—he’s Daffy Duck pretending he’s Duck Dodgers.  Just as in other great Daffy shorts, he’s Daffy pretending to be Robin Hood or the Scarlet Pimpernel or a western sheriff or Sherlock Holmes.

In all these cases, the hero exterior is only a feather or two deep.  Clever disguises like his Dodgers’ red cape and head antenna can’t conceal the truth.  Daffy’s a star because he’s Daffy, the world’s greatest show-biz duck.

Daffy on the set, his cigar smoke plugging his bosses, in
Daffy Duck in Hollywood (1938).

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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