Porky's Duck Hunt (1937)
Tex Avery, Bob Clampett
Mel Blanc (1937-1989), Greg Burgson (1990-1999), Hank Azaria (2000-2012), Dee Bradley Baker (Space Jam)
Virtually every Warner Bros cartoon director put his own spin on the Daffy Duck character, who may be a lunatic vigilante in one short but a greedy gloryhound in another. Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones both made extensive use of these two very different versions of the character.
Daffy was #14 on TV Guide's list of top 50 best cartoon characters, and was featured on one of the issue's two covers as Duck Dodgers with Porky Pig and the Powerpuff Girls (all of which are Time Warner-owned characters).
Daffy first appeared on April 17, 1937, in Porky's Duck Hunt, directed by Tex Avery and animated by Bob Clampett. The cartoon is a standard hunter/prey pairing for which Leon Schlesinger's studio was famous, but Daffy (barely more than an unnamed bit player in this short) represented something new to moviegoers: an assertive, combative protagonist, completely unrestrainable. As Clampett later recalled, "At that time, audiences weren't accustomed to seeing a cartoon character do these things. And so, when it hit the theaters it was an explosion. People would leave the theaters talking about this daffy duck."
This early Daffy is less anthropomorphic and resembles a "normal" duck. The Mel Blanc voice characterization and the white neck ring contrasting with the black feathers, are about the only aspects of the character that remained consistent through the years. Blanc's characterization of Daffy holds the world record for the longest characterization of one animated character by his or her original actor — 52 years.
The origin of Daffy's voice is a matter of some debate. One oft-repeated "official" story is that it was modeled after producer Schlesinger's tendency to lisp. However, in Mel Blanc's autobiography, That's Not All Folks!, he contradicts that conventional belief, writing "It seemed to me that such an extended mandible would hinder his speech, particularly on words containing an s sound. Thus 'despicable' became 'desthpicable'."
Daffy's slobbery, exaggerated lisp was developed over time, being barely noticeable in the early cartoons. In Daffy Duck and Egghead, Daffy does not lisp at all, except in the separately drawn set-piece of Daffy singing "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down", in which just a slight lisp can be heard.
Daffy's early years from 1937 - 1940EditIt was Tex Avery who created the original version of Daffy in 1937. Daffy established his status by jumping into the water, hopping around, and yelling, "Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo! Hoo-hoo! Woo-hoo!". Animator Bob Clampett immediately seized upon the Daffy Duck character and cast him in a series of cartoons in the 1930s and 1940s. Clampett's Daffy is a wild and zany screwball, perpetually bouncing around the screen with cries of "Hoo-hoo! Hoo-hoo!" (In his autobiography, Mel Blanc stated that the zany demeanor was inspired by Hugh Herbert's catchphrase, which was taken to a wild extreme for Daffy). Clampett physically redesigned the character, making him taller and lankier, and rounding out his feet and bill. He was often paired with Porky Pig.
World War II Daffy from 1941 - 1945Edit
Daffy would also feature in several war-themed shorts during World War II. Daffy always stays true to his unbridled nature, however: for example, attempting to dodge conscription in Draftee Daffy (1945), battling a Nazi goat intent on eating Daffy's scrap metal in Scrap Happy Daffy (1943), and hitting the head of Adolf Hitler in Daffy the Commando 1943.
Daffy from 1946 - 1952Edit
For Daffy Doodles (his first Looney Tunes cartoon as a director), Robert McKimson, Sr. tamed Daffy a bit, redesigning him yet again to be rounder and less elastic. The studio also instilled some of Bugs Bunny's savvy into the duck, making him as brilliant with his mouth as he was with his battiness. Daffy was teamed up with Porky Pig; the duck's one-time rival became his straight man. Art Davis, who directed Warner Bros. cartoon shorts for a few years in the late 1940s until upper management decreed there should be only three units (McKimson, Friz Freleng and Jones), presented a Daffy similar to McKimson's. McKimson is noted as the last of the three units to make his Daffy uniform with Avery's, with even late shorts such as Don't Axe Me (1958) featuring traits of the 'screwball' Daffy.
Daffy's peak from 1953 - 1964Edit
While Daffy's looney days were over, McKimson continued to make him as bad or good as his various roles required him to be. McKimson would use this Daffy from 1946 to 1961. Friz Freleng's version took a hint from Chuck Jones to make the Duck more sympathetic, as in the 1957 Show Biz Bugs. Here Daffy is arrogant and jealous of Bugs, yet he has real talent, which is ignored by the theatre manager and the crowd. This cartoon finishes with a sequence in which Daffy attempts to wow the Bugs-besotted audience with an act in which he drinks gasoline and swallows nitroglycerine, gunpowder, and uranium-238 (in a greenish solution), jumps up and down to "shake well", and finally swallows a lit match that detonates the whole improbable mixture. Some TV stations, and in the 1990s the cable network TNT, edited out the dangerous act, afraid of imitation by young kids.
Chuck Jones' Daffy from 1951 - 1964Edit
Pairing of Daffy and Porky in parodies of popular movies from 1951 - 1965Edit
While Bugs Bunny became Warner Bros.' most popular character, the directors still found ample use for Daffy. Several cartoons place him in parodies of popular movies and radio serials. For example, Drip-along Daffy (released in 1951 and named after the popular Hopalong Cassidy character) throws Daffy into a Western, while Robin Hood Daffy (1958) casts the duck in the role of the legendary outlaw Robin Hood. In Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (1953) — a parody of Buck Rogers — Daffy trades barbs (and bullets) with Marvin the Martian, with Porky Pig retaining the role of Daffy's sidekick. Other parodies were Daffy in The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946) as "Duck Twacy" (Dick Tracy) (by Bob Clampett) and as Stupor Duck (Superman, now a WB property himself) (by Robert McKimson).
Pairing of Bugs and Daffy from 1951 - 1964Edit
Bugs' ascension to stardom also prompted the Warner animators to recast Daffy as the rabbit's rival, intensely jealous and determined to steal back the spotlight, while Bugs either remained indifferent to the duck's jealousy or used it to his advantage. Daffy's desire to achieve stardom at any cost was explored as early as 1940, in Freleng's You Ought to Be in Pictures, but the idea was most successfully used by Chuck Jones, who redesigned the duck once again, making him scrawnier and scruffier. In Jones' famous "Hunting Trilogy" (or "Duck Season/Rabbit Season Trilogy") of Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck! Rabbit, Duck! (each respectively launched in 1951, 1952 and 1953) Daffy's vanity and excitedness provide Bugs Bunny the perfect opportunity to fool the hapless Elmer Fudd into repeatedly shooting the duck's bill off. Jones' Daffy sees himself as self-preservationist, not selfish. However, this Daffy can do nothing that does not backfire on him, more likely to singe his tail feathers as well as his dignity than anything.
Film critic Steve Schneider calls Jones' version of Daffy "a kind of unleashed id." Jones said that his version of the character "expresses all of the things we're afraid to express." This is evident in Jones' Duck Amuck (1953), "one of the few unarguable masterpieces of American animation," according to Schneider. In the episode, Daffy is plagued by a godlike animator whose malicious paintbrush alters the setting, soundtrack, and even Daffy. When Daffy demands to know who is responsible for the changes, the camera pulls back to reveal none other than Bugs Bunny. Duck Amuck is widely heralded as a classic of filmmaking for its illustration that a character's personality can be recognized independently of appearance, setting, voice and plot. In 1999, the short was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Friz Freleng used the Jones idea for Daffy in Show Biz Bugs (1957) wherein Daffy's "trained" pigeon act (they all fly away as soon as Daffy opens their cage) and complicated tap dance number is answered by nothing but crickets chirping in the audience, whereas Bugs' simple song-and-dance numbers brings wild applause.
McKimson made more benevolent use of Daffy, in Ducking the Devil for example his greed becomes a vital tool in subduing the Tasmanian Devil and collecting a big cash reward. McKimson also played with Daffy's movie roles however. In 1959, Daffy appeared in China Jones (a parody of a television series of the day, China Smith, starring Dan Duryea) in which he was an Irish private eye, with an Irish accent, instead of the usual lisp, in his voice.
Daffy's pairing with Speedy in 1965 - 1968Edit
When the Warner Bros. animation studio briefly outsourced cartoon production to DePatie-Freleng Enterprises in the 1960s, Daffy Duck became an antagonist (or inconsistent friend) in several Speedy Gonzales cartoons, his mean spirit taken to an extreme. For example, in Well Worn Daffy (1965), Daffy is determined to keep the mice away from a desperately needed well seemingly for no other motive than pure maliciousness. Furthermore, when he draws all the water he wants, Daffy then attempts to destroy the well in spite of the vicious pointlessness of the act, forcing Speedy to stop him. The Warner Bros. studio was entering its twilight years, and even Daffy had to stretch for humor in the period. It's worth mentioning, though, that in many of the later DFE cartoons (such as Feather Finger and Daffy's Diner) Daffy is portrayed as a tragic/luckless character rather than the full-blown villain he is in cartoons like Well Worn Daffy and Assault and Peppered. The last cartoon featuring Daffy and Speedy is See Ya Later Gladiator, in what animation fans call the worst cartoon made by Warner Brothers.
According to animation historian Jerry Beck, television companies wanted more cartoons featuring Daffy Duck and Speedy Gonzales. And, because of their declining budgets, the most economical thing for Warner Brothers to do was to pair the two characters together.
Dell Comics published several Daffy Duck comic books, beginning in Four Color Comics #457, #536 and #615, then continuing as Daffy #4-17 (1956–59), then as Daffy Duck #18-30 (1959–62). The comic book series was subsequently continued in Gold Key Comics Daffy Duck #31-127 (1962–79). This run was in turn continued under the Whitman Comics imprint, until the company completely ceased comic book publication in 1984. In 1994, corporate cousin DC Comics became the publisher for comics featuring all the classic Warner Bros. cartoon characters, and while not getting his own title, Daffy has appeared in many issues of Looney Tunes.
Other actors who voiced DaffyEdit
Daffy has been voiced by other actors besides Mel Blanc, Jeff Bergman, Greg Burson, Dee Bradley Baker, and Joe Alaskey:
- Jeff Bennett ("Attack of the Drones")
- Samuel Vincent ("Baby Looney Tunes")
- Frank Gorshin ("Superior Duck")
- Mel Tormé provided Daffy's singing voice in Night of the Living Duck (one of the new shorts in the compilation feature Daffy Duck's Quackbusters)
- Bill Farmer ("Robot Chicken")
A poster of Daffy is prominently displayed in Michael Garibaldi's quarters in the science fiction TV series Babylon 5. In one episode, Zack Allen jokingly explains to G'Kar that Daffy is the 'ancient Egyptian god of frustration'. Garibaldi is also shown entertaining Ambassador Delenn with Duck Dodgers in the 24 & 1/2th Century, which she finds difficult to understand when Duck Dodgers accidentally puts his rocket into reverse. Babylon 5 is also a Warner Bros. property.
In Family Guy, after holding an exploding bomb from Adam West, Meg has Daffy Duck's bill on the wrong side of her head, moves it to its proper position, and then states, “Of course, you realize this means war!”.
In the Eminem song "Despicable", Em claims he is as "Despicble as Daffy Duck when He's spittin'"(In a Daffy Duck style voice)