Duck Amuck is a surreal animated cartoon directed by Chuck Jones and produced by Warner Bros. Cartoons. The short was released in early 1953 by The Vitaphone Corporation, the short subject division of Warner Bros. Pictures, as part of the Merrie Melodies series. It stars Daffy Duck, who is tormented by a sadistic, unseen animator (later revealed to be his friend and rival Bugs Bunny) who constantly changes Daffy's location, clothing, voice, physical appearance, and even shape. Pandemonium reigns throughout the cartoon as Daffy attempts to steer the action back to some kind of normality, only for the animator to either ignore him or, more frequently, to over-literally interpret his increasingly frantic demands.
In 1994 it was voted #2 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field, and was included on Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1. It was so popular that a _Duck_Amuck was made after it.
According to director Chuck Jones, this film demonstrated for the first time that animation can create characters with a recognizable personality, independent of their appearance, milieu, or voice. Although in the end, the animator is revealed to be Daffy's friend and rival Bugs Bunny (who famously declares "Ain't I a stinker?"), according to Jones the ending is just for comedic value: Jones (the director) is speaking to the audience directly, asking "Who is Daffy Duck anyway? Would you recognize him if I did this to him? What if he didn't live in the woods? Didn't live anywhere? What if he had no voice? No face? What if he wasn't even a duck anymore?" In all cases, it is obvious that Daffy is still Daffy; not all cartoon characters can claim such distinctive personality.
Duck Amuck is included in the compilation film, The Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Movie, along with other favorite Chuck Jones cartoons including What's Opera, Doc?
In 1999 the film was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. This was the second of three animated shorts by Jones to receive this honor (the others are 1957's What's Opera, Doc? and 1955's One Froggy Evening). Jones has the distinction of being the only director (as of 2006) with three animated shorts in the registry.
The cartoon's plot was essentially replicated in one of Jones' later cartoons, Rabbit Rampage (1955), in which Bugs Bunny turns out to be the victim of the silly animator (Elmer Fudd). A similar plot was also included in an episode of Baby Looney Tunes, only Bugs was the victim, Daffy was the animator, and it was made on a computer instead of a pencil and paper.
In Looney Tunes Comics Issue #94, Bugs Bunny gets his back at Daffy Duck by making him the victim, in switching various movie roles, from Duck Twacy in "Who Killed Daffy Duck," a video game character, and a talk show host, and they always wound up with Daffy starring in Moby Dick (the story's running gag). After this, Bugs comments, "Eh, dis guy needs a new agent."
He is redrawn dressed as a cowboy armed with a guitar, but no sound comes from the guitar when he plays. The animator adds in obscure sound effects for the guitar, and later Daffy when he tries shouting at the animator. Daffy flips out and throws a tantrum, finally ending it by screaming "And I've never been so humiliated in all my life!"
More scenery is drawn at Daffy's request, but all it turns out to be is a crudely drawn cityscape. When Daffy asks for it to be in colour, he is instead coloured in a wacky colour scheme of spots and stripes ("Not me, you slop artist!!"). He is erased and redrawn as a bizarre creature with a flower-shaped head, a reptilian-like body and a flagpole for a tail; the flag features a picture of a screw and a ball (hence a reference to the word "screwball"). Daffy sees his reflection in a mirror and scolds the animator.
Daffy is erased yet again and redrawn as a sailor. Daffy comments on how he always wished to do a sea epic. However, the animator paints an ocean which Daffy falls into. He appears on a faraway island and calls for the animator give him a close-up, but the animator mocks him with a small close-up and then a huge zooming close-up.
Daffy starts complaining but he is suddenly bombarded by a black screen. He screams and rips the screen apart. Catching his breath, he demands "Let's get this picture started!", prompting an iris-out to black and a "The End" title card. Daffy pushes the ending scene aside and apologizes to the audience for the problems and starts dancing. The film suddenly slips out of frame, creating two Daffys who get into a fight. One is erased, leaving the other to punch into empty air.
Daffy is suddenly drawn into a World War II-era fighter airplane, which he eagerly flies around. However, the animator paints a mountain onto the screen, causing Daffy to crash into it. Daffy leaps to safety with a parachute, which the animator changes into an anvil. Daffy crashes to the ground and in a dazed phase, recites The Village Blacksmith, while he hammers the anvil which is repainted as a missile, blowing up Daffy.
Humiliated and enraged, Daffy roars with anger at the unseen artist, who blocks out Daffy's cries by painting a door and closing it on him. The animator is revealed to be Bugs Bunny (we see his hand holding the pencil first when the door is closed on Daffy), who comments "Ain't I a stinker?".