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Duck Amuck

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.

History

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?

Mel Blanc does the voices. It was directed by Chuck Jones with a story by Michael Maltese. The film contains many examples of self-referential humor, breaking the fourth wall.

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."

Synopsis

Daffy first appears on-screen dressed as a musketeer who as he carries on across the screen, he finds there is no scenery and whispers to the animator to draw scenery. However, the animator keeps painting different backgrounds, prompting Daffy to change his attire to suit the scene. Eventually, he finds himself with no scenery again and starts to rant at the animator, only to be erased with a pencil rubber.

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?".

Referenced in other works

  • The Bugs Bunny short Rabbit Hood contains a title card similar to this short.
  • The 1955 Chuck Jones short Rabbit Rampage was a sequel/remake of Duck Amuck, which cast Bugs into the role of beleaguered cartoon character, with Elmer Fudd being the animator.
  • The 1960s short A-Haunting We Will Go, which is a kind of remake of Broom-Stick Bunny has some in-jokes related with Duck Amuck. First, Daffy is again transformed into a flower-faced, spotted, blue, four-legged creature. Later, when Daffy use a parachute, the witch transforms it into an anvil (as the animator did in Duck Amuck) and then impact in the same rock that the animator draw to stop Daffy's plane in Duck Amuck.
  • The Super NES video game Bugs Bunny in Rabbit Rampage, merges both premises from Duck Amuck and Rabbit Rampage, the result being Bugs portrayed as Daffy's victim.
  • In the first episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, after drawing up Buster Bunny, the animator briefly transforms him into a flower-faced creature. (This gag was only shown in the episode's original broadcast and was cut for time in reruns.)
  • A clip from the short was used on Animaniacs in the Slappy Squirrel segment "Critical Condition".
  • In a parody of The Terminator printed in issue #3 of the Pinky and the Brain comic book, one change that Brain makes to the Verminator's blueprints results in the Verminator briefly enduring Daffy's transformation.
  • On October 9, 2007, Warner Bros. Games released a Nintendo DS game based on the cartoon called Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck. Nintendo Power magazine briefly describes the game in June 2007's issue "try to drive Daffy Duck stark raving mad."
  • This cartoon was parodied in the last episode of the short-lived series Clerks: The Animated Series. The final scene of the series even mirrors the ending of the original short, with Jay and Silent Bob in place of Bugs.
  • It was also referenced in a 30-second short cartoon gag in Johnny Bravo.
  • It was used in the Babylon 5 in the episode "Conflicts of Interest", where Michael Garibaldi was listening to it. This was used for ironic effect, as Garibaldi himself was unknowingly being manipulated by a seemingly-omnipotent force at the time.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy episode "Complete and Utter Chaos", Grim is transformed into the same flower-faced and spotted creature that Daffy is turned in to. Grim responds to this by uttering Daffy's catchphrase, "You're despicable!"
  • On the original VHS release of Batman, a short ad for Warner Bros. merchandise was shown featuring both Daffy and Bugs. Throughout the ad, an unseen animator "draws" items such as t-shirts, movie books, and posters (and in classic fashion, when Bugs mentions ties, the animator draws a rope around Bugs, effectively tying him up, to which he response, "that's NECK-ties!"). In the end, Daffy begins to lose his cool, ending in his being erased from the ad by the animator.
  • Robert Smigel did a similar cartoon in his "TV Funhouse" segment on SNL, where Michael Powell, FCC Chairman at the time, played Daffy Duck and Howard Stern played Bugs Bunny.
  • Drawn Together's episode "Nipple Ring-Ring Goes to Foster Care" does a parody of it when Foxxy Love goes from foster home to foster home in search of Ling Ling.

See also

External links

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