History of Animation

Post #4: Duck Amuck

Posted on: February 15, 2010

I’ll start this out on a personal note: as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that legendary cartoon artist and animator Chuck Jones has become a huge inspiration for me. For some reason, everything about his style is instantly appealing; the way his characters are gestured and move, the facial expressions, and most importantly, the comedic timing. He worked on some of the most famous Looney Tunes shorts, such as What’s Opera, Doc?, One Froggy Evening, the Hunting Trilogy (which I will discuss for another time), and, the cartoon that I will be talking about today, Duck Amuck, which is probably one of the most iconic cartoons ever in animation.

Duck Amuck was directed by Chuck Jones, and was released in early 1953 as part of the Merrie Melodies series. Since its debut, it’s been voted #2 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members in the field of animation, deemed “culturally significant” by the US Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1999, and even had a Nintendo DS game based on it.

Daffy Duck, trying in vain to stop the typical cartoon ending fade-out.

The premise is simple: it seemingly begins with Daffy Duck starring in an Errol Flynn-esque Three Muskateers cartoon, only to find out that the background just fades out into a blank white background. From there on out, it’s a comedic, desperate struggle for Daffy Duck, as he’s constantly tormented by the main antagonist of the short, an unseen animator. The unseen animator constantly changes the location, art style, objects, perspective, and even Daffy himself by making him mute, then giving him inappropriate sound effects as a voice; and messing up his color scheme only to draw him as some sort of mutant alien creature (which has been parodied in other cartoons, such as The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, and Bart’s nightmare in The Simpsons’ Halloween special: Treehouse of Horror II).

The iconic creature that the unseen animator turns Daffy into. Naturally, he doesn't take this too well.

Why does Duck Amuck have this timeless feel to it? Why do none of the jokes never get old? It mostly has to do with Chuck Jones taking the concept of “breaking the 4th wall” and just having so much surreal experimentation and fun with it. The way that Daffy Duck responds to everything that the unseen animator does produces hilarious reactions and results. Chuck Jones even said that he was just having good-natured fun, showing the audience what boundaries he could push and transform Daffy into, yet at the same time, Daffy still retains his pompous, hot-headed personality regardless how much his appearance, voice or interactive environment changes. The ending with the cartoon, where it reveals that the unseen animator is actually Daffy’s buddy/ friendly rival, Bugs Bunny (who says one of his famous catchphrases, “Ain’t I a stinker?”) just adds to all of the weird hilarity that happens.

Two years later, Jones made a cartoon entitled Rabbit Rampage, which was a spiritual successor to Duck Amuck, as it featured Bugs Bunny this time as the victim of the unseen animator’s expense (who in the end turns out to be Elmer Fudd in one of the few cartoons where he actually outsmarts/ outwits Bugs Bunny). While still an interesting cartoon in its own right, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the original, and the best.

Bugs Bunny seems to have met his match, as the unseen animator relentlessly draws a barrage of hats and wigs.

Sources:

Wikipedia Article

This week, I commented on Brittany Alberry and Amanda Martin

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6 Responses to "Post #4: Duck Amuck"

This was one of Chuck Jones’ greatest cartoons. I agree that Chuck Jones used this cartoon and Daffy Duck to test the limits and boundaries of animation. Daffy Duck has the personality and characteristics to play along with the continuous changes of the background. I love Bugs Bunny, but I don’t think his similar cartoon can compare to Daffy Duck’s Duck’s Amuck.

Great entry. I always loved this episode when I was a kid, I thought it was really cool and interesting that the characters could live in their own world, but for once the animators just decided to screw around with them and put them in all these strange situations, and the were completely powerless to stop it. It was a pseudo-philosophical experience for me. This was a very entertaining entry, and I like your writing style.

I’ve always found the aspect of breaking the “fourth wall” to be one of the most consistent and profoundly funny bits when done in comedy, and “Duck Amuck,” as you described is clearly a wonderful example of this. I really think we have people like Chuck Jones to thank for some of the humorous cartoons we have today, like Family Guy, which frequently uses direct interaction with the audience or acknowledgement of being part of a serialized show to create humor, in a very similar style to Looney Tunes shorts of the past.

[…] commented on Carlyn Pocalyko and Christopher DeMarco's blogs] Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Post #3: The […]

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