History of Animation

Posts Tagged ‘Daffy

A classic "Rabbit Season/ Duck Season" scene, as Daffy's about to cause Elmer Fudd to shoot him.

Although there was only 3 episodes made, the famous Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd “Rabbit Season/ Duck Season” cartoons, also known as the “Hunting Trilogy” by Chuck Jones, are considered some of Jones’ best and most important cartoons that he’s directed. Looking back on my childhood, I distinctly remember these three cartoons being the most-played during the days when both Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network used to run their own Looney Tunes block programs. Now that I’m much older, I can definitely see why these cartoons are easily considered some of Chuck Jones’ best and are so re-watchable; although the plot is essentially the same throughout the cartoons, the rapid-fire jokes, set-ups, and interactions between the characters are all perfectly timed and well-written.

The tables seem to have turned on Elmer Fudd. Turns out it wasn't either Rabbit Season OR Duck Season...

The first cartoon that was made, Rabbit Fire (1951), is essentially the classic archetypical “Rabbit Season/ Duck Season” cartoon. Daffy Duck lures Elmer Fudd to Bugs Bunny’s home due to “survival of the fittest… plus, it’s fun!” However, Bugs Bunny tells Elmer Fudd that it’s duck season instead of rabbit season, which irritates Daffy Duck and initiates the whole “Rabbit Season/ Duck Season” debate. Personally, Daffy Duck steals the show in these cartoons, although some may argue that he became stereotyped from his typical screwball personality and into a self-serving foil for Bugs Bunny’s jokes and set-ups. However, his facial expressions and the gags where he gets shot in the face are part of why these are so hilarious. Also worth noting is the ending to this cartoon, which has Bugs and Daffy ripping off papers declaring “Rabbit Season” or “Duck Season”, all culminating with them seeing a paper for “Elmer Season”, teaming up and turning the tables on a now-frightened-for-his-life Elmer Fudd.

Daffy Duck, just realizing that he'll walk into the same trap if he argues.

The next cartoon that was made was 1952’s Rabbit Seasoning, which takes place in the same location (though it’s now taking place in autumn, while Rabbit Fire took place in spring) with very similar conditions, only this time having Bugs and Daffy argue who Elmer has shoot now (or, as Daffy puts it in one scene as he’s falling into Bugs’ insidious grammar trap, “pronoun trouble”). Much like Rabbit Fire above, the strongest points about this cartoon are the shotgun gags, the banter and interactions between Bugs, Daffy, and Elmer, and for visual comedic effect, Daffy’s hilarious facial expressions.

Another running gag in the series, featuring Bugs Bunny disguising himself as a women to trick Elmer Fudd.

1953’s Duck! Rabbit! Duck! is the final cartoon in the trilogy, this time having the scenario take place during the winter season and having the main “Rabbit/ Duck Season” argument be what hunting season it really is (of course, it’s Duck Season, but Daffy’s not about to admit that). What makes this cartoon hilarious is its steady buildup to the ultimate punchline: Daffy keeps getting shot as the result of his own arrogance and Bugs’ clever tactics, and finally breaks down, telling Elmer Fudd to keep shooting him. Elmer Fudd, just as confused as Daffy, asks Bugs Bunny dressed as a Game Warden what hunting season it really is, with Bugs simply replying, “It’s Baseball Season!” The scene of a now-mentally snapped Elmer Fudd chasing after and shooting a baseball is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life.

Elmer Fudd mentally snaps after Bugs Bunny (dressed as a Game Warden) tells him it's Baseball Season instead of Rabbit or Duck Season.

The whole Bugs Bunny/ Daffy Duck rivalry that these episodes produced also paved the way for more cartoons in which these two teamed up as comedic foils, as well as the fact that, on a personal note, they stand out as a sort of memorable aspect out of my childhood. It’s just very interesting to know that something that’s so popular and iconic with these two characters simply started with only 3 cartoons, but then again, Chuck Jones certainly knew how to make some of the most hilarious and memorable Looney Tunes cartoons.

I commented on Emily Witt’s blog and Amanda Cole’s blog.

Rabbit Fire:

Rabbit Seasoning:

Duck! Rabbit! Duck!:

Mel Brooks probably put it best when talking about trying to find comedy and humor in horrifying events and people, such as the infamous dictators who reigned during World War II: “Rhetoric does not get you anywhere, because Hitler and Mussolini are just as good as rhetoric. But if you can bring these people down with comedy, they stand no chance.”

This was definitely present in the Wartime Cartoons that animation studios such as Disney and Warner Bros. made; very heavy on pro-American/ USA and heavy on anti- Axis Powers, these cartoons heavily relied on bombastic parodies of the infamous dictators that occupied the areas of Europe and Asia, as well as stereotypes of the various ranks of Nazi soldiers. Though the Japanese had their fair share of being stereotyped and mocked by these cartoons, a lot of the Wartime Cartoons focused on the Nazis, mostly because of their heavy, widespread invasion and ever-growing fear. Characters such as Daffy Duck, Superman, Donald Duck, and Popeye all got opportunities to fight the Nazi menace in their own way, much to the enjoyment of people staying at the home-front in America who were worried about how their husbands or oldest sons were fighting overseas, and the constant threat of Axis or Nazi expansion throughout the world. Nowadays, these kinds of Anti-Nazi Wartime Cartoons are usually parodied or have become homages in more recent cartoons; one the best example of this would be the South Park episode where Cartman defeats infamous terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in a manner quite similar to the Daffy Duck cartoons described here.

Warner Bros. used Daffy Duck quite a few times for fighting Nazis; two of the best examples of these would be the cartoons “Daffy The Commando” and “Scrap Happy Daffy“. In the 1943 cartoon “Daffy The Commando“, Daffy Duck goes behind enemy lines to infiltrate a Nazi camp headed by Von Vulture, an obvious stereotype of German commander as he has the evil monocle, is incredibly short-tempered, and even has a bumbling soldier named Schultz (interestingly enough, if anyone has watched the show Hogan’s Heroes, Colonel Klink and Sgt. Schultz could be considered homages to these two). Most of the cartoon involves a series of comedic mishaps with Daffy foiling Von Vulture, but it’s the ending that makes this cartoon extremely memorable. Daffy Duck is fired out of a cannon and lands right in Berlin where Hitler is making a speech; as Hitler is just rambling on in a nonsensical mix of English and German (with a stereotypical German accent), Daffy whacks him with a cartoon mallet, causing Hitler to cry like a baby. What makes this scene so iconic and funny is the entire setup and the way that Hitler is portrayed; the background music is a goofy, organ-grinder mix of “The More We Get Together“, Mel Blanc as Hitler rambling incoherently and bombastically about random things (“MEIN POOMPKIN! MEIN MILK! MEIN HEIMLICH!” just to name a few), and the whole mallet scene, which makes Hitler act like a temper-tantrum throwing kid is all perfectly-timed hilarity (weirdly enough, as I recently watched this cartoon, I got heavily reminded of how one first sees Hitler in Inglorious Basterds).

Scrap-Happy Daffy“, another 1943 Pro-America/ Anti-Nazi cartoon with Daffy Duck against the Nazi menace, and was also interestingly the last cartoon to feature Daffy Duck in black and white. It features Daffy Duck guarding a gigantic scrap yard, as it’s part of his job as an American citizen (during WWII times, every piece of metal and steel wav very crucial; there were many posters that encouraged American citizens to do specific things to cut down on costs and such). Unfortunately, Hitler isn’t pleased about Mussolini’s downfall due to Daffy’s huge scrap pile, and so, sends his troops to launch one of their most powerful weapons to destroy the scrap pile- a billy goat. What makes “Scrap-Happy Daffy” notable is that it’s a textbook example of American Pride at it’s finest; Daffy Duck even sings a song in the beginning of the cartoon about how the citizens of America can be like him and help the Allied forces win the war by saving specific items (with also a very adult joke thrown in of him pointing to a drawing of a pin-up girl). There’s also a very clever visual gag of how Hitler gets introduced in this cartoon, namely cross-fading from a horse’s backside to Hitler sitting at his desk reading the paper.

The final cartoon that I watched, the 1943 cartoon “The Ducktators” directed by Norman McCabe, is another cartoon encouraging US citizens to buy US savings bonds and stamps, but it’s significant in the fact that it not only makes fun of Hitler, but also Mussolini and Hirohito as well. It begins on a farm with a husband and wife duck expecting their egg (which is curiously black instead of white) to hatch. The egg hatches revealing a duckling with Hitler’s mustache yelling “Seig Hiel!”, indicating, obviously, that he’s Hitler. As the Hitler-Duck grows older, he attracts a goose who bears a resemblance to Benito Mussolini and a duck who is a complete parody of Hirohito, with large stereotypical front teeth and round glasses. The only animal on the barn that tries to stand up to them is one single white dove, but when his peace treaties and requests fail, the dove takes matters into his own hands. This story almost has a Dr. Seuss-like feel to it, as a narrator tells the story in an almost storybook-like tone. Weirdly enough, the ending which features the dove telling his kids how his enemies were defeated (and are shown like animal heads above his fireplace) and the “Buy War Bonds” noticed has been censored since the 1950s (though the whole ending can be found on the sixth volume of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection).

I understand that Disney had their fair share of making fun of the Axis Powers, but Warner Bros. was much more bombastic in the way that they made fun of Hitler and the Nazis; whereas Disney portrayed them as bumbling fools, Warner Bros.’s type of satire seemed to almost be akin to how Mel Brooks portrayed them in The Producers‘ “Springtime for Hitler” segment. …I guess we just sort of came full circle, didn’t we?

Sources:

TvTropes- Wartime Cartoons

TvTropes- Those Wacky Nazis

I responded to Danyael Hughes and Andrew Steward



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