Crazy little black duck. One of Warner Brothers' most important and popular cartoon characters and one of the few characters whose development was contributed to by all of Warner's major animators.

Daffy started out, when he made his debut in Tex Avery's "Porky's Duck Hunt" back in 1937, as an extremely wacky character with a penchant for shouting "Whoo-Hoo!" and bouncing all over the place. His daffy attitude continued under the direction of Robert Clampett, who gave the duck an extremely elastic body capable of the most bizarre, surrealistic stunts. Robert McKimson redesigned Daffy into a form more closely resembling his current appearance, and Friz Freleng began to turn him into a more intelligent and sophisticated (though still way insane) character.

Of course, Chuck Jones made the greatest and most lasting refinements in Daffy's character, evolving him into the greedy, cowardly, fame-hungry loser we all know and love.

Daffy's best cartoons include: "Porky's Duck Hunt," "The Daffy Doc," "Book Revue," "The Scarlet Pumpernickel," "Rabbit Fire," "Drip-Along Daffy," "Rabbit Seasoning," "Duck Amuck," "Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century," "Duck! Rabbit! Duck!," "Ali Baba Bunny," "Robin Hood Daffy," and his brilliant piano duet with cross-studio rival Donald Duck in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

Some research from "That's All Folks!: The Art of Warner Bros. Animation" by Steve Schneider, published by Henry Holt and Company, copyright 1988, pp. 150-161.


I will never forget riding in the back seat of my parents' car, a Chevy Bel-Aire. It was the first "car" they had owned; up until then I think they had only had pickups and tractors. But a big deal was made about having the back seat of a car just for me. Sometimes I'd even climb up on the top of the back seat and take a nap right there up against the rear windshield. (How can it be a windshield if it's in the rear? Oh, yeah; reverse gear.)

What the hell was I talking about? Oh, Daffy Duck.

So on this one trip they bought me a comic book to read. It was one of the first Daffy Duck comics, I'm sure. I remember the first page was a lot of dark colors and it was a rainy day with lots of thunder and dark clouds (in the comic).

Bottom line? Daffy Duck scared the shit out of me. He was running around screaming and had this wild-eyed look on his face. It upset me very much.

In a node about Bugs Bunny, themusic mentions that WB had to tone down Daffy after his initial appearance. My experience is probably the reason.

I don't know if I liked the toned down Daffy, but I do sort of understand why they did it. Have you seen some of Tex Avery's cartoons with Daffy in them? (Tex being known for one of the most over the top animators of the Looney Toons gang.) I swear, if they'd been done in the 90's, even little kids would swear Daffy was a little too fond of the acid.

On the other hand, if they hadn't toned him down, we would never have had the oh-so-perfect Rabbit Season! Duck Season! skit. That required a stability and finesse the earlier Daffy simply did not possess.

According to Chuck Jonesautobiography, Chuck Amuck, the inspiration for Daffy Duck’s voice was the tyrannical producer of the Termite Terrace gang, Leon Schlesinger, who was as well-known for his lisp as he was for his lack of anything resembling a sense of humor.

After coming up with Daffy Duck (for Tex Avery’s Porky’s Duck Hunt, 1937), they quickly realized that their zany black duck would need to say more than “Hoo hoo!” to remain funny for very long. They asked ace voice actor Mel Blanc (the voice of almost all of the Looney Tunes characters) if he could imitate Schlesinger’s lisp, and he broke up the gang with his dead-on impression.

As they were finishing the cartoon, far too late to turn back, it suddenly dawned on the gang that Schlesinger was going to have to view and approve this cartoon. They were doomed. They literally wrote up letters of resignation to hand in after the inevitable fit that Schlesinger was going to throw.

Schlesinger apparently sat stone-faced at the screening, as the animators squirmed and sweated on their wooden benches. When the lights came up, Leon Schlesinger got up and exclaimed, “Jethuth Chrith, that’s a funny voith! Where did you get that voith?”

And he never knew, to the day of his death, that he inspired that voice.


Reference:
Jones, Chuck, Chuck Amuck (Avon Books, New York, 1989).

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