“Relax sister. I don’t know the meaning of the word fear!” — Daffy Duck
Daffy Dumas Horacio Tiberius Armando Sheldon Duck was “born” on this day in Warner Brothers Studio, Burbank, California, USA in 1937. He is 76 years old.
He was first brought to life by animator Bob Clampett and voiced by Mel Blanc in director Tex Avery‘s Porky’s Duck Hunt. Warner Brothers was looking to carve a niche out the cartoon market (and take market share away from Disney). They had had some success with Porky Pig, but Tex Avery “wanted a character so incongruous, so nuts, so out-of place that it would put Walt Disney’s cute “Silly Symphonies” to shame.” [The Complete History of Daffy Duck] With Daffy he had just the duck for the mission.
Daffy’s personality changed as the years went on. He became a slightly different duck for each of his directors. For Tex Avery he was wacky. He put the Loon in Looney Tunes. He literally bounced all over the place like a lunatic shouting “Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo!”
By 1940 he’d grown more focused and ambitious. He wanted to be a movie star.
He was still crazy, but he had purpose and had control over the scenes he was in. During World War II Daffy reflected the times, first he was a draft dodging duck, then he collects scrap metal for a scrap drive (Scrap Happy Daffy). He even confronts Adolf Hitler in Daffy the Commando.
Director Robert McKimson made Daffy dapper, instilling the cartoon fowl with a bit of brains to go with his bonkers.
When Chuck Jones took the helm Daffy changed again. Where Daffy had been “a hyperactive, carefree, if not patriotic, duck ” [The Complete History of Daffy Duck] Jones gave us “a more power-hungry and greed-driven loser. … Jones made him taller, skinnier, beakier and scruffier-looking…While he had been a winner before, and happier, Jones made him him a loser who was never satisfied. [Ibid] Jones also did a run of movie spoofs starring Daffy and Porky that were enormously popular.
By the 1950s Daffy was struggling to reclaim the spotlight from Bugs Bunny, who had become the leading Warner Brothers character. Led by Chuck Jones, the directors of this era brought out a darker side of Daffy’s personality, showing him as desperately self-glorifying and consumed by jealousy—though also more introspective. [Encyclopedia Britannica.com]
By the mid 1960s movie studios had soured on making cartoon shorts. Television, not movies theaters were the entertainment venues of choice, and the theaters couldn’t afford cartoon shorts. “the post-1964… Warner Bros…. cartoons, are quite cheaply produced compared to the cartoons of the 40’s and 50’s.” [The Complete History of Daffy Duck]
So Daffy, along with Bugs and Porky were relegated to Television. Mostly the Warner Bros. favorites appeared as reruns on Saturday mornings, but occasionally they were given fresh material for TV specials like Daffy’s “Duck Dodgers In the 24 1/2 Century.” He found a home on the Cartoon Network’s The Looney Tunes Show (now voiced by Jeff Bergman and Bill Farmer)
Most recently DD’s most recent appearances have been in Robot Chicken: Immortal and Spread Those Wings and Fly (both came out in February of this year)
This one goes out to my friend Angie and my sister Joan.