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Daffy Duck is a Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies character, where he usually has been depicted as a rival and occasional best friend of Bugs Bunny. Daffy was one of the first of the new "screwball" characters that emerged in the late 1930s to replace traditional "everyman" characters who were more popular earlier in the decade, such as Mickey Mouse and Popeye.
Daffy starred in 130 shorts in the Golden Age, behind Bugs Bunny's 175 appearances and Porky Pig's 162 appearances. Daffy was ranked #14 on TV Guide's list of Top 50 best cartoon characters of all time and was featured on one of the issue's four covers with Porky Pig and the Powerpuff Girls, all of which are WarnerMedia-owned characters.
Daffy first appeared 17 April 1937 in "Porky's Duck Hunt", directed by Tex Avery and animated by Bob Clampett. The cartoon is a standard hunter/prey pairing for which Leon Schlesinger's studio was famous, but Daffy (barely more than an unnamed bit player in this short) was something new to moviegoers: an assertive, completely unrestrained, combative protagonist. Bob later recalled: "At that time, audiences weren't accustomed to seeing a cartoon character do these things. And so, when it hit the theaters it was an explosion. People would leave the theaters talking about this daffy duck."
This early Daffy is less anthropomorphic and resembles a "normal" duck, being short and pudgy, with stubby legs and a beak. The only aspects of the character that have remained consistent through the years are his voice (provided by Mel Blanc) and his black feathers with a white neck ring. Mel's voice for Daffy at one point held the world record for the longest voice-acting of one animated character by his original voice actor: 52 years, just barely breaking the previous record that had been set by Clarence Nash, the original voice actor of Donald Duck who voiced the character for 51 years from 1934 until 1985. Both actors have since been surpassed by June Foray, who voiced Rocky the Flying Squirrel from Rocky and Bullwinkle for 55 years (albeit in far fewer productions than Nash or Blanc's respective characters), from his debut in 1959 to 2014.
The origin of Daffy's voice is a matter of some debate. One often-repeated "official" story is that it was modeled after producer Schlesinger's tendency to lisp. However, in Mel Blanc's autobiography, That's Not All, Folks!, he contradicts that conventional belief, writing, "It seemed to me that such an extended mandible would hinder his speech, particularly on words containing an s sound. Thus 'despicable' became 'dethpicable.'"
In "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" (1950), Daffy has a middle name, Dumas, as the screenwriter of a swashbuckling script, a nod to Alexandre Dumas. Also, in the Baby Looney Tunes episode "The Tattletale", Granny addresses Daffy as "Daffy Horacio Tiberius Duck." In The Looney Tunes Show (2011), the joke middle names "Armando" and "Sheldon" are used.
Daffy's slobbery, exaggerated lisp was developed over time, and it is barely noticeable in the early cartoons. In "Daffy Duck & Egghead," Daffy does not lisp at all except in the separately drawn set-piece of Daffy singing "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" in which just a slight lisp can be heard.
In Looney Tunes Back in Action, Daffy is put under a more sympathetic light where he feels underappreciated alongside his envy of Bugs' popularity, which gets him fired. He goes on an adventure with DJ to battle The ACME Company and save DJ's father, but his real purpose of coming is to get the Blue Monkey diamond.
Virtually every Warner Bros. cartoon director put his own spin on the Daffy Duck character – he may be a lunatic vigilante in one short but a greedy gloryhound in another or an outright villain in another (particularly the 1960s shorts where he is paired with Speedy Gonzales). Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones both made extensive use of these two very different versions of the character.
Tex Avery created the original version of Daffy in 1937. Daffy established his status by jumping into the water, hopping around, and yelling, "Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo! Hoo-hoo! Woo-hoo!" Animator Bob Clampett immediately seized upon the Daffy Duck character and cast him in a series of cartoons in the 1930s and 1940s. The early Daffy is a wild and zany screwball, perpetually bouncing around the screen with cries of "Hoo-hoo! Hoo-hoo!" (In his biography, Mel Blanc stated that the zany demeanor was inspired by Hugh Herbert's catchphrase, which was taken to a wild extreme for Daffy). Bob physically redesigned the character, making him taller and lankier and rounding out his feet and bill. He was often paired with Porky Pig.
Daffy would also feature in several war-themed shorts during World War II. Daffy always stays true to his unbridled nature, however; for example, he attempts to dodge conscription in "Draftee Daffy" (1945), battles a Nazi goat intent on eating Daffy's scrap metal in "Scrap Happy Daffy" (1943), and hits Adolf Hitler's head with a giant mallet in "Daffy - The Commando" (1943). Daffy was "drafted" as a mascot for the 600th Bombardment Squadron. "Plane Daffy" is also focused on WW2, focusing on Hitler and Daffy in a house.
For "Daffy Doodles", his first Looney Tunes cartoon as a director, Robert McKimson tamed Daffy a bit, redesigning him yet again to be rounder and less elastic. The studio also instilled some of Bugs Bunny's savvy into the duck, making him as brilliant with his mouth as he was with his battiness. Daffy was teamed up with Porky Pig; the duck's one-time rival became his straight man. Arthur Davis, who directed Warner Bros. cartoon shorts for a few years in the late 1940s until upper management declared there should be only three directors, Robert McKimson, Friz Freleng, and Chuck Jones, presented a Daffy similar to Robert's. Robert is noted as the last of the three directors to make his version of Daffy uniform with Chuck's, with even late shorts, such as "Don't Axe Me" (1958), featuring the "screwball" version of the character. His persona also changed from a literal daffy character to that of a greedy, impatient and more intelligent character.
While Daffy's looney days were over, Robert continued to make him as bad or good as his various roles required him to be. Robert would use this Daffy from 1946 to 1961. Although, even McKimson would follow in Jones' footsteps in many aspects with cartoons like People Are Bunny and Ducking the Devil. Friz Freleng's version took a hint from Chuck Jones to make the duck more sympathetic, as in the 1957 "Show Biz Bugs". Here Daffy is arrogant and jealous of Bugs, yet he has "real" talent that is ignored by the theater manager and the crowd. This cartoon finishes with a sequence in which Daffy attempts to wow the Bugs-besotted audience with an act in which he drinks gasoline and swallows nitroglycerin, gunpowder, and uranium-238 in a greenish solution, jumps up and down to "shake well" and finally swallows a lit match that detonates the whole improbable mixture.
Parodies of Pop Culture
While Bugs Bunny became Warner Bros.' most popular character, the directors still found ample use for Daffy. Several cartoons place him in parodies of popular movies and radio serials. For example, "Drip-Along Daffy" throws Daffy into a Western, while "Robin Hood Daffy" (1958) casts the duck in the role of the legendary outlaw Robin Hood. In "Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century" (1953), a parody of Buck Rogers, Daffy trades bullets with Marvin the Martian, with Porky Pig retaining the role of Daffy's sidekick. Other parodies were Daffy in "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery" (1946) as Duck Twacy (Dick Tracy) by Bob Clampett and as "Stupor Duck" (Superman of DC Comics, now a WB property himself) by Robert McKimson.
Pairing of Bugs and Daffy from 1951 to 1964
Bugs' ascension to stardom also prompted the Warner Bros. animators to recast Daffy as the rabbit's rival, intensely envious and determined to steal back the spotlight, while Bugs either remained indifferent to the duck's envy or used it to his advantage. Daffy's desire to achieve stardom at any cost was explored as early as 1940 in Freleng's "You Ought to Be in Pictures", but the idea was most successfully used by Chuck Jones, who redesigned the duck once again, making him scrawnier and scruffier. In Jones' famous "Hunting Trilogy" of "Rabbit Fire" with "Rabbit Seasoning" and "Duck! Rabbit, Duck!", Daffy's vanity and excitedness provide Bugs Bunny the perfect opportunity to fool the hapless Elmer Fudd into repeatedly shooting the duck's bill off. Also, these cartoons reveal Daffy's catchphrase, "You're despicable!" Jones' Daffy sees himself as self-preservationist, not selfish. However, this Daffy can do nothing that does not backfire on him, more likely to singe his tail feathers as well as his dignity than anything. It’s thought that Chuck Jones based Daffy Duck’s new personality off of his fellow animator Bob Clampett, who, like Daffy, was known as a shameless self-promoter.
Jones' Daffy and Transformation to the Present
Film critic Steve Schneider calls Jones' version of Daffy "a kind of unleashed id." Jones said that his version of the character "expresses all of the things we're afraid to express." This is evident in Jones' "Duck Amuck" (1953), "one of the few unarguable masterpieces of American animation" according to Schneider. In the episode, Daffy is plagued by a godlike animator whose malicious paintbrush alters the setting, soundtrack, and even Daffy. When Daffy demands to know who is responsible for the changes, the camera pulls back to reveal none other than Bugs Bunny. "Duck Amuck" is widely heralded as a classic of filmmaking for its illustration that a character's personality can be recognized independently of appearance, setting, voice, and plot. In 1999, the short was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Friz Freleng used the Jones idea for Daffy in "Show Biz Bugs" (1957) wherein Daffy's "trained" pigeon act (they all fly away as soon as Daffy opens their cage) and complicated tap dance number are answered by nothing but crickets chirping in the audience, whereas Bugs's simple song-and-dance numbers bring wild applause.
McKimson made more benevolent use of Daffy; in "Ducking the Devil", for example, his greed becomes a vital tool in subduing the Tasmanian Devil and collecting a big cash reward. However, McKimson also played with Daffy's movie roles. In 1959, Daffy appeared in "China Jones", a parody of a television series of the day, China Smith, starring Dan Duryea, in which he was an Irish private eye with an Irish accent instead of the usual lisp.
Daffy's Pairing with Speedy in 1965-1968
When the Warner Bros. animation studio briefly outsourced cartoon production to DePatie-Freleng Enterprises (DFE) in the 1960s, Daffy Duck became an antagonist or inconsistent friend in several Speedy Gonzales cartoons, where his mean spirit is taken to extremes. In these years Daffy was transformed into a disturbingly nasty and bitter character with little to no good character traits present in him.
For example, in "Well Worn Daffy" (1965), Daffy is determined to keep the mice away from a desperately needed well seemingly for no other motive than pure maliciousness. Furthermore, when he draws all the water he wants, Daffy then attempts to destroy the well in spite of the vicious pointlessness of the act, forcing Speedy to stop him. In "Assault and Peppered" (1965) he whipped poor Mexican mice for starving on his property. in "Go Go Amigo" (1965) he threatens a local radio station at gunpoint so that Speedy and his friends couldn't listen to music at Daffy's electronics store.
The last classic cartoon featuring Daffy and Speedy is "See Ya Later Gladiator" (1968), which has been negatively received by fans of the Warner Bros. cartoons. The Warner Bros. animation studio was entering its twilight years, and even Daffy had to stretch for humor in the period. In many of the later DFE cartoons, such as "Feather Finger" (1966) and "Daffy Rents" (1966), Daffy is portrayed as a more sympathetic character rather than the full-blown villain he is in cartoons like "Well Worn Daffy" and "Assault and Peppered".
When Warner Bros. revived Daffy and the rest of the classic Looney Tunes cast in modern interpretations, Chuck Jones' greedy, selfish, neurotic, sassy, immature and spotlight-hungry of Daffy is commonly used, completely ignoring the "evil Daffy" traits exhibited in the mid-1960s.
In 1987, to celebrate Daffy's 50th anniversary, Warner Bros. released "The Duxorcist" as its first theatrical Looney Tunes short in two decades. Daffy Duck also appeared in several feature-film compilations, including two films centering on Daffy. The first was released in 1983, Daffy Duck's Movie: Fantastic Island; the second came in 1988, Daffy Duck's Quackbusters, which is considered one of the Looney Tunes' best compilation films and featured another new theatrical short, "The Night of the Living Duck". Daffy has also had major roles in films such as Space Jam in 1996 and Looney Tunes Back in Action in 2003. The latter film does much to flesh out his character. That same year, Warner Bros. cast him in a Duck Dodgers series. In this show, Duck Dodgers actually is Daffy Duck due to him being frozen in suspended animation. He had a cameo appearance in The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries. Daffy has also been featured in several Webtoons.
In the television series Tiny Toon Adventures, Daffy is a teacher at Acme Looniversity, where he is the hero and mentor of student Plucky Duck. Daffy is shown as a baby in the Baby Looney Tunes show, and makes occasional cameos in Animaniacs and Histeria!. In Loonatics Unleashed, his descendant is Danger Duck, who is also lame and unpopular to his teammates. In the majority of these appearances, the selfish, neurotic, and spotlight-hungry Daffy characterized by Chuck Jones is the common version.
The Looney Tunes Show
Daffy returned to Cartoon Network in The Looney Tunes Show, voiced by Jeff Bergman. His characterization here seems to incorporate some elements of Clampett's and Jones' designs while giving him an overall cheery if dimwitted personality. In the show, he has moved out of the forest and shares Bugs Bunny's house with him. Unlike Bugs and their neighbors, Daffy has no way of earning money and relies on Bugs for food and shelter.
He has tried on numerous occasions to get rich quick but ended up failing repeatedly. Daffy's one possession he is proud of is his paper-mache parade float, constructed on top of a minivan, which is his main means of transportation. It was destroyed by a car wash incident, and Daffy sought to replace it with a yacht by tricking Porky Pig into giving him the expensive loan, but his less-than-stellar boating skills ended that ambition. His parade float is repaired shortly after. Another one of his most prized possessions is his recliner. He saved up his own money working at a fast food restaurant before he met Bugs. It broke and was briefly replaced in "The Shell Game" but was repaired and returned to Daffy in the same episode. He also prizes his white collar, the only one of his possessions to not be either destroyed or stolen. In "Rebel Without a Glove", it was revealed that the collar is actually a pearl necklace given to him by his grandmother.
His girlfriend on the show is Tina Russo. While Daffy's greed and jealousy of Bugs remains, he appears to be less antagonistic in this show, with the exception of the series finale. This is the final production to feature Daffy's egotistical Chuck Jones persona, as all further productions would use his original screwball personality instead.
Daffy also starred in the 2012 3-D short "Daffy's Rhapsody" with Elmer Fudd that was originally set to premiere before Happy Feet Two but instead it debuted prior to Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. The short features Daffy and Elmer in the first CG or 3-D depiction of these specific Looney Tunes characters. According to Matthew O’Callaghan who directed the short, the audio comes from a 1950s recording for a children's album voiced by Mel Blanc.
Cartoon Network, during the summer of 2013, created a video montage of cartoon characters from their shows. In the end of the montage, the CN logo is formed by several characters quickly showing up and disappearing. Two of the cameoed characters were Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny representing gods.
New Looney Tunes/Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Prod.
Daffy finally appeared again after Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run (2015) in a New Looney Tunes clip from "Porky's Duck-Livery Service", his only appearance in Season 1. Daffy appears more in Seasons 2 and 3 after the series stopped focusing solely on Bugs Bunny.
Here, Daffy abandons his egotistical Chuck Jones personality and reverts back to the zany screwball character as perfected by Tex Avery and Bob Clampett, although some episodes may feature his Jones personality when the plot calls for it, like "You Were Never Duckier", "Daffy Dilly", and "Don't Axe Me", classic shorts which combine both his Clampett and Jones personalities at once. In addition, he is now redesigned to resemble his early-1940s screwball Daffy design by Bob Clampett. This Daffy was voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, who previously voiced the character in Space Jam.
Looney Tunes Cartoons
Daffy appears in some of the Looney Tunes Cartoons, retaining his screwball personality and character design from the early shorts and New Looney Tunes. He was voiced by Eric Bauza. Like the original shorts, Daffy is paired up with Porky Pig, causing mayhem for the pig. While he retains his personality from the early Looney Tunes cartoons, Daffy Duck still retains his Chuck Jones-era persona, although unlike the New Looney Tunes, this is not only when the plot and script demand it, but also when there is something that disfavors Daffy Duck, when there are scenes of sharing things or when there is a lot of money and precious things. Also, it's very common for Daffy Duck to go bad at the end of an episode, unlike New Looney Tunes, which rarely did.
Space Jam A New Legacy
Daffy appeared in Space Jam A New Legacy as the coach of the Tune Squad. He was voiced by Eric Bauza. His design and personality is closer to the Chuck Jones incarnation. His role is smaller than it was in Space Jam.
Bugs Bunny Builders
The Dell Comics published several Daffy Duck comic books, beginning in Four Color Comics #457, #536, and #615 and then continuing as Daffy #4-17 (1956–1959), then as Daffy Duck #18-30 (1959–1962). The comic book series was subsequently continued in Gold Key Comics Daffy Duck #31-127 (1962–1979). This run was, in turn, continued under the Whitman Comics imprint until the company completely ceased comic book publication in 1984. In 1994, the corporate WB's cousin, DC Comics, became the publisher for comics featuring all the classic Warner Bros. cartoon characters, and while not getting his own title, Daffy has appeared in many issues of Looney Tunes.
- The Bob Clampett version of Daffy made an appearance in the 1988 Disney film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where he played dueling pianos with Donald Duck.
- Daffy appeared with two live-action children in a 1984 public service announcement while wearing a fireman's helmet, warning the children about fire prevention and how to best evacuate their house in case of fire.
- Daffy made a cameo in a 1998 episode of The Drew Carey Show in a method of live-action/animated film.
- A poster of Daffy is prominently displayed in Michael Garibaldi's quarters in the Science-Fiction series Babylon 5. In one episode, Zack Allen jokingly explains to G'Kar that Daffy is the "ancient Egyptian god of frustration." Garibaldi is also shown entertaining Ambassador Delenn with Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, which she finds difficult to understand when Duck Dodgers accidentally puts his rocket into reverse.
- In Family Guy, after holding an exploding bomb from Adam West, Meg has Daffy Duck's bill on the wrong side of her head, moves it to its proper position, and then states, "Of course, you realize this means war!" This scene was supposedly deleted after a contract dispute between MacFarlane and Warner Bros.
- A sound clip of Daffy Duck grunting from one cartoon was reused for Linus Van Pelt fidgeting in anger in Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!!)
- In the Office episode "Diversity Day", Michael signs his diversity form with Daffy's name.
- The Eminem freestyle "Despicable" gets its name from the claim that Eminem is as "despicable as Daffy Duck."
- Doug Walker of "ThatGuywiththeGlasses.com" stated that he drew a lot of inspiration for the Nostalgia Critic from Daffy.
- Daffy's head appeared on a building two times in the 1992 Ralph Bakshi live-action/animated film Cool World.
- Daffy appeared in Cartoon Network's show MAD three times. In "Pirates of the Neverland: At Wit's End" Daffy is one of Captain Hook's crew members carrying a barrel wearing Donald Duck's clothes. In "I am Lorax", Bugs and Daffy showed up as zombies and Will Smith shot a gun at Daffy's beak at bugs. In "PilGrimm", Daffy appeared and forgot the sign that says "Duck Season".
- Mel Blanc - 1937 - 1989
- Dave Barry - "What Makes Daffy Duck" (gurgling "Aha! An imposter!")
- Mel Torme - "The Night of the Living Duck" (singing voice only)
- Dave Spafford - Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Doing Woo-hoo, Woo-hoo at the end of Piano Duel)
- Jeff Bergman - Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, Happy Birthday, Bugs!: 50 Looney Years, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Tiny Toon Adventures, Bugs Bunny's Overtures to Disaster, "Box Office Bunny", "(Blooper) Bunny", Bugs Bunny's Creature Features, "Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers", The Plucky Duck Show, The Looney Tunes Show, Scooby Doo and Looney Tunes: Cartoon Universe, Looney Tunes Dash! Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run, Mad (Episode "First White House Down / McDuck Dynasty")
- Joe Alaskey - Bugs Bunny's Lunar Tunes, "Carrotblanca", "Marvin the Martian in the Third Dimension", The Drew Carey Show, Tweety's High-Flying Adventure, Looney Tunes: Reality Check, Looney Tunes: Stranger Than Fiction, Looney Tunes Back in Action, Duck Dodgers, "Daffy Duck for President", Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas, various video games
- Greg Burson - Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions
- Maurice LaMarche - Taz-Mania
- Frank Gorshin - "Superior Duck"
- Dee Bradley Baker - Space Jam, New Looney Tunes
- Billy West - Histeria!
- Samuel Vincent - Baby Looney Tunes, Baby Looney Tunes: Egg-straordinary Adventure
- Jeff Bennett - Sprint commercial, "Attack of the Drones", A Looney Tunes Sing-A-Long Christmas
- Tom Jones - "Talent Show a Go-Go" (speaking and singing in Jones' voice)
- Eric Bauza - Looney Tunes World of Mayhem, Looney Tunes Cartoons, Space Jam A New Legacy
- Keith Scott - Australian Looney Tunes commercials
- Main article: List of Daffy Duck cartoons
Main article: List of cartoons where Daffy goes Woo-Hoo
- Main article: Daffy Duck/Gallery
- Daffy Duck as Tom Jones (Duck Dodgers). YouTube.