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Director: Douglas McCarthy
Release Date: August 25, 1995
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Tweety, Laszlo, Penelope Pussycat, Pepe le Pew a.o.
Rating: ★★★
Review:

‘Carrotblanca’, as the title implies, is a parody on the classic feature ‘Casablanca’ (1942) and appears on several DVD releases of that film.

The short, however, originally was shown theatrically, accompanying the live action feature ‘The Amazing Panda Adventure’ in North America and the animated feature ‘The Pebble and the Penguin’ internationally. Thus, the film is a clear product of the cartoon renaissance, reviving many characters from the classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.

The most familiar faces have the starring roles, so we watch Bugs Bunny as Rick Blaine, Daffy Duck as Sam, Yosemite Sam as ‘General Pandemonium’, Tweety as Ugarte, Sylvester as Laszlo, Penelope Pussycat as Ilsa, and Pepe le Pew as Captain Louis. Also visible are e.g. Foghorn Leghorn, Sam Sheepdog, Porky Pig, the Crusher, Beaky Buzzard, Miss Prissy, Giovanni Jones and Pete Puma. Strangely absent are Elmer Fudd on the Looney Tune side, and Signor Ferrari on the Casablanca side.

The short compresses the original movie into a mere eight minutes, and parodies many of its classic scenes, including the flashback scene. As expected, the result is rather silly, but unfortunately not very funny, as somehow most of the gags fall flat (it doesn’t help that Tweety goes into a Peter Lorre impersonation four times). The film remains at its best when parodying the feature, but as soon as the cartoon characters go into their own routines the results get unpleasantly stale. Thus the film is more a product of nostalgia than one breathing new life into the decades old characters.

Thus ‘Carrotblanca’ may not be an essential film, yet it’s still a fun watch, I guess more for Looney Tunes lovers than Casablanca lovers. If anything, the short showed that the characters still had potential to entertain, a notion Warner Bros. cashed on with the feature length ‘Space Jam’ (1996).

Watch ‘Carrotblanca’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Carrotblanca’ is available on several Blu-Ray and DVD editions of ‘Casablanca’

Director: Chuck Russell
Release Date: July 29, 1994
Stars: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Peter Riegert, Peter Greene, Amy Yasbeck, Richard Jeni
Rating: ★★★★½

Based on the comic book series of the same name ‘The Mask’ was originally conceived as a horror film, but was redrawn as a comedy-fantasy, leaving the comic’s violence behind, but retaining some of its dark overtones. The resulting film turned out be a great example of the animation renaissance that were the late 1980s and early 1990s.

‘The Mask’, of course, is a live action movie, but like that other, very influential live action feature, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, ‘The Mask’ takes its inspiration from 1940s classic cartoons. The most obvious influence is Tex Avery: we can see the Avery wolf as a statue in Stanley’s apartment, where our hero Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) watches an excerpt from Avery’s ‘Red Hot Riding Hood’ (1943). The Mask later mimics the wolf scene at the Coco Bongo Nightclub, when watching his love interest Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz) perform. Another Avery reference is the ridiculously long car in which the Mask arrives at the club.

Other influences come from Warner Bros. cartoons: during the transformation scene Stanley turns into a whirlwind, which is clearly inspired by the Tasmanian Devil. To make sure, the film makers show a pillow with Taz’s likeness on Stanley’s couch during this scene. In some scenes The Mask has some character traits in common with the early loony version of Daffy Duck, and in one scene, The Mask behaves and talks like Pepe le Pew, Chuck Jones’s lovesick skunk.

But The Mask has most in common with Bugs Bunny: both characters are very confident, always ready to turn threat into comedy, both kiss their enemies, both have an ability to produce props out of nowhere, and both put on highly dramatic fake death scenes. The Mask’s death scene is a particular highlight of the film, with references thrown in to Aunt Em, Old Yeller, Tiny Tim and Scarlet O’Hara. During this scene even a fake audience stands up – another nod to Tex Avery.

The Mask’s cartoony antics were realized by computer animation, then still in its early stages. The computer animation was in the good hands of Industrial Light & Magic, also responsible for some other early milestones like the CGI in ‘The Abyss’ (1989), ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ (1991), ‘Death Becomes Her’ (1992), and of course, ‘Jurassic Park’ (1993). In those days CGI got visibly better with every film, thus back then the computer animation in ‘The Mask’ was spectacular in its novelty. In ‘The Mask ’the computer animation effects are all deliberately cartoony and unreal, and even if not all effects have aged very well, they’re still nice to watch.

Of course, Jim Carrey himself adds a great deal to the cartoony character of The Mask. At the time he was known by most as ‘that crazy white guy’ in the black comedy series ‘In Living Color’, and, indeed, in ‘The Mask’ he can be too much, but he shifts between his more timid Stanley Ipkiss character, and the wild Mask very well. The rest of the cast is in fine shape, too. Cameron Diaz makes her acting debut as the gorgeous Tina Carlyle, and although she’s introduced as a sex bomb in a classic scene, showing off her legs and boobs, Diaz gives her character a remarkable gentleness and depth, beyond the cliche ‘babe’ character. This is a remarkable feat giving the few scenes the character is given. No wonder ‘The Mask’ set her off on a great acting career.

Peter Greene plays a delightfully scary villain, and Peter Riegert has the unfortunate task to be the only actor to play it straight as Lieutenant Kellaway. But he’s better off than Amy Yasbeck, who is adorable as Peggy Brandt, but this journalist is the least convincing character of the whole movie. Special mention has to go to Max, the dog who plays Stanley’s dog Milo, and who manages to make this side character an entertaining addition to the cast. But even minor characters, like Dorian’s henchmen or the street gang are portrayed by fine actors.

Apart from the cartoon references the film breathes classic cinema, even though the story is set in a contemporary fictive metropolis called ‘Edge City’. First there are the cultural references. For example, the car Stanley Ipkiss loans, is an early 1950s Studebaker, at one point The Mask grasps a Tommy Gun popular with gangsters in the 1920s, he wears a zoot suit to the Coco Bongo Club, where Tina sings 1940s jazz hit ‘Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You’, and as Cuban Pete The Mask makes a complete police force doing the conga, an early 1940s dance craze. Second, the film noir atmosphere is highly enhanced by the lighting, as is the fantasy element with the film’s strong coloring.

Typically nineties are the environmental touches: the opening shot of ‘Edge City’ clearly shows a heavily polluted town, and when Stanley and Tina watch the sunset, this looks more like the Northern Lights, making Ipkiss remark “the methane emissions really pick up the colors”.

True to the source material, The Mask is not an entirely likeable character: he’s too grotesque, too creepy, and too maniacal for that. I don’t think anyone would have chosen a character wearing a bald green skull-like mask, if it had not already been in the original comics. In that respect it’s a puzzle to me that the film was followed by an animated series starring this character. In the film, Carrey mostly rescues the character from becoming appalling by using his comedy talents, but during the ‘love’ scene with Tina at the park he becomes genuinely frightening, despite the comic references, and one is relieved the cops rescue Tina from this all too insistent character.

Nevertheless, Carrey manages to make his nice, but all too timid pushover Stanley Ipkiss likable, and his transformation to a guy with guts believable. Apart from all the cartoon references, celebrating classic cartoon humor, ‘The Mask’ also manages to succeed in delivering its message: Be nice, but stand up for yourself, and don’t let people mess with you.

Watch the trailer for ‘The Mask’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Mask’ is available on DVD and Blu-Ray

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: December 12, 1938
Stars: Daffy Duck
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Daffy Duck in Hollywood © Warner Bros.In ‘Daffy Duck in Hollywood’ Daffy visits ‘Wonder Pictures’ only to sabotage the shooting of a film by a pig director with an irritating accent.

Halfway Daffy edits a film of his own, which is eventually shown to the studio’s boss, and which consists of unrelated spot gags on live action news reels, with the visuals totally out of tune with the soundtrack.

‘Daffy Duck in Hollywood’ is disappointingly unfunny. Avery’s timing is remarkably sloppy and Daffy Duck is, if anything, utterly annoying. The short’s best gags do not involve the duck, and are the opening shot of Wonder Pictures, with its slogan ‘If it’s a good picture, it’s a wonder‘ and the studio boss’s reaction to Daffy’s film. Indeed, after this film Avery never worked with the duck again, and it was left to other directors to transform the annoying duck into a likable character.

Watch ‘Daffy Duck in Hollywood’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Daffy Duck cartoon no. 5
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: The Daffy Doc
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur

‘Daffy Duck in Hollywood’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: November 26, 1938
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Daffy Doc © Warner Bros.Bob Clampett had animated Daffy Duck in his first appearance in’Porky’s Duck Hunt’ (1937), most notably the duck’s absolutely zany exit scene. Indeed, in Clampett’s view the duck was a real loon, and nowhere such a dangerous one as in ‘The Daffy Doc’.

In his first scene, Daffy is depicted as an absolute nut, comparable with other Clampett lunatics, like the loony goose in ‘Porky’s Party‘. In ‘Porky and Daffy’, Clampett had been the first director to take Daffy out of his natural habitat, and in ‘The Daffy Doc’ Clampett places him in a medical center.

Here Daffy is an assistant to Dr. Quack, but he’s thrown out when he shows some really insane behavior. Because of Dr. Quack’s kick Daffy’s head gets stuck in an iron lung, which leads to a nonsensical gag, in which different body parts inflate in succession. Undaunted, Daffy seeks out to find his own patient, and knocks down Porky Pig in order to ‘treat’ him. When Daffy wants to operate Porky with a saw and without any anesthetics, Porky naturally flees. The chase scene is short, however, and the cartoon ends with the same iron lung gag.

In ‘The Daffy Doc’ Daffy is more strange than really funny, and he suffers from the all too loony design and occasionally primitive animation. For example, there’s no lip synchronization to his dialogue. Worse, the best gag goes to Dr. Quack, whose operation turns out to be the repair of a football, which immediately prompts the operation audience into a game watching one.

Porky would have to stand a loony doctor once again in ‘Patient Porky’ (1940).

Watch ‘The Daffy Doc’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

This is Daffy Duck cartoon no. 4
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Porky and Daffy
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Daffy Duck in Hollywood

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 49
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky in Egypt
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Porky the Gob

‘The Daffy Doc’ is available on the DVD sets ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Five’ and ‘Porky Pig 101’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: April 22, 1939
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur © Warner Bros.After directing four films with stars of his own, fledgling director Chuck Jones first directed a major Warner Bros. Star in ‘Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur’.

Jones does a fairly good job in trying to capture the wacky spirit of contemporary cartoons by Tex Avery and Bob Clampett, although his animation is more Disney-like than that of his peers.

Daffy’s adversary is a grumpy caveman called Caspar, whose surprisingly elaborate design and voice anticipate Elmer Fudd a little. The dinosaur of the title is called Fido. He is the caveman’s pet, and a large brontosaur. However, the dinosaur hardly comes into action, and most of the comedy is between the duck and the caveman.

There are some nice gags, but highlight is the non-animated gag of an enormous string of billboards leading to a duck dinner. Jones is still uncertain with Daffy as a character, but let’s be fair, so was even Tex Avery himself at this point – and he invented the duck. Jones’s caveman in fact is a better opponent to Daffy than Avery’s Egghead was. However, only with his third Daffy Duck film, ‘My Favorite Duck‘ (1942), Jones directed the character to great comic effect.

Watch ‘Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 6
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Daffy Duck in Hollywood
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Scalp Trouble

‘Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3’

 

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: January 1, 1938
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Daffy Duck and Egghead © Warner Bros.‘Daffy Duck and Egghead’ marks Daffy Duck’s second appearance. The short is the first film carrying Daffy’s name, and his first one in color.

The cartoon uses exactly the same premise as the first one, ‘Porky’s Duck Hunt’ (1937), but now with Egghead as the hapless hunter. Egghead never was much of a character, and Avery deliberately changed him for this cartoon, giving him a Moe-Howard-like hairdo, but otherwise making him less loony than before, and more of a straight man. Daffy Duck, on the other hand, is completely wild in this cartoon, and sings about himself on the melody of ‘The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down’, an idea that was copied in the feature film ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit‘ from 1988.

Avery and story man Ben Hardaway tell some great gags here: for example, Egghead shooting down a man in the audience who won’t sit down, and a random turtle suddenly breaking in and ordering the duo to duel. This colorful short surely couldn’t be hardly be more removed from Disney for a 1938 cartoon. The Warner Bros. cartoon studio clearly was on its own course. However, Avery’s timing is still unsteady, wearing down the fun, especially in Egghead’s tiresome slow reactions to the duck’s antics.

Watch ‘Daffy Duck and Egghead’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 2
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Porky’s Duck Hunt
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Porky and Daffy

‘Daffy Duck and Egghead’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: January 9, 1943
Stars: Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

To Duck or not to Duck © Warner Bros.In ‘To Duck or not to Duck’ Elmer Fudd shoots Daffy out of the sky. The duck then challenges the ‘sportsman’ for a boxing match, something which takes place immediately for a crowd of ducks. Needless to say, the match is far from fair.

‘To Duck or not to Duck’ is the first Warner Bros. cartoon to star both Daffy and Elmer. The poor hunter is good fowl for the foul-playing duck and his brethren. When Elmer gets his revenge in the end, we’re almost surprised.

The cartoon knows some good gags, but Jones’s timing is still sloppy, and not every gag hits the screen well. Highlight may be Daffy’s ridiculously haughty humphing at Elmer Fudd’s apology for shooting him.

Note the surprisingly empty backgrounds in this cartoon.

Watch ‘To Duck or not to Duck’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 17
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: My Favorite Duck
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: The Wise Quacking Duck

‘My Favorite Duck’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: December 5, 1942
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

My Favorite Duck © Warner Bros.‘My Favorite Duck’ is Chuck Jones’s third try on Daffy Duck (after ‘Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur‘ from 1939 and ‘Conrad the Sailor‘ from 1942), and his first cartoon starring both Daffy and Porky Pig.

In this cartoon he finally manages to get grip of Daffy’s wacky character: Daffy’s antics are not only annoying, they’re also funny, and well-timed, and Porky is much more sympathetic victim to his antics than Caspar Caveman and Conrad ever were.

When Porky goes camping, the duck nags him, protected by the law which forbids Porky to harm any duck. Nonetheless, in the end, the tables are turned and Porky has his revenge. However, at that point the film breaks, and Daffy tells us ‘what happened’, or does he?

The film break gag first appeared in Max Fleischer’s Popeye cartoon ‘Goonland‘. Six years later Jones reused this wonderful film break gag in ‘Rabbit Punch‘ (1948).

Like in other Chuck Jones cartoons from this era, the beautifully stylized backgrounds are a highlight on their own.

Watch ‘My Favorite Duck’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 98
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Cafe
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Confusions of a Nutzy Spy

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 16
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: The Daffy Duckaroo
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: To Duck or Not to Duck

‘My Favorite Duck’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Bob Clampett
Release Date: September 25, 1943
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck?
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

A Corny Concerto © Warner Bros.‘A Corny Concerto’ is a two part spoof on Disney’s most ambitious feature, ‘Fantasia’ (1940), using two waltzes by Johann Strauss jr.

The cartoon features a very Fantasia-like opening, with Elmer Fudd as a clear caricature of Deems Taylor. He announces ‘Tales from the Woods’, which tells about Porky Pig and a dog hunting Bugs Bunny. Porky fills the role of Elmer Fudd in this sequence, and it’s the only cartoon in we can watch him hunting Bugs Bunny. This first part is a classic Bugs Bunny routine, complete with death scene, but now timed to music and acted in pantomime. With its overt mix of high culture and silliness this part is a direct ancestor to Chuck Jones’s later ‘What’s Opera, Doc?‘ (1957).

The second part is a story on ‘The Blue Danube’. It opens with flowers dropping on water, just like in the Nutcracker Suite sequence in Fantasia. This part tells about a little black duck, an infant version of Daffy Duck, trying to join a family of swans, and finally saving them from a vulture by destroying him with TNT. As this story is some kind of inverse of ‘The Ugly Duckling‘ (another acclaimed Disney masterpiece), this could be considered to be a parody within a parody.

Apart from Elmer Fudd’s speeches, the cartoon is completely pantomimed, and full of the wild and zany animation so typical of Bob Clampett’s unit. The backgrounds are lush and colorful, and reminiscent of the the Pastoral Symphony sequence in the original Fantasia. Their designs become overtly ridiculous in ‘The Blue Danube’, with Greek columns placed randomly in the water.

The result is a highly original mix of style and nonsense, and a great testimony of what Leon Schlesinger’s studio could do on a limited budget. In all, the cartoon is an undisputed classic, and very enjoyable, even if you don’t know its topic of parody.

Watch ‘A Corny Concerto’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 19
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Wackiki Wabbit
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Falling Hare

This is Porky Pig cartoon No. 102
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Pig’s Feat
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Tom Turk and Daffy

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: May 18, 1940
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Leon Schlesinger
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

You Oughta Be in Pictures © Warner Bros.‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ is the very first cartoon to bridge two ideas of animation film figures being ‘real’.

First, the idea that cartoon figures can come alive from the drawing board into the real world, an idea that hauls all the way back to Max Fleischer’s first ‘Out of the Inkwell’ cartoons (1915). The second idea is that of cartoon figures being real Hollywood stars, explored in cartoons such as ‘Felix in Hollywood’ (1923), ‘Movie Mad‘ (1931), ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier‘ (1933) and especially ‘The Autograph Hound‘ (1939), with which ‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ has most in common. ‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ synthesizes these two ideas, making it a direct ancestor of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit‘ (1988).

‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ was one of the first films director Friz Freleng made after his return from an ill-fortuned move to MGM, and as Jerry Beck points out in the audio commentary track, one can see this film somehow as autobiographical.

In any case, this short marks is Freleng’s first take on Daffy Duck, and he places him firmly as Porky’s rival. In this cartoon Daffy is not necessarily zany, like in Tex Avery’s and Bob Clampett’s cartoons, but overconfident and sneaky, with a tendency to show off; character treats that would be explored more from 1950 on, especially by Chuck Jones. However, by then the relation between Porky and Daffy would be changed completely.

In ‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ Porky is still an innocent, cute and Boyish character. In the opening scene we watch him being drawn by animator Fred Jones on the drawing board. When all animators have rushed off to lunch (reused footage from a Leon Schlesinger Christmas Party film), Daffy, framed on the wall, addresses the Porky drawing. He convinces Porky to leave Leon Schlesinger’s studio to get a real job in the business of feature films. Leon Schlesinger lets Porky go, saying into the camera “he’ll be back!”. While Porky has a hard time in the neighboring live action studio, Daffy tries to get his plays at Warner Bros. But Porky returns and beats the hell out of the double-crosser.

‘You Ougt to Be in Pictures’ is a lovely cartoon. It mixes animation and live action, partly from other Warner Bros. features, to great effects. The scene in which Porky talks to Leon Schlesinger is very convincing, and Porky’s drive back no less than breathtaking. Besides Leon Schlesinger, the film stars writer Michael Maltese as a guard, animator Gerry Chiniquy as a director, and executive producer Henry Binder as a sound man. However, as the live action footage was shot silently, all are voiced by Mel Blanc, except for Leon Schlesinger who does his own voice.

Watch ‘You Ought to Be in Pictures’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon No. 73
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Porky’s Poor Fish
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: The Chewin’ Bruin

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 9
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Wise Quacks
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: A Coy Decoy

‘You Ought To Be In Pictures’ is available on the DVD-sets ‘The Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Two’, ‘Porky Pig 101’, and the Blu-Ray ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: November 17, 1951
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Drip-Along Daffy © Warner BrosFollowing the premise of ‘The Scarlet Pumpernickel’ (1950), Chuck Jones launched a series of cartoons starring Daffy as a misguided hero and Porky as his calm side-kick. ‘Drip-along Daffy’ is the first of this excellent series, with the others being ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century‘ (1953), ‘My Little Duckaroo’ (1954), ‘Rocket Squad’ (1956), ‘Deduce You Say’ (1956) and ‘Robin Hood Daffy‘ (1958).

In ‘Drip-along Daffy’ Daffy is a typical Western hero, clad in white, riding a well-groomed horse, with an unshaven (!) Porky as ‘comic relief’, riding a donkey. Daffy wants to clean up ‘Lawless Western Town’, which lawlessness is depicted in a series of Tex Averyan gags. However, Daffy finds a heavy adversary in the villain Nasty Canasta…

‘Drip-along Daffy’ is a delightful and gag-rich cartoon, highlight being the strong drink scene, an elaboration on a gag Avery had made in ‘The Shooting of Dan McGoo‘ (1945). Also noteworthy is the high noon scene, in which Jones and his team indulge in numerous camera angles depicting Daffy and Canasta approaching each other. Such original and devoted cinematography had rarely been seen since the Frank Tashlin days.

Nasty Canasta who would return in two more cartoons: ‘My Little Duckaroo’ from 1954 and ‘Barbary Coast Bunny’ from 1956.

Watch ‘Drip-along Daffy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 136
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: The Wearing of the Grin
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Dog Collared

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 56
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Rabbit Fire
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: The Prize Pest

‘Drip-along Daffy’ is available on the Blu-Ray ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’ and on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume One’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: May 9, 1951
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Rabbit Fire © Warner Bros.‘Rabbit Fire’ is the first of three cartoons in which writer Michael Maltese and director Chuck Jones play Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd against each other.

The cartoon introduces a new incarnation of Daffy: as the jealous and treacherous miser who never wins. This transformation works, because Daffy the trickster was already present, as can be seen in films like ‘You Ought to be in Pictures‘ (1940) and ‘The Ducksters‘ (1950). As we could expect Daffy’s tricks, so successful against Porky Pig, fail when tried on Bugs Bunny, and Daffy’s repeated failures add to the duck’s frustration.

However, with this transformation, Daffy would lose his lunacy altogether, and it was this new frustrated, misguided, loser type of Daffy that would prevail to the present day, combined with Daffy-the-misguided-hero, championed in other Chuck Jones cartoons, like ‘Drip-along Daffy‘ (1951) and ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½ Century‘(1953).

In ‘Rabbit Fire’ the contrast between Bugs and Daffy is played out very well: Bugs is the initial victim, but he remains über-cool and in total control, while Daffy is the treacherous actor, trying to harm Bugs, but biting the dust every time. In fact, this character trait makes Daffy rather similar to an earlier incarnation of that other famous duck, Donald, who, by the early 1950s had more or less evolved into the straight guy.

The team’s streak of genius is that Daffy never turns into rage, but remains cool, as well. When confronted with a string of defeats, he just walks up to Bugs and utters: ‘you’re despicable!’. Elmer Fudd, meanwhile, remains the confused instrument of the feud between the two animals.

‘Rabbit Fire’ is a dialogue-rich cartoon, but the dialogue never wears down the action. In fact, two of the film’s highlights involve a lot of talking: the gun-pointing scene, and a scene in which Bugs and Daffy read aloud several recipes (strangely enough Daffy pulls out a book on rabbit recipes out of Bugs’s rabbit hole…). Other highlights are a gag involving an elephant gun, and the short’s finale, in which it’s suddenly Elmer Season.

The success of ‘Rabbit Fire’ was repeated in ‘Rabbit Seasoning’ (1952) and ‘Duck! Rabbit! Duck! (1953). After this classic trio the studio paired Bugs and Daffy, and even Elmer in a bunch of other cartoons, and the antagonism between rabbit and duck remains intact to the present day, as can be seen in the feature film ”Looney Tunes: Back in Action’ (2003).

Watch ‘Rabbit Fire’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 55
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: The Ducksters
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Drip-along Daffy

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 82
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Fair-Hared Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: French Rarebit

‘Rabbit Fire’ is available on the Blu-Ray ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’ and on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume One’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: September 2, 1950
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Ducksters © Warner Bros.Chuck Jones is famous for directing cute characters, but throughout his career he directed some extraordinarily cruel cartoons, like ‘Fresh Airedale’ (1945), ‘Scaredy Cat‘ (1948) and ‘Chow Hound’ (1951). ‘The Ducksters’ is probably the cruelest of the lot, and in this cartoon the cartoon violence feels more painful than funny.

In ‘The Ducksters’ Daffy Duck is a quizmaster and Porky the unlucky contestant in the radio quiz ‘Truth or Aaagh’, an extreme take on the radio (and later television) show ‘Truth or Consequences’, which had been around since 1940. The cartoon violence starts immediately, as the opening shot features a tied-up Porky slowly approaching a sawmill. A few scenes later, Daffy shoots someone in the audience.

Throughout the picture Daffy remains the ultra-violent trickster, until the tables are turned in the end. However, Daffy is neither loony nor misguided, being in the midst of a transition of character, which renders him ‘just cruel’, and very unsympathetic, indeed.

Luckily, Chuck Jones knew a better a use for the duck, using him as a misguided hero (e.g. ‘The Scarlet Pumpernickel‘ (1950) and ‘Drip-along Daffy‘ (1951), or playing him against the cleverer Bugs Bunny (e.g. ‘Rabbit Fire‘, 1951 and ‘Rabbit Seasoning’, 1952). These cartoons are all far funnier than ‘The Ducksters’.

Watch ‘The Ducksters’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 134
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Golden Yeggs
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: The Wearing of the Grin

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 54
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Golden Yeggs
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Rabbit Fire

‘The Ducksters’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume One’

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: August 5, 1950
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig
Rating: ★★
Review:

Golden Yeggs © Warner Bros.1950 was a transitional year for Daffy Duck: director Robert McKimson still retained Daffy’s old loony self in ‘Boobs in the Woods‘, but Chuck Jones introduced a new version of the character, as the anti-hero in ‘The Scarlet Pumpernickel‘.

However, two other shorts from the same year, ‘Golden Yeggs’ and ‘The Ducksters‘, show that the directors were uncertain where to go with the character. In Friz Freleng’s ‘Golden Yeggs’ a goose lays a golden egg (24 karat solid gold) at Porky’s poultry farm, but she blames Daffy for doing it. Daffy plays along, but the news soon attracts a gang of gangsters, led by Rocky, in his debut*. The gangsters kidnap Daffy, forcing him to lay more eggs.

Daffy Duck is quite an empty character in this cartoon, more a victim than in control. He has lost his loony character traits completely, but his later greed and foul play haven’t entered, yet, leaving the character pretty much in limbo. The result is an erratic cartoon, weak in its comedy, and uncertain in its delivery, despite some great gags, like Daffy opening a ‘door’ which consists of a gangster.

Watch ‘Golden Yeggs’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Golden Yeggs

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 133
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: An Egg Scramble
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: The Ducksters

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 53
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: The Bitter Half
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: The Ducksters

‘Golden Yeggs’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume One’

* The Rocky in ‘Racketeer Rabbit’ (1946) was a different character, being a caricature of Edward G. Robinson)

Directors: Tony Benedict, Gerry Chiniquy, Art Davis, David Detiege & Friz Freleng
Airing Date: April 1, 1980
Stars: Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, Miss Prissy, Sylvester, Speedy Gonzales
Rating: ★
Review:

Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-Citement © Warner Brothers‘Daffy Duck’s Easter Egg-Citement’ is an Easter-themed Looney Tunes television special produced by DePatie-Freleng.

Unlike Chuck Jones in ‘Bugs Bunny in King Arthur’s Court‘ Friz Freleng doesn’t attempt to tell one long story in the 25 minutes he’s got. Instead, we have three: the first evolves around Miss Prissy, who, in Foghorn Leghorn’s egg farm, lays a golden egg. Daffy and Sylvester find it, and fight eachother for it. This episode contains the only fine piece of animation of the whole special: the depiction of a paranoid Daffy in a car.

In the second episode Daffy is a guard at a chocolate bunny factory, protecting it against Speedy Gonzales, and in the third Daffy tries to go south, trying several options, including a horse. This part reuses the horse from the Pink Panther cartoon ‘Pinto Pink’ (1967) and some of its gags, too.

These stories are framed with Daffy in a very ‘Duck Amuck‘-like setting. Like ‘Bugs Bunny in King Arthur’s Court’  ‘Daffy Duck’s Easter Egg-citement’ suffers from bad designs (especially Foghorn Leghorn, who’s not a Freleng character, is badly drawn), can music, slow timing and excessive dialogue.

Director: Chuck Jones
Airing Date: February 23, 1978
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam
Rating: ★
Review:

Bugs Bunny in King Arthur's Court © Warner BrothersThe Looney Tunes Television Specials were a series of 25 minute long television programs running from 1976 to 1989 and revisiting the classic Warner Brothers characters in all new material. They were produced by either Chuck Jones’ studio or De Patie-Freleng.

‘Bugs Bunny in King Arthur’s Court’ is the fourth within the series, and produced and directed by Chuck Jones. The story is loosely based on Mark Twain’s ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’ from 1889, as Jones readily admits in the opening titles. It features Bugs Bunny as himself, Elmer Fudd as a knight, Daffy Duck as a very unlikely King Arthur, Yosemite Sam as Merlin, and Porky Pig as an anonymous soldier.

Although Jones’s mastery shines through at times, the episode is a sad caricature of the old cartoons. Just nothing seems right. The designs are weak, especially that of Yosemite Sam (not a Jones character), who is too small compared to the others. Moreover, the timing is remarkably slow, and there’s way too much dialogue, slowing down the animation. The gags are further hampered by Dean Elliott’s terrible, partly electronic music. Even Mel Blanc’s voices are poor: his imitation of Arthur Q. Bryan’s voice of Elmer Fudd is nothing like the real thing, and Porky Pig simply stutters too much.

The episode’s trite story is expanded over 24 minutes, while, considering its flaws, it would already have been difficult to remain interesting within seven minutes. The result is a 24 minute long bore. The 1970s were the middle ages of animation, indeed…

Watch ‘Bugs Bunny in King Arthur’s Court’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.funniermoments.com/watch.php?vid=05851c679

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: April 12, 1947
Stars: Daffy Duck
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

Birth of a Notion © Warner BrothersDaffy Duck tricks a dog called Leopold with a ‘poisoned bone’ to let him stay at his house during the winter.

Unfortunately, the dog’s owner is an evil scientist (a caricature of Peter Lorre) who happens to be looking for a duck’s wishbone. This leads to a wild chase full of pretty weird gags and off-beat dialogue penned by Warren Foster.

‘Birth of a Nation’ is the second of two Warner Bros. cartoons featuring Peter Lorre as a mad scientist, the other being ‘Hair-Raising Hare’ from 1946. New voice artist Stan Freberg does an excellent job in mimicking and parodying Lorre’s typical voice.

Watch ‘Birth of a Notion’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 36
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: The Great Piggy Bank Robbery
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Along Came Daffy

‘Birth of a Notion’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: March 8, 1958
Stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Robin Hood Daffy © Warner Brothers‘Robin Hood Daffy’ is the last of Chuck Jones’s great series of Daffy and Porky pairings.

Like earlier entries, such as ‘Drip-along Daffy‘ (1951) or ‘Deduce You Say’ (1956), Daffy fails completely in acting out the hero he is supposed to be. In this cartoon Daffy Duck is Robin Hood, but he has a hard time proving that to a skeptical Friar Tuck (Porky Pig). He does so by relentlessly trying to rob a rich nobleman who rides on a remarkably little donkey in a hilariously silly fashion.

This nobleman character is totally unaware of the antics around him and is a late addition to a series of similar odd characters that populated many of Jones’s early films, like the Minah Bird (1941-1947) and the bearded sailor in ‘The Dover Boys‘ (1942). Daffy’s attempts, on the other hand, are more akin to those of the Coyote in the Road Runner series. The best gag is when he tries to swing on a rope, Errol Flynn-style, shouting “Yoicks and away”, only to crash into multiple tree trunks.

Porky is redesigned completely into Chuck Jones’s late design: with ridiculously cute eyelashes, anticipating similar redesigns of Jerry in Jones’s Tom & Jerry cartoons seven years later. The redesign is not a success: Porky looks a little too feminine and too cute for the purposes of the cartoon.

Watch ‘Robin Hood Daffy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.b99.tv/video/robin-hood-daffy/

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 150
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Boston Quackie
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: China Jones

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 83
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Don’t Axe Me
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: China Jones

‘Robin Hood Daffy’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: July 7, 1956
Stars: Daffy Duck
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

Stupor Duck © Warner Brothers‘Stupor Duck’ is a spoof on the Fleischer’s Superman cartoons, a series that had ended 13 years before, and was earlier parodied by Chuck Jones in ‘Super Rabbit’ (1943), starring Bugs Bunny.

This time Daffy is “Stupor Duck”, who, overhearing a television program, seeks for the non-existent villain Aardvark Ratnick, seeing his deeds in everything. Daffy, for example, rescues a submarine from ‘sinking’. The best part of the cartoon is its opening sequence which perfectly parodies the Fleischer’s opening sequence. The rest of the cartoon is unfortunately hampered by mediocre timing.

Watch ‘Stupor Duck’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/82993447/

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 75
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Rocket Squad
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: A Star Is Bored

‘Stupor Duck’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Five’

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date:
 July 25, 1953
Stars:
 Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Marvin Martian
Rating:
 ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century © warner Brothers‘Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century’ is a spoof of the popular pulp magazine science fiction series Buck Rogers, which was made into a television series in 1950-1951. This makes this short one of the earliest theatrical cartoons parodying a television series.

Daffy “Duck Dodgers” and his sidekick “the eager young space cadet” Porky have to claim planet X for planet Earth. Unfortunately, Marvin Martian wants to claim the same planet for Mars. This starts a feud, which ends in both blowing up the entire planet.

Although the story of the cartoon is rather similar to the Bugs Bunny cartoon ‘Haredevil Hare‘ (1948), Daffy’s unique performance gives it an entirely different feel, leading to new and great gags. More than being a typical science fiction cartoon, this short can be regarded the second cartoon in a series which pairs Daffy as a misguided hero to Porky as a more sensible straight man (the first being ‘Drip-along Daffy‘ from 1951). ‘Duck Dodgers’ must be the highlight of the series, as well as a peak in both Daffy’s as Chuck Jones’s career.

Unhampered by conventions, Jones, his layout-man Maurice Noble and background painter Phil DeGuard went totally berserk with the science-fiction theme, creating wild and lushly colored backgrounds, which make ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century’ one of the most beautiful cartoons ever made at Warner Brothers.

Indeed, so great is its fame, it spawned sequels in 1980, 1996 and 2003. From 2003 to 2005 Cartoon Network even broadcasted a Duck Dodgers series.

Watch ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.220.ro/desene-animate/Looney-Tunes-Duck-Dodgers-In-The-24-5-Century/aTflTNIyAr/

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 142
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Fool Coverage
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Claws for Alarm

This is Daffy Duck cartoon No. 65
To the previous Daffy Duck cartoon: Muscle Tussle
To the next Daffy Duck cartoon: Duck! Rabbit! Duck!

‘Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century’ is available on the Blu-Ray ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’ and on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume One’

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