Thursday, June 19, 2014

#1,403. Duck Amuck (1953)

Directed By: Chuck Jones

Starring: Mel Blanc

Trivia: In animation historian Jerry Beck's 1994 poll of animators, film historians and directors, this was rated the 2nd greatest cartoon of all time

Ah, Looney Tunes! When it comes to cartoons, they are, in my opinion, the top of the heap. Back when I was a kid, our local UHF station would show Looney Tunes in the morning before I went to school, and again in the afternoon when I returned home, and as a result, I saw pretty much every short they ever produced. I knew at some point during this challenge I’d want to include a Looney Tunes cartoon, yet struggled with which one it should be. I’m a fan of What’s Opera, Doc and One Froggy Evening, both of which are considered classics, but when it came right down to it, there really was only one choice: 1953’s Duck Amuck.

As Duck Amuck opens, Daffy Duck (voiced by Mel Blanc) is dressed as a Musketeer, preparing for a sword fight. But as he moves forward, lunging with his foil, the background suddenly disappears, leaving the unfortunate duck stranded in what looks like a white void. A slightly perturbed Daffy turns to the screen and, addressing the animator, asks for some scenery. After the artist’s pencil does its magic, the befuddled duck finds himself standing on a farm. So, he removes his Musketeer outfit and puts on some overalls, only to discover the background has changed yet again. From there, Duck Amuck becomes a battle of wills between its star and the unseen animator, who, aside from changing the scenery, also does a job on Daffy himself, taking away his voice and, at one point, even altering his appearance.

Duck Amuck is 7 minutes of pure hilarity, featuring one of Looney Tunes’ most beloved characters. Daffy, who, throughout the film tries his best to adapt to what’s going on, suffers a number of humiliations, like having the screen collapse in on him and falling into the water when the animator draws an ocean scene, but fails to give him a boat. Much of the humor comes from Daffy losing his patience, lashing out at his mysterious foe, yet what I always liked about Duck Amuck was how it broke down that fourth wall, with the lead character himself realizing he’s nothing more than a mixture of ink and paint.

With so many great characters, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, and the Road Runner (according to my mother, when I was a toddler my favorite was Yosemite Sam), Looney Tunes set the standard for animated shorts, an industry they dominated for damn near 50 years. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve seen one Looney Tunes that didn’t make me laugh, but of them all, Duck Amuck is hands-down my favorite.

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