Duck Amuck

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This article is about the Merrie Melodies cartoon. For the video game, see Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck.
Duck Amuck
Merrie Melodies (Daffy Duck/Bugs Bunny) series
DuckAmuckTitle.jpg
Directed by Charles M. Jones
Produced by Edward Selzer
(uncredited)
Story by Michael Maltese
Voices by Mel Blanc
Music by Carl Stalling
Animation by Ken Harris
Ben Washam
Lloyd Vaughan
Layouts by Maurice Noble
Backgrounds by Philip DeGuard
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
The Vitaphone Corporation
Release date(s) February 28, 1953 (United States)
Color process Technicolor
Running time 6:56
Language English

Duck Amuck is a surreal animated cartoon directed by Chuck Jones and produced by Warner Bros. Cartoons. The short was released in early 1953 by The Vitaphone Corporation, the short subject division of Warner Bros. Pictures, as part of the Merrie Melodies series. It stars Daffy Duck, who is tormented by a seemingly sadistic, initially unseen animator, who constantly changes Daffy's locations, clothing, voice, physical appearance and even shape. Daffy turns raging. Pandemonium reigns throughout the cartoon as Daffy attempts to steer the action back to some kind of normality, only for the animator to either ignore him or, more frequently, to over-literally interpret his increasingly frantic demands. In the end, the tormenting animator is revealed to be Bugs Bunny.

In 1994, it was voted #2 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field, losing only to What's Opera, Doc?, also made by Chuck Jones and also written by Michael Maltese. It remains one of the most notable Warner animations, and has been inducted into the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The short was included on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1 DVD box set (with optional audio commentary by noted animation historian Jerry Beck) and the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 1 Blu-ray box set. The short inspired the 2007 Nintendo DS game Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck.

Plot[edit]

The cartoon's title sequence and opening scene suggest Daffy Duck is to star as a musketeer, who boldly acts out an action scene with a fencing foil. As he thrusts the foil and advances, the background abruptly disappears, leaving a plain white screen. Confused by this, Daffy turns to the animator and asks him to complete the scenery. However, instead of a castle from the original scene, the animator paints a farm. Daffy returns and starts to repeat his musketeer opening, but quickly notices the different background. He walks off screen and returns as a farmer, singing "Daffy Ducky Had A Farm". A few seconds later, the farm scene segues into a winter backdrop; Daffy changes into winter clothes and skies through the snow (to "Jingle Bells") and into a Hawaiian setting. Still dutifully going through the changes, Daffy comes back in Hawaiian garb. After a couple of bars of "Farewell To Three" on ukelele, Daffy ends up back in the plain white background.

While Daffy tries to reason with the animator that cartoons should have scenery, he becomes completely erased and redrawn as a cowboy with a guitar. Daffy tries to play it but there is nothing but silence. He requests sound with a sign and is granted with various non-guitar sound effects; Daffy also finds himself briefly generating random sound effects before finally blowing his top and shouting angrily at the animator.

Regaining his composure, Daffy demands some new scenery and is given a lame, amateurish line-art background in pencil, to his chagrin. Daffy asks for color, prompting the animator to take the request literally and slap various colors and patterns all over him ("NOT ME, YOU SLOP ARTIST!!"). Daffy is then erased and redrawn as a bizarre mismatched animal with a "screwball" flag on its tail. As Daffy walks off (back into plain background, yet again), wondering to himself if he wasn't living up to his contract and if he hadn't been keeping himself trim, he encounters a mirror and scolds the animator upon seeing his hideous self ("EEK! You know better than that!"). Everything is erased and Daffy is redrawn again, this time as a sailor. He begins to sing "The Song of the Marines" as the animator draws an ocean scene with an island in the background. Upon realizing that he has been left in thin air and surrounded by nothing but water, Daffy falls into the ocean and surfaces on the distant island where he asks for a closeup, only to have the camera zoom up close to his eyes.

As Daffy tries once again to negotiate with the animator to have an understanding, the black screen frame falls on him. After failing to keep the frame up with a stick, Daffy goes ballistic and rips apart the black background. Now at the end of his rope, Daffy demands "Let's get this picture started", so the camera does an iris-out to black, followed by "The End" slide which Daffy frustratingly pushes off camera. Daffy suggests that he and the animator go their separate ways and (hoping, against hope, that nothing further will happen to him) begins a dance routine which is quickly interrupted when the film runs out of alignment, resulting in two Daffy Ducks on the screen. They argue with each other start a fight, but one Daffy is erased just as the other throws the first punch.

The still-unknown animator begins his last batch of shenanigans by turning Daffy into a pilot and drawing him into an airplane. The duck excitedly flies around until a mountain is drawn in his path. The plane crashes off-screen, leaving Daffy with nothing but the plane's steering wheel and windshield. He "bails" out of the plane's remains and floats downward with his parachute which is replaced with an anvil. Crashing to the ground, a disoriented Daffy hammers the anvil while dizzily reciting "The Village Blacksmith".[citation needed] The artist changes the anvil into an artillery shell which explodes after a few more hammer strikes. Daffy finally snaps and angrily demands that the animator reveal himself. He does, but not until after he draws a door around Daffy and closes it on him so that he never knows. Finally, the camera draws back and reveals the guilty party to be Bugs Bunny at a drawing table, who says to the audience: "Ain't I a stinker?"

History[edit]

A scene from Duck Amuck.

According to director Chuck Jones, this film demonstrated for the first time that animation can create characters with a recognizable personality, independent of their appearance, milieu, or voice. Although in the end, the animator is revealed to be Daffy's rival Bugs Bunny (who declares "Ain't I a stinker?"), according to Jones the ending is just for comedic value: Jones (the director) is speaking to the audience directly, asking "Who is Daffy Duck anyway? Would you recognize him if I did this to him? What if he didn't live in the woods? Didn't live anywhere? What if he had no voice? No face? What if he wasn't even a duck anymore?" In all cases, it is obvious that Daffy is still Daffy; not all cartoon characters can claim such distinctive personality.

Duck Amuck is included in the compilation film The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, along with other favorite Chuck Jones cartoons including What's Opera, Doc?

Mel Blanc performed the voices. It was directed by Chuck Jones with a story by Michael Maltese. The film contains many examples of self-referential humor, breaking the fourth wall.

In 1999 the film was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. This was the second of three animated shorts by Jones to receive this honor (the others are 1957's What's Opera, Doc? and 1955's One Froggy Evening). Jones has the distinction of being the only director (as of 2006) with three animated shorts in the registry.

The cartoon's plot was essentially replicated in one of Jones' later cartoons, Rabbit Rampage (1955), in which Bugs Bunny turns out to be the victim of the sadistic animator (Elmer Fudd). A similar plot was also included in an episode of Baby Looney Tunes, in which Bugs was the victim, Daffy was the animator, and it was made on a computer instead of a pencil and paper.

In issue #94 of the Looney Tunes comic, Bugs Bunny gets his back at Daffy Duck by making him the victim, in switching various movie roles, from Duck Twacy in Who Killed Daffy Duck," a video game character, and a talk show host, and they always wound up with Daffy starring in Moby Dick (the story's running gag). After this, Bugs comments, "Eh, dis guy needs a new agent."

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Preceded by
Fool Coverage
Daffy Duck Cartoons
1953
Succeeded by
Muscle Tussle