Daffy Duck

It's no wonder Daffy Duck has a split personality. In his early years, Daffy was manic, explosive, and unpredictable, engaging in adventures that seemed outlandish even to him. As his personality gained depth at the hands of Warner Bros. cartoons' directors, the little black duck became more self-analytical, competitive, peevish, paranoid, and neurotic. Eventually, Daffy found himself more and more at the mercy of a universe that seemed to favor everyone but him. So why do audiences love him? Despite his failures, Daffy, like the Greek hero Sisyphus, is a victim of injustice who continuously protests. And it's his refusal to surrender his will to the whims of the conspiring universe that makes him heroic. How could one not feel sorry for an ill-equipped duck with Daffy's voice that just can't seem to get a break? At least Daffy aims high. And when he fails, he resets the bar . . . even higher.

Daffy Duck has evolved from the talents of Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, and Chuck Jones. It's not like he's a total failure. Daffy's been an Oscar presenter and he's starred or appeared in more than 150 cartoons and movies, often as a self-described hero matched with his polar opposite and sidekick -- the bashful and far less brash Porky Pig. Over the course of several hilarious cartoons, again and again, Daffy always manages to get the short end of the schtick.

In Drip-Along Daffy and My Little Duckaroo the comic pair, portraying Wild West lawmen, get more than they bargained for when they face desperado Nasty Canasta. Duck Dodgers in the 24˝th Century, has space star "Duck Dodgers" (Daffy) and "Eager Young Space Cadet" (Porky), traveling to Planet X to battle with Marvin The Martian while in search of Illudium Phosdex, the shaving cream atom. In Deduce, You Say Daffy is "Dorlock Homes" and Porky is "Watkins", Baker Street sleuths who aim to capture the Shropshire Slasher. It is Watkins, the sidekick, and not Homes, that is successful.

In Chuck Jones' masterpiece Duck Amuck, Daffy is antagonized by an unseen animator who torments him by switching backgrounds and props, fooling with the soundtrack, and humiliating him by erasing and re-drawing him. Fittingly, the culprit is none other than Bugs Bunny, whose astounding success would, over the years, become the lightning rod for Daffy's envy and resentment. In shorts such as Jones' Rabbit Fire and Rabbit Seasoning and Freleng's A Star Is Bored, the pair carried on a timeless screen battle of wits, with Daffy entering the battle mostly unarmed.

In the end, he may have to re-align his bill and sweep up his dignity in a dustpan, but Daffy Duck always gets something that, unfortunately, he never really hears: a grateful audience's laughter.

 
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