Daffy Dumas (also known by Sheldon or Armando) Duck is an animated cartoon character produced by Warner Bros. Animation. He has appeared in cartoon series such as Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, 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 a whopping 133 shorts in The Golden Age, making him the third-most frequent character in the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons, behind Bugs Bunny's 166 appearances and Porky Pig's 159 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 as Duck Dodgers with Porky Pig and the Powerpuff Girls (all of which are Time Warner-owned characters).
Daffy first appeared on April 17, 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 holds the world record for the longest voice-acting of one animated character by his/her original actor: 52 years.
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.'"
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.
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. 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.
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 3 directors (Robert McKimson, Friz Freleng, and Chuck Jones), presented a Daffy similar to Robert's. Robert is noted as the last of the 3 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. 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 nitroglycerine, 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.
Pairing of Daffy and Porky in parodies of popular movies from 1951-1965
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" (released in 1951 and named after the popular Hopalong Cassidy character) 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 barbs (and 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, now a WB property himself) by Robert McKimson.
Bugs' ascension to stardom also prompted the Warner Bros. animators to recast Daffy as the rabbit's rival, intensely jealous and determined to steal back the spotlight, while Bugs either remained indifferent to the duck's jealousy 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" (or "Duck Season/Rabbit Season Trilogy") of "Rabbit Fire" with "Rabbit Seasoning" and "Duck! Rabbit, Duck!" (each respectively launched in 1951, 1952, and 1953), 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.
In the new Cartoon Network series The Looney Tunes Show, Bugs and Daffy live together in suburbia opposite Yosemite Sam.
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.
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. 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. The Warner Bros. studio was entering its twilight years, and even Daffy had to stretch for humor in the period. It's worth mentioning, though, that in many of the later DFE cartoons, such as "Feather Finger" and "Daffy's Diner," 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." The last cartoon featuring Daffy and Speedy is "See Ya Later Gladiator," in what animation fans call the worst cartoon made by Warner Bros.
Daffy appears in later cartoons like a piano duel with his Disney counterpart and rival Donald Duck in the 1988 Disney film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, as both are playing Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. 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 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, even going so far as to cast a sympathetic light on Daffy's glory-seeking ways in one scene, where he complains that he works tirelessly without achieving what Bugs does without even trying. That same year, Warner Bros. cast him in a brand-new Duck Dodgers series. (It should be stressed that in this show, Duck Dodgers actually is Daffy Duck due to him being frozen in suspended animation in some unknown incident.) He had a cameo appearance in the Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries episode "When Granny Ruled the Earth", first airing on March 27, 1999. Daffy has also been featured in several webtoons, which can be viewed online.
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 on Animaniacs and Histeria! (TV series). In the show Loonatics Unleashed, his descendant is Danger Duck (voiced by Jason Marsden), 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.
More recently, Daffy has been given larger roles in more recent Looney Tunes films and series. Following Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Warner Bros. has slowly moved the spotlight away from Bugs and more towards Daffy, as shown in the 2006 video release Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas, where Daffy plays the lead, while Bugs Bunny appears in a supporting role.
However, more recent merchandise of the duck as well as that featured on the official website have been shown to incorporate elements of the zanier, more light-hearted Daffy of the 1940s. Producer Larry Doyle noted that recent theatrical cartoons were planned that would portray a more diverse Daffy closer to that of Robert McKimson's design; however, due to the box-office failure of Looney Tunes: Back in Action, these new films ceased production.
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'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 into giving him the expensive loan, but his less-than-stellar boating skills ended that ambition. His parade float is repaired shortly after. While Daffy's greed and jealousy of Bugs remains, it appears to be less antagonistic in this show.
Daffy starred in the 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.
Cartoon Network, during the summer of 2013, created a 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. One of the cameoed characters was Daffy Duck.
Dell Comics published several Daffy Duck comic books, beginning in Four Color Comics #457, #536, and #615 and then continuing as Daffy #4-17 (1956–59), then as Daffy Duck #18-30 (1959–62). The comic book series was subsequently continued in Gold Key Comics Daffy Duck #31-127 (1962–79). This run was in turn continued under the Whitman Comics imprint until the company completely ceased comic book publication in 1984. In 1994, corporate 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.
In 1950, Mel Blanc recorded Daffy Duck's Rhapsody, a comedic song written by Warren Foster, Billy May, and Michael Maltese. It appears in the short Daffy Rhapsody featuring Daffy and Elmer that was shown prior to Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.
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 24 1/2th 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.
In the Kid vs. Kat episode Something Fishy in Owl Lake, Coop and Burt accidentally grab Daffy and Yakky Doodle.
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 can be seen on a building two times in the 1992 Ralph Bakshi live action/animated film Cool World.
Daffy was Seen on Cartoon Network's Show MAD three times. On "Pirates of the Neverland: At Wit's End" Daffy is seen as one of Captain Hook's crew members and was seen carrying a barrel wearing Donald Duck's clothes. On "I am Lorax", Bugs and Daffy showed up as zombies and Will Smith shot a gun at Daffy's beak at bugs. On "PilGrimm", Daffy appeared and forgot the sign that says "Duck Season".