Duck Amuck is a surreal 1951 animated cartoon produced by Warner Bros. and released in 1953 as part of the Merrie Melodies series and starring Daffy Duck, who is tormented by a sadistic, unseen animator who constantly changes Daffy's location, clothing, voice, physical appearance, and even shape. 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 1994 it was voted #2 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field, behind only What's Opera, Doc?.
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 friend and rival Bugs Bunny (who famously 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's 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?
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 silly animator (Elmer Fudd). A similar plot was also included in an episode of Baby Looney Tunes, only Bugs was the victim, Daffy was the animator, and it was made on a computer instead of a pencil and paper. The framing material for Daffy Duck's Easter Special was similar to Duck Amuck, with Daffy once again being tortured by an unseen animator.
In Looney Tunes Comics Issue #94, 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."
Referenced in other works
- The Bugs Bunny short "Rabbit Hood" contains a title card similar to this short.
- The 1960s short A-Haunting We Will Go has some in-jokes related with "Duck Amuck". First, Daffy is again transformed into a flower-faced spotted creature. Later, when Daffy used a parachute, the witch transforms it into an anvil (as the animator did in "Duck Amuck") and then impact in the same rock that the animator draw to stop Daffy's plane in "Duck Amuck".
- The Super NES video game Bugs Bunny in Rabbit Rampage, merges both premises from Duck Amuck and Rabbit Rampage, the result being Bugs portrayed as Daffy's victim.
- This cartoon was parodied in the last episode of the short-lived series Clerks: The Animated Series, further proving the short's lasting legacy. The final scene of the series even mirrors the ending of the original short, with Jay and Silent Bob in place of Bugs.
- It was also referenced in a 30-second short cartoon gag in Johnny Bravo.
- It was used in "Babylon 5", in the episode "Conflicts of Interest", where Michael Garibaldi is listening to it. This was used for ironic effect as at the time Garibaldi himself is unknowingly being manipulated by a seemingly omnipotent force.
- In The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy episode "Complete and Utter Cha", Grim is transformed into the same flower-faced and spotted creature that Daffy is turned in to. He even says Daffy's catchphrase, "You're despicable!"
- On the original VHS release of Batman, a short ad for Warner Bros. merchandise was shown featuring both Daffy and Bugs. Throughout the ad, an unseen animator "draws" items such as t-shirts, movie books, and posters (and in classic fashion, when Bugs mentions ties, the animator draws a rope around Bugs, effectively tying him up, to which he response, "that's NECK-ties!"). In the end, Daffy begins to lose his cool, ending in his being erased from the ad by the animator.
- Robert Smigel did a similar cartoon in his weekly TV Funhouse segment on SNL, where Michael Powell, FCC Chairman at the time, played Daffy Duck and Howard Stern played Bugs Bunny.
- In the first segment of The Simpsons episode "Tales from the Public Domain," Homer's ship appears on a map and gets flicked by Poseidon (The Sea Captain), who is standing over the map. He then turns to face the audience and says, "Yarr...Ain't I a stinker?
- There was a "Duck Amuck" game released for the Nintendo DS in 2007. Nintendo Power magazine briefly describes the game in June 2007's issue "try to drive Daffy Duck stark raving mad."
- This short marks one of many of the instances where Daffy consistantly breaks the 4th wall by asking the unknown animator (Bugs) and the audience about the change of scenary.