“Duck hunters is the CWAZIEST peoples!”
While Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng developed a more sardonic fowl, Bob McKimson sustained Daffy Duck’s zany personality well into the early ‘50s. Daffy’s unhinged antics in Tex Avery’s Porky’s Duck Hunt (1937) changed Warners’ cartoons into an irreverent refuge for animated comedy that freed other animation studios from the Disney mold.
The first half of Daffy Duck Hunt plays like an imperative upgrade to Avery’s cartoon; these scenes certainly ensure a vast improvement in their self-reliance on clever gags, aided by sharp timing—and, to a greater extent, witty dialogue (i.e. “Why the copious flow of lachrymal fluid, my careless canine?”)
The three-character conflict was a fundamental aspect of the Warners’ cartoons. The situation here balances the dog’s attempts to gain back respect in his master’s home; logically, Daffy’s incessant heckling for survival in Porky’s kitchen severely damages it. The resultant punishments of the dog inflicted by Porky, after being accused of stealing Daffy from the deep-freeze unit, occur off-screen. However, the subjective point-of-view shots — John Carey’s Porky storming into the foreground in scene 31 and Charles McKimson’s Porky brandishing an axe in scene 40 — reveals the pig’s persona as somewhere beyond dysfunctional here.
McKimson’s animators during this period exemplified pure 1940s cartooning. Scenes such as Porky’s outrageous take in scene 4 (animated by John Carey) would be ironed out as McKimson attempted to becalm them. Manny Gould animates a similar reaction when Porky sees the Christmas stamp pasted on Daffy’s stomach in scene 45.
Inventive uses of other techniques abound in Daffy Duck Hunt; Phil DeLara’s animation of Daffy emptying shotgun shells, in the first scene, makes clever use of smear drawings. Daffy creating “terrific noise” in scene 25, animated by an uncredited Pete Burness, almost pops from pose to pose on the animation of Porky’s dog—similar to his work on the Tom and Jerry cartoons. Burness tends to draw the dog shorter, and definitely plumper, in his scenes. It’s also interesting to note Charles McKimson taking advantage of Daffy’s lisp; in his scenes, saliva emits from his beak during his dialogue scenes.
Daffy Duck Hunt also exhibits moments of understated acting in different sequences. Characters interacting with an angel and devil over their shoulders was already a comedy staple at this point; scene 19, animated by Charles McKimson, of the dog darting his eyes to the left, and after listening to the devil, covering his ears, knowing the angel will inevitably appear, is superb. Phil DeLara handles some nice acting on the dog’s response to Daffy suddenly thawing in the oven after less than five seconds, in scene 21. Besides the marvelous animation of the angel and devil, Gould is credited with scene 30: Daffy’s re-enactment of his ersatz Alaskan trek, donned with a scarf and gloves, makes great use of space and foreshortening; the comic understatement supplied after his spiel (“How’s things been with you?”) gives the scene a sublime pay-off. He also handles the wonderful sequence of Daffy, dressed as Santa singing “Jingle Bells,” as he swings and gestures his arms up to the camera.
Enjoy this week’s breakdown video!
(Thanks to Jerry Beck, Mark Kausler and Frank Young for their help.)