Animation History
December 25, 2017 posted by Jerry Beck

“The Return of Duck Dodgers” Storyboard by Michael Maltese – Part 1

Last week, in my ongoing Oscar nomination submissions listings (which we are talking a break from for a few weeks) we posted Chuck Jones’ 1980 theatrical-turned-Thanksgiving-special short Duck Dodgers and The Return of the 24th 1/2 Century. It was said in the comments (by “Brandon”) that “Allegedly, Jones disliked Michael Maltese’s script and immediately tossed it out.” Jim Korkis also weighed in, as he had heard it “was almost as bad as the finished cartoon”.

Clearly there is controversy and debate about this cartoon. What did Maltese write and how much of it was used in the final film? Luckily, animator Mike Kazaleh saved a copy of the original board created by Maltese – obtained by Kazaleh while working with Maurice Noble on the “Duck Dodgers Jr.” segment of Tiny Toon Adventures. Kazaleh noted Noble recalled Jones accepting the boards from Maltese – telling the writer “I like it. Let me add a few of my touches.”

Just how many of those ‘touches’ we can now determine. Maltese’s board is fifty pages (with three storyboard panels per page), so I’m going to break it in half and present the first 25 pages this week (Merry Christmas!) and the second half next Monday (Happy New Year!). In the tradition of the chapter-play inspirations of Star Wars and Buck Rogers, our first part (below) even ends with a cliffhanger! Click each page to enlarge. Enjoy!

For Part 2 of the storyboard: CLICK HERE.


  • Judging from these first pages, Maltese was just rehashing the same story as the original short, so it’s understandable that Jones switched to another plot line. Still, I’d have liked to have seen that duel play out.

  • Wow! This ought to put the falsehood that Mike Maltese wasn’t a good artist to bed. Simple, but very lively and funny. I’m sorry I ever doubted his drawing skills.

    But, I can understand why Jones would’ve scrapped this. Whereas the finished cartoon is Jones’ usual self-conscious, world-weary sophisticate pap, Maltese’s board is too reminiscent of the cheap TV cartoons he toiled on (echoes of Quick Draw here). Not a lot of room for the interaction of the unmatched Jones-Maltese 1950s cartoons, which the original Duck Dodgers is a shining example of. The “Paul & John” dynamic just couldn’t be rekindled.

    [As an aside, there’s a Brothers Matzoriley segment on DePatie-Freleng’s Super Six that’s a direct ripoff of Dodgers. I’d *love* to know how that came to be.]

    Thank you very much, Mike and Jerry (and Maurice), and Merry Christmas to youse.

    • Certainly that chemistry just didn’t work in the end here, Thad.

  • Great post! I actually found the Fred Astair bit humorous.
    But yeah I echo everyone else’s observation that the first part looks like a rehash of the 1953 classic.
    Did anyone notice Marvin is drawn with a mouth in one sketch?

  • Rehash or not, there’s still a heck lot more gags and action going on here than the final cartoon Jones put out – or even ‘Duck Dodgers Jr.’ for that matter 😛

    Thanks for sharing, Jerry. Here’s to Part 2 come New Year’s Day!

  • Another Maltese trademark, which was heavily suppressed by parental watchdog groups in the 1970s, is very evident in the storyboard: Daffy being repeatedly blasted and blown up by the Martian’s ammunition. This might have gotten past the censors if the cartoon was actually made and released theatrically. But not if it were released to TV the way the eventual sequel was.

    If I remember, Maltese pretty much retired from cartoon writing in 1971. His last credited series was that year’s H-B product FUNKY PHANTOM. Maybe he wrote for comic books from then on.

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