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Daffy Duck

Daffy Duck

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Daffy Duck Coloring

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Daffy Duck is an animated cartoon character in the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. Daffy was the first of the new breed of “screwball” characters that emerged in the late 1930s to supplant traditional everyman characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Popeye, who were more popular earlier in the decade. Daffy is known as the best friend and occasionally self-imagined rival of Bugs Bunny.

Virtually every Warner Brothers animator put his own spin on the Daffy Duck character, who 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

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) represented something new to moviegoers: an assertive, combative protagonist, completely unrestrainable. As Clampett 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.”[1]

This early Daffy is less anthropomorphic and resembles a ‘normal’ duck. The Mel Blanc voice characterization and the white neck ring contrasting with the black feathers, are about the only aspects of the character that remained consistent through the years. Blanc’s characterization of Daffy holds the world record for the longest characterization of one animated character by his or her original actor — 52 years. Daffy’s catchphrase is “you’re despicable.”

Daffy Duck is a black duck with an orange bill and feet. He occasionally wears cowboy clothes like blue jeans, a cowboy hat, boots, a bandana, and a button shirt

The origin of Daffy’s voice is a matter of some debate. One oft-repeated “official” story is that it was patterned 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 ‘desthpicable’.”

Daffy’s slobbery, exaggerated lisp was developed over time, being barely noticeable in the early cartoons. In Daffy Duck and 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.

Blanc’s early version of Daffy was actually closer to his characterization of Woody Woodpecker than any other voice. In time he developed the slobbery, lispy sound, supposedly based on Warner cartoon producer Leon Schlesinger, that was essentially the same voice as Sylvester the Cat except that it was played back at a faster-than-recorded speed. (Incidentally, Sylvester’s voice was actually Mel Blanc’s own voice, plus the heavily exaggerated, slobbery lisp for which Sylvester and Daffy are famous for.) In one of the features on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD set, there is a rare audio of Blanc discussing a set of recordings he is about to make for the 1960s TV program, The Bugs Bunny Show. In that audio he states, “We record Daffy separately, because his voice is sped.” In his later years, Mel would claim — and in personal appearances would even perform — separate voices for the cat and duck. In the DVD commentary for Scrap Happy Daffy, narrator Greg Ford reported that Blanc had once told him he sometimes played Daffy as if he were a Jewish comic, while playing Sylvester as if he were Gentile.

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