Western Animation / Duck Amuck

Daffy feels crushed by his situation.

Duck Amuck is an incredibly postmodern Merrie Melodies short directed by Chuck Jones in 1953, in which Daffy Duck finds himself tormented by a sadistic animator. Seen as a large pencil or paintbrush coming into frame to make alterations, the animator screws around with the backgrounds, erases Daffy, paints him absurd colors, replaces his voice with random sound effects, redraws him as a bizarre four-legged creature, and so forth.

The short was an audacious experiment to see that animation could create recognizable characters; would Daffy still be Daffy if every part of him, appearance, environment, voice, were taken away — which has since come to be regarded as one of the all-time great cartoon shorts. A couple years later Jones would direct a somewhat less successful Spiritual Sequel in Rabbit Rampage, this time with Bugs Bunny as the victim.

Compare Manipulation, an award-winning 1991 animated short that uses a similar premise of an animator screwing with a cartoon character.

Duck Amuck provides examples of:

  • The 50 Greatest Cartoons: #2.
  • Anvil on Head: Daffy's parachute is erased by the animator and replaced with an anvil, with predictable results.
  • Art Shift: At one point Daffy asks for scenery, and the animator obliges by penciling an extremely crude town with stick drawings.
  • Author Catchphrase: A variation. Daffy's line "Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin." is an expression stolen from Looney Tunes animator/director Robert McKimson.
  • Author Powers: Although Daffy continues to exercise his free will, the animator has godlike powers over the environment, backgrounds, sounds, and even Daffy's body.
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits / Fake-Out Opening: The opening titles and first few seconds of action (borrowing fonts and music from Jones' earlier Bugs Bunny short Rabbit Hood) suggest a rather conventional, "Daffy as swashbuckling would-be hero" cartoon to follow, like The Scarlet Pumpernickel. Then Daffy lunges stage left, the background disappears into whiteness, and the cartoon goes completely crazy.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    (A pencil quickly draws a sketch of a crude cityscape)
    Daffy: (sarcastically) That's dandy. Ho-ho, that's rich, I say. (to artist) Now how about some color, stupid?!
    (Daffy's head is painted bright blue...)
    Daffy: Hey!
    (...followed by the rest of him painted a myriad of colors.)
    Daffy: Not me, you slop-artist!
  • Behind the Black: Somehow, Daffy fails to notice that the scenery to his left is missing until he actually reaches the white background.
  • Berserk Button: Having Daffy make random animal noises instead of actually speaking probably wasn't a good idea... as humorous as it was...
  • Big "NO!": Daffy pushes away a premature 'The End' card, screaming "No!! No!!!"at the top of his lungs.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Demolished.
  • Butt Monkey: Daffy has probably never been as big of a Butt Monkey in any of his other shorts as he is here, since the point of the short is essentially "let's see how angry we can make Daffy because it's funny". They succeeded.
  • The Cameo: And it's a real dandy.
  • Camera Screw: Towards the end, the frame shifts, leaving Daffy's top half on the bottom and bottom half on the top... inadvertently cloning Daffy. He then starts Talking to Himself.
    Daffy: Ladies and gentlemen, there will be no further delays, so I shall attempt to entertain you in my own iniminnimitable fashion.
    (Daffy starts dancing, and then the frame shifts, with Daffy's top half in the bottom frame, and his bottom half on the top frame.)
    Bottom!Daffy: Now what?!
    Top!Daffy: What are you doing down there?
    Bottom!Daffy: Down here? What are you doing up there? (to audience) Down here—
    (Top!Daffy snatches Bottom!Daffy into the top frame, which then re-centers)
    Daffy!Prime: Listen, bub, if you wasn't me, I'd smack you right in the puss!
    Daffy!Clone: Don't let that bother ya, Jack!
    Daffy!Prime: (winding up a punch) Okay, buddy, you asked for it!
    (Daffy!Clone gets erased just before Daffy throws his punch, making him miss wildly.)
  • Cloning Blues: See Camera Screw above.
  • Close-Up on Head: Inverted: A far-away Daffy wants a closeup, and he gets one... an extreme one.
    (Daffy washes up on an island far in the background.)
    Daffy: (distant) Hey! C'mere... C'mere! Gimme a close-up! A close-up!
    (The screen irises in (without zooming) to the volcanic island in the far distance, which Daffy is on.)
    Daffy: This is a close-up?!! (Beat) A CLOSE-UP, YOU JERK! A CLOSE-UP!
    (The camera then rapidly zooms in on Daffy, accompanied by a Musical Sting, until the camera is aimed right between Daffy's bloodshot eyes.)
    Daffy: Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin.
  • Concussions Get You High: Daffy Duck gets rather loopy near the end, reciting "The Village Blacksmith" while banging a hammer on the parachute-turned-anvil (see Anvil on Head above) that the artist's pencil then changes into an artillery shell.
  • The End: It shows up in the middle of the cartoon when Daffy tells the artist to get things started.
  • Exploiting the Fourth Wall: Bugs uses this trope to torment Daffy throughout the episode.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: Daffy tears the screen up, then tells the animator to "get this picture started!" The screen irises out into "The End," only for Daffy to yell "NO, NO!" and push it out of the way.
  • For the Evulz: Bugs seems to be tormenting Daffy for no reason at all other than fun.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Word of God says that this was created in an attempt to take apart how cartoons work, as well as to explore whether or not Daffy would still be Daffy if he was changed beyond recognizability.
  • I Just Write the Thing: What Jones and writer Michael Maltese were aiming for — the writing was one extended process of repeatedly yanking the rug out from under Daffy and "letting" him react.
  • Jackass Genie: Daffy should know better, but his demands to the animator are always going to be met in this fashion. A demand for "some color, stupid!" gets him painted with loud colors and polka-dots, a demand for a "close up" zooms the camera in until all we can see are his (bloodshot!) eyes, a demand for "sound please!" causes machinegun noises to be inserted instead of normal guitar sounds, and on and on it goes.
  • Jungles Sound Like Kookaburras: Daffy makes a kookaburra call during the Sound Defect scene.
  • Karma Houdini: Bugs gets away with tormenting Daffy... here...
  • Medium Aware: The basis of the humour, from beginning to end.
  • Mickey Mousing
  • Mind Screw: By the animator to Daffy.
  • No Fourth Wall: The Fourth Wall is utterly demolished in this cartoon. The sad and sorry remains are flicked away when the animator (Bugs Bunny) addresses the audience.
  • Non Sequitur Thud: Not quite played straight because it actually makes sense, but not within the context: Daffy quotes The Village Blacksmith after the artist turns his parachute into an anvil. See the YMMV page for more info.
  • Not Quite Back to Normal: Daffy gets redrawn as some... thing that's quadrupedal, has a flower-like head, and a flagpole flying a flag with a screw and a ball for a tail. Daffy remarks he doesn't "quite feel like myself."
    Daffy: Oh, I feel all right, and yet, I... (animator draws mirror in front of Daffy, Daffy looks in the mirror) ...I, uh... EEEEEEKKKK!!! YOU KNOW BETTER THAN THAT!
  • Oh, Crap!: Daffy's expression when the animator changes his parachute into an anvil.
  • Rage Against the Animator
  • Record Needle Scratch: Inverted. When Daffy asks for sound, the first sound effect is a record starting to play (the quiet "static" would be dust and small scratches on a record, a sound anyone familiar with records would recognize.)
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Just before — and for the duration of — his (first) tirade, his eyes turn red with anger.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Subtle, but the background during the last shot of Bugs animating the cartoon is a photo of a real animation desk.
  • Screwy Squirrel: The artist, of course.
  • Sound Defect: What the animator does to Daffy in response to the sign mentioned below.
  • Special Effect Failure: In-universe examples, of sounds (strumming a guitar and getting the sound of gunfire), backgrounds (which randomly blend into one another and/or disappear entirely), Iris Out (comes about halfway through the cartoon, after Daffy pleads with the animator to "get this picture started,") and Voice Acting (random animal/jungle noises replace Daffy's speech.)
  • Stylistic Suck: The animator responds to Daffy's demand for scenery with some crude, uneven line sketches.
  • Talking with Signs: "Sound please!"
  • Throw It In: The decision to make Daffy's tormentor Bugs Bunny was made more or less at the last minute as a bonus punchline. Chuck Jones had always stated he was Daffy's real tormentor, testing out what truly made Daffy Duck Daffy Duck, and considered filming himself instead of Bugs Bunny.
  • Troll: The animator goes out of his way to antagonize Daffy.
  • Visual Pun: When Daffy is redrawn as a weird creature, the flag on his tail has a picture of a screw and a ball (an illustration of the phrase "screwball.")
  • Wham Shot: Both in-universe and (at the time) out of it, the background disappearing at the start.
    • There's also the end, where the animator reaches in to close the door they drew in front of Daffy as he rants. Specifically that it's Bugs' hand holding the pencil.
  • Wrong Parachute Gag: Daffy's parachute works just fine, but the animator erases the chute and replaces it with an anvil.

Tropes found in Rabbit Rampage:

  • Be Careful What You Wish For: After the animator removes Bugs' ears.
    Bugs: (pointing at his head) ...Ears.
    (The animator draws large human ears on Bugs.)
    Bugs: Not human ears, my friend. Rabbit ears, long ones.
    (The animator naturally draws Bugs with ears so long he could use them to rappel down the side of a building with.)
    Bugs: Don't be so danged literal!
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Goes one step further by having Bugs notice that Elmer is the animator, as opposed to Duck Amuck where Daffy never noticed that Bugs was the animator.
  • Break the Haughty: Most of the animator's antics target Bugs' Pride as much as just prank him like Daffy's case, and Bugs is well aware from the start this is their intent. He reacts in outrage when the animator clones "impostors" of him, or risks his good reputation by framing him with strike picket signs.
  • Cloning Blues: Bugs is outraged when two other Bugs are drawn in. "Alright, OUT, YOU IMPOSTOR!"
  • The End: Bugs tells the artist, "Well, okay. But there's still one way out, and you can't stop me!" He proceeds to pull down a "The End" card from the top of the screen.
  • Foreshadowing: Early on in Rabbit Rampage, Bugs is shown to have an animosity with the cartoonist for unspecified reasons. This is before the audience finds out that the animator is Elmer Fudd.
  • Genre Savvy: In stark contrast to Daffy, Bugs knows from the start that a cartoon animated by Elmer Fudd will only mean torture for him, and attempts in vain to escape.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: Bugs Bunny, the original animator for Duck Amuck is paid out with his own coin by Elmer.
  • I Don't Like You and You Don't Like Me / Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Invoked by Bugs when he sees who the animator is.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Bugs winds up in the exact same position Daffy was in in Duck Amuck. Rather fittingly, the animator is Elmer Fudd, who Bugs similarly got away with heckling unprovoked in early cartoons.
  • Off Model: Invoked after the animator redraws Bugs as a ... bizarre rabbit.
    Bugs: Keep this up, and we'll both be out of work!
  • Race Lift: In-Universe. Bugs was redrawn as a horse in Rabbit Rampage.
    Bugs: Look doc, my contract clearly states that I am always to be drawn as a rabbit!
  • Redemption Rejection: Happens in Rabbit Rampage:
    Bugs: Look, uh, why don't we be friends? Maybe we could both benefit — eh, do something revolutionary.
    (the artist paints two copies of Bugs, putting himself back on Bugs's bad side)
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Attempted repeatedly by Bugs, though he only succeeds by the very end of the short by pulling out a "The End" card.
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: Bugs is now the victim to the sadistic animator's pen.
  • A Taste of Defeat: While Daffy was used to playing Butt Monkey by the point of Duck Amuck, Rabbit Rampage is among only a small number of shorts Bugs plays the "loser" of the cartoon.
  • Team Rocket Wins: This is one of only three shorts Elmer gets the last laugh on Bugs.
  • Tranquil Fury: Bugs attempts to remain composed and snarks and passive aggressively sneers at the animator in contrast to Daffy's hissy fits in Duck Amuck. There are times however, even he struggles to keep a level head.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Bugs exclaims "Holy codfish!" when he notices how big the artist made his feet.