Follow TV Tropes


Western Animation / Duck Amuck

Go To

"Duck Amuck" is a 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 generally messes with the duck's perception of reality over and over again.

The short was an audacious experiment to see if animation could screw with certain recognizable characters. Could Daffy Duck still be Daffy if every part of him — appearance, voice, environment, personality, etc. — was taken away? Can a cartoon still be enjoyable if it has no discernible story and only exists to be a visual experiment?

This experiment paid off. The short 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. The cartoon even spawned a game for the Nintendo DS in 2007 in which the player could take the role of the animator and torment Daffy, though Daffy would do his best to fight back.

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


  • Amusing Injuries: Daffy gets an Anvil on Head, falls from a great height, and gets blown up by hitting a bomb with a hammer. Every time, he's just fine moments later.
  • Anvil on Head: Happens as a result of Chute Sabotage, where the animator erases Daffy's parachute and replaces it with an anvil.
  • Art Shift: At one point Daffy asks for scenery, and the animator obliges by penciling an extremely crude town with stick drawings.
  • Author Avatar: The animator acts as one for director Chuck Jones.
  • Author Catchphrase: A variation. Daffy's line, "Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin," is an expression stolen from Looney Tunes animator Ben Washam.
  • Author Powers: Although Daffy continues to exercise his free will, the animator repeatedly demonstrates godlike powers over the environment, backgrounds, sounds, and even Daffy's body, able to change anything they want without any real way for Daffy to resist beyond screaming at them.
  • Author's Retaliation: Daffy accidentally leaves his own background, asks for some scenery, and has his environs and his own body continually redrawn by a sadistic animator, over his loud complaints.
    (A pencil quickly draws a sketch of a crude cityscape)
    Daffy: (sarcastically) That's dandy. Ho-ho, that's rich, I'll 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 colors.)
    Daffy: (screaming) Not me, you slop-artist!
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: The opening titles borrow fonts and music from Jones' earlier Bugs Bunny short Rabbit Hood to suggest a rather conventional "Daffy as swashbuckling would-be hero" cartoon to follow, like The Scarlet Pumpernickel. Daffy would explore this scenario in 1958's Robin Hood Daffy. The short even starts out this way, but it's Fake-Out Opening that quickly descends into post-modernism when Daffy moves past the background.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Daffy responds to the Stylistic Suck background by screaming at the animator for some color. The animator obliges by painting Daffy a myriad of strange and bizarre colors.
  • Behind the Black: Daffy doesn't notice the scenery ends to the left until after he's already in front of the white background.
  • Big "NO!": Daffy pushes away a premature 'The End' card, screaming "NO! NO!" at the top of his lungs and pushing it off to the side.
  • Butt-Monkey: Daffy has probably never been as big of one in any of his other shorts as he is here, since the point of the short is essentially "allow us test out how angry we can make Daffy because it's funny". The animators succeeded.
  • The Cameo: And it's a real dandy. Turns out the animator tormenting Daffy is none other than Bugs Bunny, who was messing with Daffy for the sake of a gag.
    The Animator: Hee, hee, hee. Ain't I a stinker?
  • Chute Sabotage: When the animator erases Daffy's plane from underneath him (via painting a mountain in his path suddenly), Daffy deploys his parachute. Then the animator erases that and replaces it with an anvil.
  • Closeup 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 that the artist's pencil then changes into an artillery shell.
  • Deserted Island: Daffy briefly ends up stranded on one while arguing for a closeup shot.
  • Door-Closes Ending: The animator ends the cartoon by drawing a door in front of Daffy and closing it.
  • Driven to Suicide: Not in the original short, but in the Nintendo DS game, where, in the secret ending which can only be accomplished by 100% completion, Daffy gets so fed up with the player’s torment that, reprising the gag at the end of Show Biz Bugs, he kills himself by consuming gas, explosives, uranium, and matches to dispose of it.
  • The End: It shows up in the middle of the cartoon when Daffy tells the artist to get things started. Daffy pushes it away.
  • Exact Words:
  • Exploiting the Fourth Wall: The animator uses this trope to torment Daffy throughout the episode.
  • Extreme Close-Up: Infamously used when the camera zooms into Daffy's Death Glare.
  • Eyebrow Waggle: The animator gives one to the camera after saying his only line.
  • 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.
  • Fake-Out Opening: Following up from the Bait-and-Switch Credits, the opening seconds see Daffy leap into frame in swashbuckler's garb. He lunges to the left, where the background disappears into whiteness, and the wheels fall completely off the cartoon.
    Daffy: Psst! Whoever's in charge here... the scenery! Where's the scenery?
    • This gag is replicated at the start of the DS game, where Daffy is in a platformer game only to come across the same problem. The animator then puts him in a Mega Man like setting and then a dance floor before removing the background again.
  • Forced Transformation: Daffy ends up suffering this following his attempt to explain where the colours go. The result is an odd creature with a blue body, a duck bill, a mane of flower petals, green hands and feet, and a screwball flag attached to his tail.
  • Genre Deconstruction: This short 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 being recognizable.
  • Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: Downplayed. When Daffy is painted into a sailor's uniform, he asks for some scenery. The animator quickly draws an island with a volcano. But when the animator has finished, Daffy realizes that he hasn't been given anything to stand on, and falls into the water. However, the fall is very short, and he swims to the island moments later.
  • Humiliation Conga: From beginning to end, the entire short is Daffy being subjected to constant torment by an unseen animator. The entire short is Daffy trying to get a picture started, only for the animator to constantly yank the proverbial rug out from under him and torment him further.
  • 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.
  • It Amused Me: The animator seems to be tormenting Daffy for no reason at all other than fun.
  • Jackass Genie: Daffy should know better, but his demands to the animator are always going to be met in this fashion (justified - Daffy, a trouper, is determined that The Show Must Go On). A demand for "some color, stupid!" (prompted by a crude black-and-white background) 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.
  • Karma Houdini: Bugs gets away with tormenting Daffy here. Of course karma gets to him in the sequel.
  • Medium Awareness: The basis of the short's humour, from beginning to end, is Daffy being aware that he's in a cartoon, and routinely trying to get one started like a normal Looney Tunes short. He even pushes away title cards, and tries to fight with the screen going black.
  • Mickey Mousing: Parodied. When the sound briefly turns off, Daffy attempts to play a guitar, only to have it play sound effects that aren't even close to a guitar's strum, like a machine gun and a car horn.
  • Mind Screw: By the animator to Daffy, as the animator continuously puts him in more and more bizarre situations.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal calls the mixed up Daffy "Scramble Daffy" while Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem calls him "Duck Amuck".
  • No Fourth Wall: The Fourth Wall is utterly demolished in this cartoon. The sad and sorry remains are washed away the moment the animator addresses the audience, revealing them to be Bugs Bunny, who was messing with Daffy purely because he thought it was funny.
  • Non Sequitur Environment: Daffy frequently transitions from one environment to another with no warning.
  • Non Sequitur, *Thud*: Not quite played straight because it actually makes sense, but not within the context: Daffy bangs an anvil with a hammer and quotes The Village Blacksmith after the artist turns his parachute into said anvil. And then the artist turns said anvil into a missile.
  • Not His Sled: The ending of the Licensed Game reveals that not Bugs, but another Daffy has been behind Daffy's woes all this time.
  • Oblivious Transformation: Daffy gets redrawn as some... thing that has four legs, 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", but it's not until the animator draws a mirror for him to see himself in that he notices the change.
    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.
  • Ominous Obsidian Ooze: In the Nintendo DS adaptation, the game may start a minigame based on the section where the screen frame is used in an attempt to crush Daffy. However, as it would be impossible to move the DS' screen frame in such a way, a thick black ooze instead is used to crush Daffy.
  • Posters Always Spoil: The lobby card for this cartoon shows Daffy in his sailor outfit, being erased by Bugs' gloved hand.
  • Postmodernism: One of the best-known examples in western animation, if not media as a whole, being an extended battle between Daffy Duck and one particularly trollish animator bent on critiquing, parodying, and downright demolishing damn near every possible convention of the animated medium.
  • Rage Against the Author: Or animator, in this case. For all of the Humiliation Conga that the animator puts him through, Daffy continuously yells at the animator, tells them to get the picture started, and criticizes anything they deem worthy enough to put in the cartoon.
  • 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 his (first) tirade, Daffy's eyes turn red with anger until he finishes saying his piece.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Subtle, but the background during the last shot of Bugs animating the cartoon is a photo of a real animation desk.
  • The Show Must Go On: No matter how blatantly the animator is screwing with him, Daffy is committed to seeing the cartoon through. When it looks like the animator has finally pushed off to leave him alone on a blank screen instead of finishing the cartoon, he settles for entertaining the audience with some dancing instead.
  • Silly Animal Sound: Daffy makes a kookaburra call (a sound usually associated with jungles) during the Sound Defect scene.
  • Sound Defect: What the animator does in response to Daffy holding up a "Sound please!" sign. The animator gives Daffy sound, but all the wrong ones. Daffy's attempts to play a guitar make it sound like a machine gun, an old-timey car horn, a bullet ricocheting off of something, and a donkey braying. When Daffy attempts to yell at the animator for it, his voice changes to a rooster's crowing and a kookaburra's mating call.
  • 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.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That:
    • After erasing Daffy, the animator redraws him dressed as a cowboy with a guitar. Daffy shrugs nonchalantly and tries to play a song — but sound wasn't included.
    • Later on, Daffy is genuinely interested in being redrawn as a sailor and then a pilot, but none of those go the way he wants.
  • Talking with Signs: Daffy attempts to play a guitar, but there's no sound, so he holds up a sign saying "Sound please!"
  • Troll: The animator goes out of his way to antagonize Daffy. It's Bugs Bunny, if you haven't realized by now. And the only reason Bugs appears to be tormenting Daffy in this way is because he thought it was funny.
  • 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").
  • Voice Change Surprise: During the Sound Defect spot, Daffy prepares to rant at the offscreen animator, but crows like a rooster instead. Eyes widening with surprise, he clams up. He tries again, only to cackle like a kookaburra. Stopping himself, he briefly opens his beak, producing a kitten mew. He then starts seething with rage, before screaming in Angrish and declaring, "I've never been so humiliated in all my life!"
  • Wham Shot:
    • Both in-universe and (at the time) out of it, the background disappearing at the start.
    • At the end, when the animator draws a door in front of a ranting Daffy and closes it in his face. Specifically that it's Bugs' hand holding the pencil.
    • In the DS game, right after Daffy demands to know who is responsible for the torture he had to endure, the Game Over screen drops down, and it was revealed that it is Daffy himself who was playing on the DS itself.
  • Wrong Parachute Gag: Daffy's parachute works just fine, but the animator erases the chute and replaces it with an anvil.

"Ain't I a stinker?"


Video Example(s):


Duck Amuck Reanimate Jam

In this multi-animator project for Duck Amuck, Jim Grue reanimates the "slop artist" scene with his own unique touches, including some visual puns to match Daffy's sarcastic dialogue.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / FanAnimation

Media sources: