Comedy

Daffy Duck: How to Succeed in Show Biz

Daffy Duck sells his talents to Leon Schlesinger. Image: lksdj fjd
Daffy Duck pitches his talents to producer Leon Schlesinger. Image: Daily Motion

Before Daffy Duck was a Big Star, he was a character actor in Looney Tunes animated shorts. His career began in Porky Pig‘s star vehicles, starting with 1937’s Porky’s Duck Hunt.

Daffy was created by the saucy animators at Leon Schlesinger Productions (later Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc.) as a colourful but supporting cast member of Porky’s dramatis personae, as outlined in this studio memorandum:

 

Daffy Duck gets mentioned in producer Leon Schlesinger's official bio. Image: cartoonresearch.com
Daffy is mentioned in producer Leon Schlesinger’s official bio. Image: cartoonresearch.com

 

Did you notice Daffy isn’t identified as Porky Pig’s friend in the above memo? As we shall see, frenemy would be a more accurate term.

Here’s the thing: Creating a character like Daffy Duck is like unleashing Frankenstein’s monster, because Daffy doesn’t follow the Character Actor Code of Ethics. The job of the character actor is not to outshine the main character(s) and, to some degree, help drive the story.

But that’s not the way Daffy Duck rolls. When Daffy shows up, he becomes the story. Sooner or later, Looney Tunes films would have to star Daffy or Porky, but not both at the same time.

Animators could see this coming, and they toyed with it in the Looney Tunes short, You Ought to be in Pictures (1944). This clever short features human actors who interact with cartoon characters without a trace of irony.

The film takes place on the Warner Bros. lot. After the animators leave the building for a lunch break, a drawing of Daffy Duck suddenly springs to life and calls to a pen-and-ink sketch of Porky Pig laying on an illustrator’s table.

He begins to tell Porky about a “pip” of a job in feature films. (We’re assuming pip in 1940 means something more positive than it does today.)

It’s apparent the two have had this conversation before. No sooner is the animator out the door than Daffy starts badgering Porky about getting a job in feature films. He then pushes him to the office of the producer (Leon Schlesinger, playing himself) to negotiate a better deal.

Porky, egged on by Daffy, opens negotiations with Schlesinger by asking, “What’s Errol Flynn got that I haven’t got?” He then declares he’s finished with his cartoon contract, and is getting a job in feature films. A deadpan Schlesinger wishes him well by saying, “Don’t forget me when you’re a star.”

As Porky leaves the building, Daffy instructs, “Now you go up to the studio, and tell ’em I sent you” – as though he’s someone of Importance. (It doesn’t occur to Porky that if it’s so easy to be in feature films, Daffy would already be there.)

But as soon as Porky climbs into his little car and drives away, Daffy reveals his strategy. “Now is my chance,” he says, and we realize he’s manoeuvred Porky right out of an acting career.

Daffy shows Porky Pig how to knock on a door in Hollywood. Image: ksdjf lkdsjf
Daffy shows Porky Pig how to pound on a door Hollywood style. Image: newrafael.com

This is a meta film about animation and the workings of a studio, but it’s also about a sweet, naive actor (Porky) who almost undone by greed and ambition. Yet, in his campaign to become the Big Star on the lot, Daffy paradoxically proves himself to be a good supporting actor after all; his deceptive nature underscores Porky’s goodness.

You Ought to be in Pictures is a rare treat in the world of animation. If you want to see Daffy Duck on the cusp of Stardom, it’s well worth the nine-minute running time.

You can watch You Ought to be in Pictures on Daily Motion (free) by clicking HERE.

You Ought to be in Pictures: starring Leon Schlesinger, Mel Blanc. Directed by I. (Fritz) Freleng. Story by Jack Miller. Warner Bros. Pictures Inc. Vitaphone Corp., 1940, B&W, 9 mins.

This post is part of the What a Character Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen Outspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club. Click HERE to see today’s fab entries.

What a Character

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25 thoughts on “Daffy Duck: How to Succeed in Show Biz

  1. A great piece about a great short that I know well. Of course, the animated characters leaping off the paper into real life wasn’t unique to the Schlesinger mob: the Fleischer studios did it a while earlier with the Out of the Inkwell series. The future Warner Bros animators did it so much more slickly though.

    Me, I knew Daffy before he started charging for autographs.

    Like

    1. Yes, this isn’t a new idea, but I agree the Warner Bros gang did a great job.

      Bahahaha! Love that you said you knew Daffy Duck before he started charging for autographs. I was in a busy grocery store when I read that and burst out laughing. Thanks for making my day.

      Like

  2. LOVE, LOVE having Daffy Duck represented in this event. What a character! indeed! A real stinker! It’d be interesting to try to list how many real, human movie stars followed Daffy’s actions, pushing others aside to get into the limelight.

    Thank you for this entry, Ruth – a fantastic addition to What a Character!

    Aurora

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      1. No bending required as far as I’m concerned. Part of the reason these cartoons are so great, the WB ones in particular, is because these characters followed recognizable standards. You make a great case for that here. Does that make sense?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post Ruth and an inspired entry.
    Daffy was always one of my favourite characters so nice to see his endeavours taken seriously 😉 I once read that his voice was meant to be a high pitched impersonation of Leon Schlesinger’s, although I’m not sure how true that is!

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  4. Made half a century before Who Framed Roger Rabbit, You Ought to Be in Pictures still works as a marvelous mix of live-action and animation and a rare look at the inner workings of the Warner Bros. cartoon studio. Also, I always preferred the frenetic, anything-goes ’30s Daffy of Tex Avery and Friz Freleng to the angrier, scheming iteration that Chuck Jones developed.

    Thanks for this unique look at a very unique “character actor.”

    Like

  5. Daffy Duck has always been my favorite Looney Tunes character. Still, I think I have never seen a black and white cartoon with him, only the color ones with Bugs Bunny. I’ll check this out!
    Kisses!
    Le

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  6. I didn’t realize Daffy and Porky went back so far! Frenemy seems like a good description of their relationship. And your line really sums it up perfectly, that, “Daffy paradoxically proves himself to be a good supporting actor after all; his deceptive nature underscores Porky’s goodness.” You always have such great insight. I enjoy reading your posts so much! Thanks, Ruth.

    Like

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