Daffy Duck is a rival and occasional best friend of Bugs Bunny. Daffy was one of the first of the new "screwball" characters that emerged in the late 1930's to replace traditional "everyman" characters who were more popular earlier in the decade, such as Mickey Mouse and Popeye. Daffy starred in a whopping 133 shorts in The Golden Age, making him the third-most frequent character in the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons, behind Bugs Bunny's 166 appearances and Porky Pig's 159 appearances.
Daffy was ranked #14 on TV Guide's list of top 50 best cartoon characters of all time and was featured on one of the issue's four covers as Duck Dodgers with Porky Pig and the Powerpuff Girls (all of which are Time Warner-owned characters).
Daffy first appeared on April 17th, 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) was something new to moviegoers: an assertive, completely unrestrained, combative protagonist. Bob 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."
This early Daffy is less anthropomorphic and resembles a "normal" duck, being short and pudgy, with stubby legs and a beak. The only aspects of the character that have remained consistent through the years are his voice (provided by Mel Blanc) and his black feathers with a white neck ring. Mel's voice for Daffy holds the world record for the longest voice-acting of one animated character by his/her original actor: 52 years.
The origin of Daffy's voice is a matter of some debate. One often-repeated "official" story is that it was modeled 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 dethpicable."
Daffy's slobbery, exaggerated lisp was developed over time, and it is barely noticeable in the early cartoons. In Daffy Duck & 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.
In Looney Tunes: Back In Action, Daffy is sick of Bugs and goes on an adventure with DJ to battle The ACME Company and save DJ's Dad, but his real purpose of coming is to get the Blue Monkey diamond.
The Looney Tunes Show
In The Looney Tunes Show, Daffy "Sheldon" Duck is Bugs' best friend. Ego-maniacal and unapologetically flawed, Daffy has been staying with his best friend, Bugs Bunny for five years, until he gets "back on his feet", which takes time to do so. Daffy is a very daft and dramatic character. He is the antagonist-turned-deuteragonist of the show.
His characterization here seems to incorporate some elements of Clampett's and Jones' designs while giving him an overall cheery if dimwitted personality. In the show, he has moved out of the forest and shares Bugs's house with him. Unlike Bugs and their neighbors, Daffy has no way of earning money and relies on Bugs for food and shelter. He has tried on numerous occasions to get rich quick, but ended up failing repeatedly.
Daffy's one possession he is proud of is his paper-mache parade float, constructed on top of a minivan, which is his main means of transportation. It was destroyed by a car wash incident, and Daffy sought to replace it with a yacht by tricking Porky into giving him the expensive loan, but his less-than-stellar boating skills ended that ambition. His parade float is repaired shortly after. While Daffy's greed and jealousy of Bugs remains, it appears to be less antagonistic in this show.
Virtually every Warner Bros. cartoon director put his own spin on the Daffy Duck character – he 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's Early Years
Tex Avery created the prototype version of Daffy in 1937. Daffy established his status by jumping into the water, hopping around, and yelling, "Whoo-hoo! Whoo-hoo! Whoo-hoo! Hoo-hoo! Whoo-hoo!" Animator Bob Clampett immediately seized upon the Daffy Duck character and cast him in a series of cartoons in the 1930s and 1940s. The early Daffy is a wild and zany screwball, perpetually bouncing around the screen with cries of "Hoo-hoo! Hoo-hoo!" (In his biography, Mel Blanc stated that the zany demeanor was inspired by Hugh Herbert's catchphrase, which was taken to a wild extreme for Daffy). Bob physically redesigned the character, making him taller and lankier and rounding out his feet and bill. He was often paired with Porky Pig.
Looney no more
While Daffy's Looney days were over, Robert continued to make him as bad or good as his various roles required him to be. Robert would use this Daffy from 1946 to 1961. Friz Freleng's version took a hint from Chuck Jones to make the duck more sympathetic, as in the 1957 Show Biz Bugs. Here Daffy is arrogant and jealous of Bugs, yet he has "real" talent that is ignored by the theater manager and the crowd. This cartoon finishes with a sequence in which Daffy attempts to wow the Bugs-besotted audience with an act in which he drinks gasoline and swallows nitroglycerine, gunpowder, and uranium-238 in a greenish solution, jumps up and down to "shake well" and finally swallows a lit match that detonates the whole improbable mixture.
Pairing of Bugs and Daffy
Bugs' ascension to stardom also prompted the Warner Bros. animators to recast Daffy as the rabbit's rival, intensely jealous and determined to steal back the spotlight, while Bugs either remained indifferent to the duck's jealousy or used it to his advantage. Daffy's desire to achieve stardom at any cost was explored as early as 1940 in Freleng's "You Ought to Be in Pictures," but the idea was most successfully used by Chuck Jones, who redesigned the duck once again, making him scrawnier and scruffier. Daffy's vanity and excitedness provide Bugs Bunny the perfect opportunity to fool the hapless Elmer Fudd into repeatedly shooting the duck's bill off. These cartoons also reveal Daffy's catchphrase, "You're despicable!" Jones' Daffy sees himself as self-preservationist, not selfish. It’s thought that Chuck Jones based Daffy Duck’s new personality off of his fellow animator Bob Clampett, who, like Daffy, was known as a shameless self-promoter.
Daffy is a self-absorbed, yet secretly insecure duck and has ridiculous schemes that always make life more interesting and very complicated. He is also wacky, zany and in a word "Looney" to an extent which he uses to his advantage to confuse his enemies. He is very greedy. He also is prone to jealousy and can come across as dim. Daffy is also very extreme and ambitious whenever he plans his crazy schemes. And like Bugs, he is also short-tempered and gets irritated easily. He is jealous of bugs and believes that his fame belongs to him. He is not above putting Bugs in harm’s way if it suits his needs. Despite this however, Bugs usually does try to help Daffy if he is any trouble or misfortune. Daffy has been shown to listen to Bugs on certain occasions but ignores his advice on others. This is partially due to his prideful nature. Deep down though he is a good person, and truthfully cares about and appreciates his friends.
More than just a cartoon
In 1953 Warner Bros released a surreal cartoon called Duck Amuck. The cartoon stars Daffy Duck, who is tormented by a sadistic, unseen animator who constantly changes Daffy's location, clothing, voice, physical appearance, and even shape. Pandemonium reigns throughout the cartoon as Daffy attempts to steer the action back to some kind of normality, only for the animator to either ignore him or, more frequently, to over-literally interpret his increasingly frantic demands.
According to director Chuck Jones, this film demonstrated for the first time that animation can create characters with a recognizable personality, independent of their appearance, milieu, or voice. Although in the end, the animator is revealed to be Daffy's friend and rival Bugs Bunny (who famously declares "Ain't I a stinker?"), according to Jones the ending is just for comedic value: Jones (the director) is speaking to the audience directly, asking "Who is Daffy Duck anyway? Would you recognize him if I did this to him? What if he didn't live in the woods? Didn't live anywhere? What if he had no voice? No face? What if he wasn't even a duck anymore?" In all cases, it's obvious that Daffy is still Daffy; not all cartoon characters can claim such distinctive personality.
When Bugs made his appearance, he promptly replaced Daffy Duck as the most popular Warner Bros. character. Daffy, jealous of his cartoon counterpart's ascension to fame, has on many occasions attempted to dethrone the rabbit. But he has never truly succeeded, always being outsmarted by the clever hare.
However, as time passed on, Bugs and Daffy's rivalry has turned friendlier in nature as the two usually hang out together in most cartoons and Bugs considers Daffy his best friend despite his faults, to which Daffy says the same thing.
Daffy playing Mario Kart Double Dash on the Nintendo GameCube with Bugs.
In 1950, Mel Blanc recorded Daffy Duck's Rhapsody, a comedic song written by Warren Foster, Billy May, and Michael Maltese. In 2012 Warner Bros used the original soundtrack to create a CGI cartoon that was shown theatrically.
Daffy plays a piano duet with Donald Duck in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Daffy made a cameo in a 1998 episode of The Drew Carey Show in a method of live-action/animated film.
Daffy Duck made cameo appearances in Animaniacs, one in H.M.S Yakko, another in The Warners 65th Anniversary Special, then another one in Video Review, and finally Back in Style.
Daffy also had a guest starring appearance on Histeria! in the episode "Hooray for Presidents", in a sketch, Loud Kiddington keeps yelling "DUCK!", which soon culminates in Daffy showing up to tell him to knock that off as a bird could develop a complex around there.
A poster of Daffy is prominently displayed in Michael Garibaldi's quarters in the Science-Fiction series Babylon 5. In one episode, Zack Allen jokingly explains to G'Kar that Daffy is the "ancient Egyptian god of frustration." Garibaldi is also shown entertaining Ambassador Delenn with Duck Dodgers In The 24 1/2th Century, which she finds difficult to understand when Duck Dodgers accidentally puts his rocket into reverse.
In Family Guy, after holding an exploding bomb from Adam West, Meg has Daffy Duck's bill on the wrong side of her head, moves it to its proper position, and then states, “Of course, you realize this means war!” This scene was supposedly deleted after the contract between MacFarlane and Warner Bros.
A sound clip of Daffy Duck grunting from one cartoon was reused for Linus Van Pelt fidgeting in anger in Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!!)
In the Office episode Diversity Day, Michael signs his diversity form with Daffy's name.
In the Kid vs. Kat episode Something Fishy in Owl Lake, Coop and Burt accidentally grab Daffy and Yakky Doodle.
The Eminem freestyle Despicable gets its name from the claim that Eminem is as "despicable as Daffy Duck."
Doug Walker of "ThatGuywiththeGlasses.com" stated that he drew a lot of inspiration for the Nostalgia Critic from Daffy.
Daffy's head can be seen on a building two times in the 1992 Ralph Bakshi live action/animated film Cool World.
Daffy was Seen on Cartoon Network's Show MAD three times. On "Pirates of the Neverland: At Wit's End" Daffy is seen as one of Captain Hook's crew members and was seen carrying a barell wearing Donald Duck's clothes. On "I am Lorax", Bugs and Daffy showed up as zombies and Will Smith shot a gun at Daffy's beak at bugs. On "PilGrimm", Daffy appeared and forgot the sign that says "Duck Season".
- He first appeared in the cartoon "Daffy Duck and Egghead".
- He was the original star of the Looney Tunes until Bugs Bunny came along. This caused him to become jealous, and they became rivals. However, in the recent years they have patched up their differences and become friends.
- He appears in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", trying to perform a piano duet with Donald Duck. However, the combination of Daffy's zaniness and Donald's short temper makes it impossible to happen.
- He plays Duck Dodgers in the television series "Duck Dodgers", which originates from old movie serials starring Daffy.
- In "Loonatics Unleashed", we see his great-great-grandson, who fights crime as a member of the Loonatics.
- Daffy's catchphrase is "You're dethspicable", to anyone who angers him.