Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cartoon Icon Bares All in New DVD Release


The cover of Daffy's new DVD
Credits: 
Warner Brothers Home Video



It’s been somewhat of a secret, but Warner Brothers latest release, “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” comes with an extra. Right after the coming attractions and just before the big film, audiences are being treated to an all new Daffy Duck cartoon in 3D. Besides being filmed in 3D, what makes this short so special is that it voiced by Mel Blanc. Blanc was the original voice master of many WB characters including Bugs, Tweety, Porky and Elmer. He passed away in 1989, but since that time, the studio discovered a recording Blanc had made for a children’s album back in the early 1950’s. Someone had the brilliant idea of using the audio from the album and creating a new cartoon, “Daffy’s Rhapsody.” It is reminiscent of the golden years of Looney Tunes cartoons.

For those who saw the new cartoon and are pining for more, you’ll be happy to know that Warner Video has recently released, “The Essential Daffy Duck.” The collection features 21 cartoons about Daffy starting from his very first starring role in 1937 in “Porky’s Duck Hunt” (When the cartoon world was in black and white) to his more recent role as Duck Dodgers. By watching each cartoon, you get a glimpse on how much he has changed over the years. In Daffy’s early days, he was just plain crazy crying “woo-hoo” while jumping and down every which way. His eyes didn’t even line up straight. As the years went on, he became less crazy but more cranky.

Daffy continued to be in cartoons on a regular basis and some say he had his “peak” between 1953-1964. However, the duck suffered setbacks between 1965-1968 when the studio began to outsource their cartoon shorts to another studio that had cheaper production values. His last cartoon, “See Ya Later Gladiator” is often cited as the worst cartoon made by Warner Brothers.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Daffy, like many of his onscreen friends, went through some awkward years. The studio created new television specials with new animation spliced between clips of classic and more superior animation with less than stellar results.

To celebrate Daffy’s 50th birthday in 1987, Daffy made a return to the big screen once again with a new short called, “The Duxorcist.” It had the same look and feel of the classic cartoons, but still came across as a weak substitute for the “real thing.”

Fortunately, the studio went back to the drawing board once again in 2003 to create a new cartoon series based on two of Daffy’s more popular cartoons. The end result was the weekly Duck Dodgers cartoon series which featured the wisecracking duck, Porky Pig and Marvin the Martian and managed to create a fresh new cartoon with the sensibilities from the classics that the show was based.

 “The Essential Daffy Duck” is a great way to introduce your children to some of the best cartoons ever made. It is rated G, but the box actually comes with a warning stating that the collection “is intended for the adult collector and may not be suitable for children.” This is mostly due to some of the politically incorrect humor used in some of the earliest cartoons. In addition to the shorts, the two disc set comes with a few special features including two disappointing TV specials from the 70’s or 80’s and a new “documentary” called “Daffy Duck: Ridicule is the Burden of Genius.” It is part historical fact and part fiction about Daffy’s “career” over the years. As a huge animation fan, this was the biggest disappointment for me. I was expecting a real documentary with interviews with animators and historians, but instead, it isn’t much more than a bunch of animated clips over the years.

“The Essential Daffy Duck” isn’t as great as I had hoped it would be; it still features some of the best animated work from Tex Avery, Robert Clampett and Chuck Jones.

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