Friday, 25 April 2014

329. A Coy Decoy (1941)

Warner cartoon no. 328.
Release date: June 7, 1941.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig / Daffy Duck / Duckling).
Story: Melvin Millar.
Animation: Norm McCabe.
Musical Score: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Taking place in a bookstore for bizarre reasons, a wolf springs to life as he attempts to use a decoy as bait to trap Daffy Duck, though his wackiness causes the wolf to not succeed.

Daffy Duck returns in a Warner's short, as it has been almost a year since his previous short: You Ought to Be in Pictures. This time Daffy is turned to the hands of Clampett, who in my opinion did the best interpretation of putting 'daffy' into his name, at least in some of his later shorts.

At this point, Daffy was still being refined with a more tamer personality, though without losing none of his wackiness, as well as giving Daffy more of a personality than a total-screwball one.

The screwball personality in this short is certainly evident during the chase sequences of the short, as well as its opening song sequence: in fact it is evident throughout the entire short. Which will be explained further in the review.

Considering how the short is a 'Porky and Daffy' short, it is considerably better off as a Daffy Duck short, standalone. Porky only appears briefly during the beginning of the sequence where he sitting by a campfire, dressed as a cowboy playing: Ride, Tenderfoot, Ride.

He also appears briefly towards the end of the short as it reaches closure. It seems somewhat considerably pointless that Porky appears briefly in the short, where the short is dominated by Daffy.

Bear in mind, Daffy Duck was already a Warner Bros. cartoon star at that point, even though he was just portrayed as a supporting character, but that's not all. Porky at that point was not becoming a top priority in appearing in every black-and-white Warner Bros. cartoon; and the short perhaps would have worked a lot better without Porky.

That's not all, the short itself appears to be Clampett's take on the 'books come to life' stories. It seems pointless and bizarre for a cartoon which consists of a straightforward cartoon plot to have its theme set with books. Clampett did use Daffy Duck again with the same theme in Book Revue, except it had a purpose; whereas doesn't. I suppose Clampett was attempting to be creative in using Warner's star characters for that theme, but for a story which consists of a wolf attempting to trap Daffy with a decoy, it could easily be a passible short, without the books.

Daffy's introduction to the song consists of a rather lengthy though also pointless segment where Daffy sings: I Can't Get Along, Little Dogie. No doubt we've all seen Daffy sing, especially when a short is introduced, but it is usually evenly paced with great animation taking advantage of the song sequence.

In this short, Daffy's singing does not appear to have any tone whatsoever in terms of pacing or even being visualised.

Much of the time we see Daffy running about singing a lot very appealing song, and he just asks rather goofy, but without much character or enough visuals to make the song sequence itself work. The song sequence itself also contains a pun in which results some action.

Daffy is seen climbing on top of a Black Beauty book cover. Knowing the book, you'd expect to see a black horse, much like the original novel. Though, the 'pun' instead shows an African-American stereotype who Daffy Duck is seen riding like a horse. Usually, I don't mind these stereotypes in shorts, as I understand it was a product of their time: but this joke is in incredibly bad taste. This is one of the few stereotypical jokes from that time period that even I am offended of.

And so, the wolf then enters into Daffy's stardom, which was supposedly what the pointless song sequence seemed to be about. The wolf steps out of a book which is titled metaphorically, The Wolf of Wall Street, which I'll admit is a pun that works itself. To avoid confusion to readers, who might bizarrely refer to the title to the recent Martin Scorsese film, the tittle was actually named after an infamous con man named David Lamar, and of course: there is also another movie (made in 1929) titled the same time.

And so, as the wolf enters the story: his ambitions are rather simple: to eat and kill Daffy Duck for hunger. As this ambition carries out the entire short: it is again another point of how pointless it is to still include the setting in a bookstore.

And so as the wolf approaches Daffy's location, he sets up a female decoy as bait to trap Daffy Duck. As soon as he he gets the bait set; Daffy does instantly fall for it. He zips over to the decoy, in which he responds to the decoy a la 'romance embrace', where Clampett is mocking the romantic embrace scenes, which of course is a cliche itself in cartoons.

As soon as he embraces towards the decoy, talking romantic, the wolf approaches and disguises itself as a decoy in which Daffy, being lovestruck, misinterprets the wolf's nose as the decoy.

The growl then frightens Daffy in which Daffy shivers and melts like liquid. Whilst it is a little cliched, and amusing for a while, it then appears to go into poor pacing, similar to how Chuck would have interpreted the gag.

Daffy takes a while to realise he is danger, when he examines the fangs as well as the distinctive features of the wolf before realising he is in danger. It could have worked in a broader fashion had he discovered much quicker.

As soon as he is aware of his danger; he then goes into a begging situation, and this is mostly taken from Hare-Um Scare-Um, where Daffy begs to have his life spared. He tried to attribute his plead with vulnerability; "Why I'm nothin' but skin 'n bone see", as well as the "why even the army don't want me", as he hands out a rejection letter. Compared to the 'Hare-Um' short, the delivery and suspense is a lot more broader and wackier here, for better. Daffy's fearfulness is greatly exaggerated as he bursts out several more problems such as having an ingrowing toenail, coated tongue, as well as dandruff. That dandruff gag is just wonderful in terms of gag-wise and how well executed it is in animation which only Clampett would have demanded for his animators.

And so, a climax cannot occur without a chase scene, some of them pay off and others don't. This sort sort of does, as it is a tad wackier than what the Warner's viewer of that viewer were used to seeing. You'd expect to see some lame puns from the books which add to the climax, such as Daffy entering the 'Escape' book but ends up being blocked by the wolf.

What makes the sequence wackier themselves, is not of course the whooping sounds Daffy Duck makes, but these subtle little scenes where the climax is just interrupted on purpose. Daffy skids, where he asks: "Say, are you following me?" before the chase continues.

One of those little subtle interruptions is again another trait of Clampett's where he is evidently testing the audience' patience. He does it again, though most notably in The Hep Cat which won't be released until a year later.

The climax then makes a closure as Daffy opens up the 'Hurricane' book, as you may guess, this blows the wolf out of side. Though, this only sends him to his death. Lightning from another book strikes the wolf, killing him. He lies still as his 'funeral' occurs at the front cover of Ernest Hemmingway's infamous novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, which had only been newly published around the time the short was in production.

And so, as soon as the Wolf has been killed off the short: Daffy goes back to what he desires--the decoy (or is it). Porky walks over after not having seen him since the beginning, and scoffs at Daffy's romance: "That dumb duck, he's been wasting his time around that decoy. Everybody knows that there can never be possibly mean anything to each other".

Daffy then scolds at Porky's cynical comment in which he leaves with his decoy, and this then follows with several ducklings following them. This is the type of ending where it ends on a bizarre manner, that itself it leaves on a rather ambiguous note: is the decoy real or not?

I highly doubt Clampett intended that to be this way, as the gag is meant to be incoherent as well as nutty, so it's best to leave the gag as that. One of the little ducklings at the end of the line then scoffs at Porky's comment: "You and your education", which without doubt is the funniest line in the whole short.

Despite a short which is mostly a mess: it does have some shining, classic Clampett moments. As explained, Clampett takes advantage partly in the chase sequences where he interrupts the action. Thus, Daffy Duck is of course the main role, whereas Porky hadn't yet been given much identity than than an everyman personality. The execution of Daffy's pleading with the wolf is also very believable and amusing. Though the flaws: where to start. The fact it is set in a bookstore seems completely to lack focus and it ends up looking unjustified. Although, one could make the assumption Clampett was trying to make his scenery look intriguing as well as unique, but it isn't done very well. Porky's screen appearance seems pointless as he has no purpose of the short except his cynical comment towards Daffy at the end, which is the only point of having him appear; but otherwise it would've worked better with Daffy Duck alone. The first-part of the short itself is a mess in ways: as the song sequences are in poor taste, as well as the pacing; though as soon as the climax sequence is about to start: the short seems to get into better shape, even if parts of it already ruin the entire short.

Rating: 2/5.


  1. Clampett's effort to focus more on personality animation and story structure hit a few bumps here. Even in Daffy's opening song he's more in control than the last time we saw him in Bob's hands a year earlier, and he's then given a motivation -- sex first, fear of being eaten after that -- to justify his motivations. But he just doesn't do very much here, and as you noted, the books-come-to-live setting is almost superfluous, and simply a reason to find a spot for Porky at the start and finish of the cartoon (though if Porky's going to be AWOL for the bulk of a cartoon, better Clampett fills it with five minutes of Daffy than what he did with the middle parts of "Porky's Poor Fish" or "The Chewin' Bruin").

  2. I hated this cartoon too! It sucks. Oh and by the way, when is your next review(Academy Award Nominated "Hiwatha's Rabbit Hunt)?

  3. The Mammy joke may or may not have been offensive, but it wasn't particularly original-- Harman and Ising, now working for Fred Quimby at MGM, used it two years before in "The Bookworm" (which Friz Freleng co-directed and Mel Blanc voiced the raven, so I guess it was kind of a tradeoff).

  4. I wish someone had the original B&W form of this cartoon whether it's on VHS or recorded Cartoon Network on VHS from a long time ago. Because online the versions of this cartoons I only see is the awful looking yellowish version of this cartoon and the redrawn version that doesn't look too bad, but I redrawns are awful because of animation mistakes. Watch Porky Pig following the Footprints in the dirt in Redrawn version of "Robinson Crusoe Jr" to see what I mean.

  5. This is the first WB cartoon I've ever seen. And I like it.

  6. This is the first WB cartoon I've ever seen. And I like it.