Monday, 24 August 2015

386. The Daffy Duckaroo (1942)

Warner cartoon no. 385.
Release date: October 24, 1942.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Norm McCabe.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck, Little Beefer), Sara Berner (Daisy June).
Story: Melvin Millar, Don Christensen (unc.).
Animation: Cal Dalton.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Daffy Duck falls for an Indian duck in the Wild West, but has to confront her meaner, older boyfriend: "Little Beefer".

The irony of the establishing scenes is that it identifies Daffy Duck as a movie star himself, especially when he has already established his own fame during the early 1940s. You could say reality within a cartoon. It's an unique way to open the cartoon, instead of a typical establishing shot of the American desert.

In this case, Daffy Duck has decided to give up his acting career to pursue a new life in the Wild West, hence the newspaper headlines at the opening. Note the little amusing headline, "I want to be a lone...ranger" quoted by Daffy, which is a direct parody of a famous Greta Garbo quote.

The opening scenes of Daffy singing My Little Buckaroo are also as enjoyable, with a lot of physical and broad activity of Daffy playing multiple instruments during his number, as well as Daffy pulling off a 10 gallon hat all the way to a half pint size.

McCabe's use of timing and staging is very enjoyable. The transition of Daffy playing from a piano, and tapping his acoustic guitar like a drum makes McCabe very underrated that way. Note how the animation of Daffy and the donkey are animated on separate levels...and it creates a comedic effect. The nag is animated as a cycle, showing no motivation of physical energy; whilst Daffy broadly sings and dances on top of him.

While on his travels he comes across a local Injun village. He shrieks, "Injuns? Lemme outta here", but comes across a Indian maiden Daisy June, who woos him. The transition to Daffy's petrified pose to him casually serenades with Daisy while singing Would You Like to Take a Walk? on his guitar is priceless, emphasising how flirtatious women poison the minds of men.

The following scene shows some unpredictable and yet a great followup thanks to the wits of Melvin Millar. Inside the teepee, Daffy lustfully embraces Daisy whilst speaking poetically, a popular cliche that the Warner writers mercilessly mock. Daisy's response, on the other hand, is unpredictable and yet hysterical.

Daffy's hilarious reaction to Daisy's
demeaning accent.
After hearing Daffy speak and express his feelings like a poet, it is deliberately unfitting for the maiden to have a trashy Brooklyn accent, voiced by the brilliant Sara Berner, who exceeds in Brooklyn accents for animated characters. Daisy responds, flattered: "Gee kid, you really think so? Honest Injun?".

A deliberately unmatched voice for the scenario, the gag exceeds greatly. Daffy's reaction to her accent is also priceless, as the punchline says it all. She responds, "I'm the quiet type, all right, and I could sure go for you. Only my boyfriend Little Beefer won't let me have no fella."

As for Little Beefer, McCabe deliberately gives the character a menacing and yet buffoonish personality. Through Daisy's exposition, it is revealed that Little Beefer is a wanted criminal for "ticket scalping", a subtle pun written in the poster.

Daffy's first encounter with Little Beefer features a funny piece of layout, particularly the obvious contrast of size between the two characters, revealing that his name is meant to be deliberately ironic since he's far from "little".

He enters the teepee where he intends to greet Daisy by carrying some posies. Daffy hiding underneath the quilt of Daisy's bed creates a rather amusing take. She giggles, and excuses the jump with "mice", attempting to act inconspicuous. Little Beefer suspects Daffy's movements underneath the carpet. Spontaneously, Daffy appears from the set of drawer disguised as a squaw. Little Beefer, gullible of the disguise, responds by lustfully whistling Costello's trademark whistle.

With Daisy out of the teepee, Daffy Duck attempts to improvise in order to entertain Little Beefer and keep him from seeing through his disguise. After avoiding a kiss from Daffy, he immediately goes into a rain dance action as he dances to the sound of the tom-toms. As you'd expect, you get an energetic little rain dance by Daffy, but it gets broader as he returns to the scene banging on a parade drum.

It's a great bit of subtlety in staging as McCabe is still true to Daffy Duck's character. McCabe's sharp timing kicks into gear as Daffy attempts to strike the entertained Little Beefer with a tomahawk, but narrowly misses him. The tomahawk strike is a great sharp effect - for it appears out of the blue, making the threat more predictable and vulnerable for Beefer.

Animators at Schlesinger's exceed in animating an unusual piece of character animation of Daffy playing the tom-toms with his butt cheeks, and animated so convincingly. Almost striking him again with the tomahawk, Little Beefer turns suspicious. Sheepishly, Daffy uses the tomahawks in his hands to break into finale in his rain dance.

McCabe and Millar, who are faithful in capturing Daffy Duck's personality, give the duck a slightly different approach. For the scenes of Daffy kissing Little Beefer, he goes for a Bugs Bunny persona. Another common trait of the early Daffy Duck cartoons, this trademark exceeds from what Clampett or Tashlin have portrayed him.

Since he is kissing Little Beefer as a diversity tactic to hide his disguise, one might get the idea Daffy is enjoying this a little too much. Daffy features a very camp-like posture when Beefer reacts with ecstasy over the kiss. Once Daffy's disguise has been crumbled, Daffy still continues to enjoy some of Beefy's advances.

This is seen in the shot of Daffy reuniting with Daisy June. Once Little Beefer advances forward to threaten Daffy, he comments "Oh well, you too" and kisses him on the nose. As entertaining the sequence is as a whole, you can't help but question his sexual behaviour, no matter if the gag was unintentional.

For the action chase sequence, McCabe intends to make the chase look like an extensive journey around the American desert, with the insertion of visual puns for iconic locations in the West. For a predictable gag sign like the "Los Angeles City Limits" sign, the word "Limits" is crossed off the sign, another sign reading: "Aw, you know!" for a desperate attempt for laughs.

Other visual puns are much more entertaining, and blend in perfectly for the chase scenes. Daffy and Little Beefer take their ride towards the Painted Desert in Arizona. The cactuses in the desert are all painted with stripes, as well as containing "Wet Paint" disclaimer signs.

Perhaps the best pun in the sequence is Daffy's entrance to the Petrified Forest. Once he reaches the territory, he immediately anticipates a petrified pose. The pose itself is incredibly solid and angular, as it portrays a petrified gesture in an exaggerated and yet convincing way. Little Beefer strikes Daffy with his tomahawk, where he breaks the hammer into fragments, but does no damage to Daffy.

Alas, a handful of the wartime references during the climax sequence is one of the prime reasons why Norm McCabe, as a director, is overshadowed by other the more prolific directors. The shot of Daffy making clicking noises on his pistol without firing is an amusing gag, but it hasn't aged well as years passed. This is particularly revealing in his comment: "We don't use any ammunition, folks. We save it all for the Army."

The final gag itself is a product of its time. Daffy Duck has been ambushed by an army of Injuns who invade the area. Daffy evades underneath a trailer parked in the middle of the desert. He goes against his patriotic comment, and fires at the Indians. What a laugh riot the gag must've been then.

The dust covers up Daffy Duck and the bottom part of the trailer, as it unveils, it is revealed that the tires from the trailer have been removed. An Injun walks into the scene, carrying the tires and dumps them on top of Daffy, complaining that they don't fit his vehicle ("Don't fit um, pup pup"). As he drives off in the horizon, a sign at the back reads: "Keep it under 40". For those unknown to the gag, it is a direct reference to the World War II rationing, and tires were amongst many items rationed for their rubber, which were used for the Jeeps in the military.

Although this is the last Daffy cartoon that bears McCabe's name as a director, he has certainly revolutionised the character from being just a screwball personality, which he does perfectly in this cartoon and Daffy's Southern Exposure. Daffy's personality in the short, particularly when he is dressed in drags, is a little overplayed, but its heart is still in the right place. Some of the gags do suffer a bit with some corny puns, but they're harmless at best. As usual, great characterisation for the one-shot characters, particularly Daisy June, who doesn't get much screen time appearance. Once the squaw exits the cartoon, the short gets a little side-tracked, as the new focus is on Daffy and Little Beefer, but the gags and sequences that follow definitely don't go to waste. As per usual, Norm McCabe's use of experimentation of modern design creates a beautiful picture for the short's scenery. It's a pity that McCabe's layout man (Dave Hilberman?) is hardly recognised for the modernised appeal in his cartoons, especially when they are ahead of its time.

Rating: 3.5/5.


  1. Little Beefer is a pun on Little Beaver, the Native American juvenile sidekick of multi-media Western character Red Ryder.

  2. Daisy June was Clem Kadiddlehopper's girlfriend on Red Skelton's radio show.

  3. McCabe's Daffy cartoons were by far his best work at the studio. Daffy's manic energy allowed him to plow through any weak points in the stories, which become harder to avoid in the ones he did with Porky or the one-shot characters.

  4. Actually, what the Indian said in the closing gag was "No fit-um putt-putt."

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.