Release date: May 1, 1943.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck), Darrall Payne (Mr. Meek). (Thanks to Keith Scott)
Story: Warren Foster.
Animation: Phil Monroe.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Daffy Duck finds a new target to harass: a henpecked husband who's forced to butcher Daffy for dinner.
By 1943, the pace and style of the Warner Bros. cartoons had changed a great deal compared to 1938. Not only had WW2 partly helped enhance comic timing and humour standards but also by character personalities.
In the case of Wise Quacking Duck, Clampett magnifies Daffy's wacky personality to the point where no other directors would dare approach that standard. While directors like Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng gave more depth and insight into Daffy's personality; Clampett stays faithful to the character's origins and exploits the persona so broadly and potently.
Mr. Meek is seen carrying a large axe as he tiptoes through his farm. Warren Foster, whose many talents includes bringing subtlety into hysterical dialogue: reveals a remorseful Mr. Meek who cries, "Oh, I hate to do this, folks. But my wife, Sweetiepuss, says if I don't roast a duck for dinner, she'll cook my goose!", a pun Foster uses so subtly and in excellent taste.
It's worth noting the voice work for Meek is top-notch delivery from the unfortunately anonymous Darrall Payne.
From information provided by Keith Scott in Facebook: It's worthy to mention that Mr. Meek was based on a character of the same name from a 1940s radio character from New York centered on a henpecked man. However, the dialogue spoken by Mr. Meek the cartoon is based on the henpecked Wallace Wimple, of the then-popular radio hit: Fibber McGee and Molly - whom Darrall Payne is impersonating.
|Animation by Virgil Ross|
In this case, Mr. Meek says, "Say, that's that Daffy Duck". Daffy slides in the scene spinning a pie on the tip of his finger. He boisterously yells in a vibrant tone: "You ain't just whistlin' Dixie!" and slams the pie across Mr. Meek's face. Clampett enhances the gag with unprecedented energy and broad animation - that his wackiness feels somewhat human.
Daffy's sheer insanity is also better showcased in the hysterical Jerry Colonna caricature. Mr. Meek responds to a vibrant knocking on the door, with Daffy Duck disguised as a fortune teller. As far as gags go, Warren Foster appears to be reliant on slapstick violence...a common trait of his. Daffy's behaviour gets ruthless when Daffy attempts to "read the bumps" on Meek's head, and creates some by hitting his head with a hammer. A slightly sadistic gag, although it's still in fine taste and spirit of Daffy's "looney-tooney" persona. Foster goes to town on some corny yet harmless puns, like Daffy literally painting Mr. Meeks' arm red as he says: "Perhaps you'd like your calm 'red'. Very well."
Clampett also builds some great suspense as Meek in silhouette is about to anticipate a striking action. The pacing from a slow, quiet mood changes within the blink of an eye as Daffy yells, "Watch it, bub!" in a threatening pose - masterfully animated by Bob McKimson.
Daffy warns Meek, "Listen, you're liable to hurt somebody with that thing!", and so heckles Mr. Meek as he flicks his bill at Mr. Meek's face - resulting in a vibrating gag, topped with a Sold American jingle effect. The mood and energy builds up fiercely once the heckling begins. From Clampett's timing and Milt Franklyn's arrangements - the transition in pace and mood is masterfully effective.
|Animation by Art Babbitt.|
Mel Blanc's passion for delivery and energy into his performance is unbelievable. Blanc's voice contrasts each other for Daffy's boisterous and calmer dialogue - and yet never loses the character's focus.
|"Gruesome, isn't it?"|
Rod Scribner's animation superbly captures a supposedly traumatic, disturbing scene with very strong poses and excellent graphic clarity. Daffy goes as far to ham it up in a dramatic, dying pose as he clutches onto his hold. He staggers and crashes onto a piece of fence. He stands behind it as he anticipates a dying pose. Daffy's pranks has succeeded in deceiving a now remorseful Meek in killing him.
A casual Daffy continues to deceive Meek into thinking Daffy is still dead, as Meek cries: "I killed a poor, defenceless little duck." The Schlesinger staff's admiration for the Dick Tracy comic strip is evident when Daffy calls Meek "B.B. Eyes".
Warren Foster's use of forced puns works well as Daffy asks: "How many lumps does your wife usually give ya?". Meek responds, "Well, this morning, Sweetpiepuss only gave me one lump." He takes off his hat to reveal the "lump" on his head. Not only is the pun amusing, but it also gives us information on Meek's married life. Daffy responds by giving him "another lump" as he smashes his head with a sugar bowl and pours cream on his head in the process. Although the sequence is heavy on character animation acting; it's a good bracer for the more rowdy energy Clampett has in offer.
After a string of gags pulled on Mr. Meek - Daffy reaches his peak in an energetic sequence involving war-related references. Daffy jumps upwards and dives in the style of an aircraft. The use of colour in the shots of Daffy diving is very cleverly used - it deceives the audiences from thinking he's flying from the clouds - whereas the next shot reveals a similar colour from the wallpaper.
Daffy drops an egg on Mr. Meek which he regards as a "secret bomb site". Clampett's interpretation of "wackiness" in Daffy Duck goes unsurpassed as he goes into a frenzy of loud crashing noises while smashing household items to interpret a crash effect.
It gets so broad that Daffy Duck himself, almost loses energy and triggers as he pants: "Say, I'm pooped!"...until he starts again. Clampett and Foster take pleasure in making Daffy an incredibly obnoxious foe for Mr. Meek that his rowdyism and heckling gets to the point where he gets too big for his britches. Mr. Meek's anger is beautifully executed in a gag where his head literally burns to the point where the egg fries. This leads to Daffy very meekly and timidly surrender his fun as his life's at stake again.
|A dynamic point-of-view shot|
of Mr. Meek's pinnacle moment.
It's famously known amongst historians and animation enthusiasts the sequence was animated by Art Babbitt during his very brief tenure at the Schlesinger studio (which I wrote four years ago).
Babbitt is perhaps best known for his work (and later, union activities) at Disney and during its pinnacle era of the 1930s and early 40s; animating on Pinocchio, Fantasia, and of course: his contributions to Goofy. While Babbitt denied using live-action reference on this sequence in Michael Barrier's 1986 interview; his animation on Daffy Duck still had a sincere Disney-like quality look to it - in contrast to the broader, looser animation from Bob McKimson or Rod Scribner.
Disturbed by Daffy's agonising screams; Mr. Meek frantically opens the oven to let Daffy live. Daffy remarks, "Say, now you're cooking with gas" which leads to perhaps the most disturbing scene in the entire cartoon: Daffy pouring himself in gravy while laughing hysterically.
As nutty as the ending is, it's slightly discomforting in watching a naked Daffy Duck bathing himself in gravy and clearly enjoying it too much. But, what do you expect from Clampett?
Bob Clampett has directed a handful of zany Daffy Duck cartoons like Draftee Daffy and The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, but in this short: Daffy's personality is far more broader. I'd personally consider it the nuttiest Daffy Duck short the director made. Clampett takes complete liberty in pushing the boundaries of the character with unparalleled insanity and innovative comic timing which is carried almost entirely in the cartoon. Warren Foster also had his share in enhancing Daffy's zany persona with outlandish, hysterical gags and spontaneously conceived situations. For a cartoon with a relatively shorter length; the timing couldn't have been more flown nicely. The short contains a lot of material with its accelerated pace that took its toll.