Tuesday, 15 December 2015

389. My Favorite Duck (1942)

Warner cartoon no. 388.
Release date: December 5, 1942.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Chuck Jones.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Eagle).
Story: Michael Maltese.
Animation: Rudy Larriva.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky Pig tries to enjoy his holiday in the countryside, but gets disturbed by the silly antics of Daffy Duck.

Although this isn't the first pairing of Porky and Daffy, but it is the first where the two personalities are established well to render many more wonderful pairings in the near future. Previously Michael Maltese had created a different persona for Porky Pig a year previously in Notes to You..where he comes across as cynical and temperamental - here he uses it again.

Daffy Duck on the other hand, still carries out his wacky personality but also has carries out more added character; such as being quick-witted and a slight cynic which Norm McCabe nailed in his more recent Daffy Duck cartoons.

The opening sequence is a great establishment for the two personalities coinciding one another. Porky finds some rest and relaxation in an isolated area: complete with mountains and lakes. In a boat he peacefully sings Moonlight Bay, but only to have his piece ruined when Daffy enters into the fray and sings in chorus. Confused, Porky remarks: "Gosh, what a scr-screwy duck!" and at that moment Daffy enters and argues back: "That my little cherub is strictly a matter of an opinion." Porky watches Daffy whoop around the lake with slight confusion. With Daffy being considered a threat to Porky's peaceful holiday, this sums up how the rest of the short will turn out.

The tent pole gag is a great exercise for Jones to experiment with his timing. Porky attempts to find relaxation elsewhere by pitching a tent, but gets prevented several times by a loitering Daffy who is sitting on a basket filing his nails. He responds smugly, "Sorry, Daniel Boone. But first come, first serve, y'know."

The following close-up of Porky's frustrated expression is beautifully caricatures to capture Porky's cynical, and sometimes sadistic personality. He attempts to use the tent pole to harm Daffy, but only to stops to protect himself from the law.

The sign gag, "Don't even molest a duck!" would nowadays be taken completely out of context, being a dated definition to "harrass (someone) in an aggressive or persistent manner." The following wide shot, Jones takes advantage of the timing and staging.

Gene Fleury paints a light shade of green on the field to add some restrictions and limitations to where Porky could pitch a tent. All through the scenery, Daffy slides into every corner Porky finds, preventing him from claiming a spot. The faster and more frustrated Porky grows, the more rapid and jerky the timing becomes; creating a great comic effect.

A couple of gags centering on the lake create a funny portrayal of Porky's gullible moments. Daffy has invaded every corner in an open field possible to the point where Porky uncontrollably leads underwater and pitches a spot. The gag works to a tee when Porky goes back and forth from the lake to get his camping gear, while Daffy casually watches him, pretending to play no part of it.

Chuck Jones' use of expressions execute the gag wonderfully when Porky makes a double-take at only realizing he is underwater. The timing of the fish swimming past is the icing of the cake to emphasize Porky's foolishness.

In another sequence, Porky is snoozing whilst fishing in his little boat. Once again, Daffy decides to stir things up by turning the boat upside down in an attempt to trick Porky by catching a fish in open air. It's a remarkably complicated piece of staging as the camera turns around 180 degrees of Porky sleeping underwater.

Once he feels a reaction from his fishing rod (caused by Daffy), the camera turns back to its normal angle as the boat flips back over - causing Porky to swim upwards in mid-air. Floating in mid-air, Maltese takes one of the oldest animation gags and revamps it into Warner's standard humour. Porky finds Daffy sitting on top of a tree branch and asks, "What are you doing down here?". Daffy's response, "Down here, heh-heh!" is a classic delivery as he is completely on the gag. Daffy points Porky's head downwards, looking at the lake. The camera pans back to Porky, who silently double-takes and falls. Chuck's posing on Porky's "I'm screwed" expression speaks for itself, like with make Jones takes.

Porky refuses to be enticed to Daffy 's
song. Animation by Ben Washam.
The concept where Porky and Daffy battle over singing different tunes is another believable portrayal of their feuding relationship. Throughout the short, Daffy's theme is Blues in the Night while Porky's is Moonlight Bay.

During the eagle scene, Porky momentarily is succumbed to Daffy's song as he sings it. Upon realization, he grunts and sings his ideal song instead. It's a solid piece of character personality, as Daffy has ruined Porky's liking to Blues, reminding it of him.

While he gets ready to cook some eggs, Daffy sneakily replaces a smaller egg with a larger egg. Porky unknowingly mistakes it for "some mountain air that makes things grow." He cracks it open, which reveals a newly-hatched baby eagle.

He responds with astonishment, "Gosh it looks just like a baby eagle!". Pan to an older, meaner eagle; he answers angrily, "For your information, it IS a baby eagle!" To poke fun at the censor's depicting off-screen violence, the camera pans to Daffy who interprets the action by looking intently, "Ooh! Brutal!". It is then revealed afterwards the father eagle struck Porky with his own frying pan.

Although he has already proven himself as a director capable of producing funny cartoons, Jones isn't afraid of pulling off some ambitious filmic procedures. For the firecrackers sequence, Jones uses some cross-cutting for the shots of Porky unknowingly using the firecrackers to make fire, and to the shots of Daffy hiding underneath a rock, waiting for the dynamite to detonate any second.

The more dynamic the angles become, the most suspenseful the music and timing becomes. A moment later, the camping gear and the tree are sitting completely in mid-air. To defy the laws of gravity in the most preposterous way, only Porky falls from the effect.

An extreme-close up of Daffy's pupils watching Porky falling is a beautiful visual look as the pupils evidently represent Porky in silhouette. As though the explosion and falling wasn't enough to make the sequence visually appealing, a visual metaphor is added. Tired of the bullying and pranks from Daffy, Porky evolves into an elaborate "burning" take (probably by effects animator Ace Gamer), as he burns into ashes but morphs back into his usual proportions.

A master at conceiving sign gags for comedic purposes, this is one of Chuck's earliest practices of it - especially where the comedic values work. Earlier, Daffy uses signs to take advantage of Porky. He holds a caution sign, warning Porky he'd be fined for hurting a duck. He uses this advantage to strike Porky back, and whoop around the lake freely.

Chuck's most significant use of sign gags in the cartoon occur during the suspenseful build up to its climax. At this point,the signs appear to have a mind of its own, as Daffy offers Porky a gun - but pulls out an unwanted sign announcing the opening of duck season.

During the build up, Daffy pulls out several more signs, but not the kind he expects - this emphasizes the signs have betrayed him; making him more vulnerable. More crosscutting action between Porky and Daffy occurs to give the buildup more intensity. More dynamic angles are set on Porky to create an intimidating effect, like a low-angle shot. After a very promising and suspenseful buildup, the climax becomes more rapid.

To an unusual twist to end a great cartoon, Michael Maltese pays homage that channels a little Tex Avery - one of the founding fathers of the Warner Bros. legacy. The footage of Porky and Daffy looping around a tree goes out-of-action from an unseen projector, and the film strips break apart.

Daffy, who finds that he's apparently alone, steps into the empty background to tell his version of the ending. Daffy's arrogance and enthusiasm over his self-performance is brilliantly executed by animator Bobe Cannon who understands the essence of acting and performance.

At the height of his boasting, a hook yanks Daffy out of the screen; creating an off-screen crash. Porky walks into the empty background, holding Daffy by the scruff of his neck. Already defeated, Daffy continues the ending hopelessly as he pants: "He's pleading for mercy, I'm killin'..umph!". For an unusual ending, Maltese had observed the uniqueness and innovative gag-master Tex Avery, and Maltese pulls it off wonderfully to make the cartoon ending seem even less predictable.

For its standard running time, Jones and Maltese certainly have a lot to show for. They finally establish the character relationships between Porky and Daffy perfectly - which leads to some great, believable conflict. McGrew's layouts and Fleury's background, as often play an integral role in creating a unique style which fit with the character designs. It's a strange thought to take in that only that very year, Jones produced some all-time low shorts in his career and yet here; he is advancing the established Warner humour by pulling off gags Tex hadn't yet conceived. The film strip scene is a classic example of its innovative and edgy humour that fits well for an ending. Always an ambitious director, Jones pulls off some great techniques wonderfully which is a great ode to the working style of Frank Tashlin, even if he never went quite as far as that.

Rating: 4.5/5.


  1. One of the things Michael Barrier said was the difference between a Jones-Maltese cartoon and one by Chuck and Tedd Pierce was that Tedd's efforts tended to have five minutes of story for a six-minute cartoon, leaving Chuck to stretch out the remaining minute. That's not entirely fair to Pierce, but you can see what he's talking about here -- Jones would speed up his timing over the next few years, but Maltese gives him a cartoon that's full of gags, to where you never feel as if there's a dead spot, where Chuck's just using poses to bide his time until the next gag comes along.

    (The short also owes a little to Mike's story for "The Wabbit Who Came To Supper" in that in both of them, the comedy comes at first out of the frustration for Porky and Elmer in not being able to attack Daffy or Bugs, until the moment that the suddenly can. The difference is Jones can play out Daffy's angst while with Bugs, we don't want to see Elmer having the advantage over him, so in that cartoon Maltese and Freleng immediately shift to the chase and new tricks by the rabbit.)

  2. This is a great cartoon. It's insane how quickly Jones has changed since The Draft Horse, and he's already making out some of the best cartoons. Wow, it's been a while since your last post!

  3. These episodes were so funny and quick w/ one liners after another. Just classic. I love the team up of Daffy and Porky.

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