Daffy Duck is an animated cartoon character created by Warner Bros.
Along with Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck is one of the most famous and recognizable cartoon characters on television.
Styled as an anthropomorphic black-feathered duck whose explosive temperament and insatiable ego lead him into an endless series of comic misadventures.
Originally, Daffy look exactly like a small duck would, but as his personality changed, he, like most Looney Tunes, became more of a humanoid animal than anything growing to roughly four feet. However he’s always been a duck with an orange bill and completely black feathers, save for a ring of white feathers around his neck.
Daffy’s slobbery, exaggerated lisp was developed over time, and it is barely noticeable in the early cartoons. In Daffy Duck & Egghead, Daffy does not lisp at all except in the separately drawn set-piece of Daffy singing “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down” in which just a slight lisp can be heard.
Daffy first appeared in director Tex Avery’s and animator Bob Clampett’s short Porky’s Duck Hunt (1937). In his early days he was a hyperactive, at times silly, character whose madcap capers were fueled by an unpredictable personality. His frequent sidekick was the bashful and stammering Porky Pig. Daffy’s own manner of expression included a prominent lisp often accompanied by the expelling of saliva.
The origin of Daffy’s voice, with its lateral lisp, is a matter of some debate. One often-repeated “official” story is that it was modeled after producer Leon Schlesinger’s tendency to lisp. However, in Mel Blanc’s autobiography, That’s Not All Folks!, he contradicts that conventional belief, writing, “It seemed to me that such an extended mandible would hinder his speech, particularly on words containing an s sound. Thus ‘despicable’ became ‘desth-picable.'”
Daffy established his status by jumping into the water, hopping around, and yelling, “Woo-hoo!” Animator Bob Clampett immediately seized upon the Daffy Duck character and cast him in a series of cartoons in the 1930s and 1940s.
Daffy would also feature in several war-themed shorts during World War II, remaining true to his unbridled nature. He battles a Nazi goat intent on eating Daffy’s scrap metal in Scrap Happy Daffy (1943), hits Adolf Hitler’s head with a giant mallet in Daffy the Commando (1943) and outwits Hitler, Goebbels and Goering in Plane Daffy (1944).
By the 1950s Daffy was struggling to reclaim the spotlight from Bugs Bunny, who had become the leading Warner Brothers character. Led by Chuck Jones, the directors of this era brought out a darker side of Daffy’s personality, showing him as desperately self-glorifying and consumed by jealousy—though also more introspective.Perhaps the defining moment for this interpretation was Jones’s Duck Amuck (1953), in which an omnipotent animator torments Daffy by shuffling him between quickly changing backgrounds, dropping props in and out of the scene, and even briefly erasing him. The culprit turns out to be none other than Bugs Bunny himself.
Several cartoons place him in parodies of popular movies and radio serials. For example, “Drip-Along Daffy” throws Daffy into a Western, while “Robin Hood Daffy” (1958) casts the duck in the role of the legendary outlaw Robin Hood. In “Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century” (1953), a parody of Buck Rogers, Daffy trades bullets with Marvin the Martian, with Porky Pig retaining the role of Daffy’s sidekick. Other parodies were Daffy in “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery” (1946) as Duck Twacy (Dick Tracy) by Bob Clampett and as “Stupor Duck” (Superman of DC Comics, now a WB property himself) by Robert McKimson.
When Warner Bros. revived Daffy and the rest of the classic Looney Tunes cast in modern interpretations, Chuck Jones’ greedy, selfish, neurotic, sassy, immature and spotlight-hungry of Daffy is commonly used, completely ignoring the “evil Daffy” traits exhibited in the mid-1960s.
Daffy appears in later cartoons, like a piano duel with his Disney counterpart and rival Donald Duck in the 1988 Disney film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, as both are playing “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2”.
Daffy starred in 130 shorts in the golden age, making him the third-most frequent character in the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons, behind Bugs Bunny’s 167 appearances and Porky Pig’s 153 appearances. Virtually every Warner Bros. cartoon director put his own spin on the Daffy Duck character. Directors such as Bob Clampett, Robert McKimson, and Chuck Jones are notable examples of the character.
Daffy was ranked #14 on TV Guide’s list of Top 50 best cartoon characters of all time and was featured on one of the issue’s four covers with Porky Pig and the Powerpuff Girls, all of which are WarnerMedia-owned characters.
Daffy appears in more than 15% of the list of 50 Greatest Cartoons. And is in two of the top 5. He also has more appearances on the list than any other character with 9 appearances.
- “Duck Amuck”
- “Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century”
- “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery”
- “Rabbit Seasoning”
- “The Scarlet Pumpernickel”
- “You Ought to be in Pictures”
- “Ali Baba Bunny”
- “Book Revue”
- “A Corny Concerto”