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Duck Amuck is an incredibly postmodern Merrie Melodies short directed by Chuck Jones in 1953, in which Daffy Duck finds himself tormented by a sadistic animator. Seen as a large pencil or paintbrush coming into frame to make alterations, the animator screws around with the backgrounds, erases Daffy, paints him absurd colors, replaces his voice with random sound effects, redraws him as a bizarre four-legged creature, and so forth. The animator, who Daffy cannot see, is ultimately revealed to the audience as none other than Bugs Bunny.
The short was an audacious experiment -- which has since come to be regarded as one of the all-time great cartoon shorts (and has in fact been named the second greatest cartoon ever made). A couple years later Jones would direct a somewhat less successful spiritual sequel in Rabbit Rampage, this time with Bugs Bunny as the victim (in a bit of Laser-Guided Karma) and Elmer Fudd holding the pens and paintbrushes. It had its moments, though.
Bugs: (after the animator removes his tail) All right, you vandal, put that tail back! (the animator paints a horse's tail on Bugs) That is a horse's tail, my friend. (seething) It belongs on a horse. (the animator erases Bugs save for the tail, and paints him as a horse. Bugs is not amused, munching on a carrot) Okay, wise guy. My contract SPECIFICALLY says I am always to be drawn AS A RABBIT!
Duck Amuck was the basis of a Nintendo DS game of the same name, while the SNES game Bugs Bunny Rabbit Rampage is based off of Bugs' cartoon.
See it here.
Tropes associated with Duck Amuck include:
- Anvil on Head: Daffy's parachute is erased by the animator and replaced with an anvil, with predictable results.
- Art Shift: At one point Daffy asks for scenery, and the animator obliges by penciling an extremely crude town with stick drawings.
- Author Powers: Although Daffy continues to exercise his free will, the animator has godlike powers over the environment, backgrounds, sounds, and even Daffy's body.
- Bait and Switch Credits: The opening titles (borrowing fonts and music from Jones' earlier Bugs Bunny short Rabbit Hood) suggest a rather conventional, "Daffy as swashbuckling would-be hero" cartoon to follow. Wrong-o.
- Be Careful What You Wish For
(A pencil quickly draws a sketch of a crude cityscape)
- Berserk Button: Having Daffy make random animal noises instead of actually speaking probably wasn't a good idea...humorous as it was...
YEARRGHBBBLBLBLBLBBLB -- AND I'VE NEVER BEEN SO HUMILIATED IN ALL MY LIFE!!!'
- Big No: Daffy pushes away a premature 'The End' card, screaming 'NO! NO!' at the top of his lungs.
- Butt Monkey: Daffy has probably never been as big of a Butt Monkey in any of his other shorts as he is here, since the point of the short is essentially "let's see how angry we can make Daffy because it's funny". They succeeded.
- The Cameo: And it's a real dandy.
- Camera Screw: Towards the end, the frame shifts, leaving Daffy's top half on the bottom and bottom half on the top...inadvertently cloning Daffy. He then starts Talking to Himself.
(Daffy starts dancing, and then the frame shifts, with Daffy's top half in the bottom frame, and his bottom half on the top frame.)
- Cloning Blues
- In Rabbit Rampage, Bugs is outraged when two other Bugs are drawn in. "Alright, OUT YOU IMPOSTOR!"
- Closeup on Head: Inverted: A far-away Daffy wants a closeup, and he gets one...an extreme one.
(Daffy washes up on an island far in the background.)
- Genre Deconstruction: Word of God says that this was created in an attempt to take apart how cartoons work, as well as to explore whether or not Daffy would still be Daffy if he was changed beyond recognizability.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: Daffy tears the screen up, then tells the animator to "get this picture started!" The screen irises out into "The End," only for Daffy to yell "NO, NO!" and push it out of the way.
- Jackass Genie: Daffy should know better, but his demands to the animator are always going to be met in this fashion. A demand for "some color" gets him painted with loud colors and polka-dots, a demand for a "close up" zooms the camera in until all we can see are his (bloodshot!) eyes, a demand for "sound" causes machinegun noises to be inserted instead of music, and on and on it goes.
- Medium Aware: The basis of the humour, from beginning to end.
- Mind Screw: By the animator to Daffy.
- No Fourth Wall: The Fourth Wall is utterly demolished in this cartoon. The sad and sorry remains are flicked away when the animator (Bugs Bunny) addresses the audience.
- Non Sequitur Thud: Not quite played straight because it actually makes sense, but not within the context: Daffy quotes The Village Blacksmith after the artist turns his parachute into an anvil. See the YMMV page for more info.
- Not Quite Back to Normal: Daffy gets redrawn as some...thing that's quadrupedal, has a flower-like head, and a flagpole flying a flag with a screw and a ball for a tail. Daffy remarks he doesn't "quite feel like myself".
- Rage Against the Animator
- Record Needle Scratch: Inverted. When Daffy asks for sound, the first sound effect is a record starting to play (the quiet "static" would be dust and small scratches on a record, a sound anyone familiar with records would recognize)
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Just before - and for the duration of - his (first) tirade, his eyes turn red with anger.
- Screwy Squirrel: The artist, of course.
- Shout-Out: During the DS game's Cloning Blues segment, Daffy Shoryukens his clone.
- He also dons Mega Man-like armor during the Fake-Out Opening.
- "Diamond Mine, Mine!" protrays Daffy as the villain, likely referring to how the dragons from the Atari game Adventure resembled ducks. At least, resembled them according to one person.
- "There are...four lights..."
- In an episode of The Cleveland Show, Cleveland goes into his basement and meets that episode's writer and animator as they are creating it. At one point the animator adds a tail to Cleveland who, unlike Daffy and later Bugs, finds it amusing.
- Show Within a Show: An unusual example in which Daffy is aware he's in a cartoon but not aware that the cartoon is being drawn by Bugs Bunny.
- This is actually different in "Rabbit Rampage": Bugs not only knows that he is in a cartoon, but he also knows that Elmer Fudd is the animator... but we don't know that until the end.
- Sound Defect: What the animator does to Daffy in response to the above sign.
- Special Effect Failure: In-universe examples, of sounds (strumming a guitar and getting the sound of gunfire), backgrounds (which randomly blend into one another and/or disappear entirely), Iris Out (comes about halfway through the cartoon, after Daffy pleads with the animator to "get this picture started"), and Voice Acting (random animal/jungle noises replace Daffy's speech).
- Talking with Signs : "Sound please!"
- Visual Pun: When Daffy is redrawn as a weird creature, the flag on his tail has a picture of a screw and a ball (an illustration of the phrase "screwball").
- Wrong Parachute Gag: Daffy's parachute works just fine, but the animator erases the chute and replaces it with an anvil.
- Youtube Poop: Not only can it be considered the great-grandfather of YTP, it became one itself - namely, Daffy Makes a Poop by popular pooper Waxonator.