As a child, I idolized Chuck Jones. More than anyone else, he influenced my early love of animation, and is one of the people who contributed the most to shaping both my appreciation for comedy and my sense of humor. His work had a profound effect on me, and continues to be a source of inspiration.
Today would have been his 100th birthday, and I think there's no better way to celebrate his life and legacy than to take a moment to share my favorite of Jones' cartoons. It's almost impossible to choose one: The Hunting Trilogy consists of three masterpieces, his adaptations of How The Grinch Stole Christmas and The Dot and the Line are both amazing, and Jones himself considered What's Opera Doc? to be his finest effort. And while they're all great, I wouldn't call any of them my favorite.
Because my favorite Chuck Jones cartoon, without question, is Duck Amuck.
Duck Amuck is nothing short of brilliant, for far too many reasons to list here. If you aren't familiar with it, it features Daffy Duck, fully aware that he's starring in a cartoon, being tortured by a seemingly sadistic (and unseen) animator who constantly changes his location, clothes, voice, and even completely alters his physical appearance and shape, much to Daffy's chagrin:
Frustrated but undeterred, Daffy does his best to make sure his one man show goes on, until the scenery is literally collapsing on him. At this point he finally snaps, and demands to know the identity of his tormenter (a reveal I won't spoil for you if you've not seen it). Again, the cartoon is nothing short of brilliant, partially because it was Jones showing viewers that animation could produce characters with a recognizable personality, independent of their physical appearance and voice. Said Jones:
"What I want to say is that Daffy can live and struggle on in an empty screen, without setting and without sound, just as well as with a lot of arbitrary props. He remains Daffy."
Duck Amuck is one of the three Chuck Jones cartoons deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress (along with What's Opera Doc? and One Froggy Evening), and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. It's influenced many creators over the years, from Paul Dini to Matt Groening, and is the singular inspiration for The Coyote Gospel, the fifth issue of Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man, a story considered by many fans to be amongst his finest work.
If it's been a while since you've watched it, the full cartoon is below. And if, by chance, you've never seen it, I can't recommend it enough.
Happy Birthday, Chuck Jones. Thanks for everything.
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