Countless children grew up watching the antics of the goofy character Daffy Duck and his nemesis, the hunter Elmer Fudd in 2D animated cartoons from Warner Bros. Daffy Duck, friend and sometimes rival of Bugs Bunny, made his cartoon debut in the 1930s, and became quite the star in the “Looney Tunes” series, appearing in more than 130 animated shorts.
Daffy’s appearance did not change much over the past several decades. Then, suddenly, he underwent a radical animated makeover for his most recent appearances. With a new CGI look, Daffy Duck is appearing in stereo 3D.
Not long ago, the cartoon short “Daffy’s Rhapsody” became the second of a new series of three original 3D theatrical cartoons from Warner Bros. Animation designed to make their debut in theaters, attached to feature film releases from Warner Bros. Pictures.
In this brand-new Looney Tunes escapade, a relaxing evening at the theater turns into hunting season as Elmer Fudd is surprised by the unexpected appearance of his perpetual and ever-elusive target, Daffy Duck, on the stage. As Elmer gives chase, Daffy cleverly evades him while regaling the audience with a song that illustrates his plight—how hunters will never leave him alone.
The piece features the voice of the late, great Mel Blanc in Daffy’s song, which the industry icon recorded in the 1950s, and around which a full story and animation were newly created. Says director Matthew O’Callaghan, “We were given this amazing gift for the project; a classic vocal performance by the legendary Mel Blanc. Being tasked with the objective to come up with an original story that would complement the lyrics and spirit of the song in order to bring it all to life was an honor and a thrill.”
“‘Daffy’s Rhapsody’ is the first representation of Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd in CG and 3D,” O’Callaghan continues. “It was an enormous challenge, and expectations were high when it came to these characters.”
Veteran voice actor Billy West provides the vocals for Elmer Fudd. It’s the third time West has voiced the beloved—and befuddled—Fudd on the big screen, following the comedy features Space Jam and Looney Tunes: Back in Action. It’s a particularly nuanced effort, he says, while simultaneously easing into it, “because there are a couple of phases to his voice. He goes from zero to 80. First, there’s that creaky, almost childlike tone he uses for ‘Shhhhh…be vewy, vewy quiet, we’re hunting wabbits.’ Then, there’s the forceful, ‘Awight, come outta there or I’ll bwast you.’”
West considers it a privilege to be in a sense working alongside Blanc, whom he very much admires and met briefly as a fan in the early 1980s, approximately 30 years before their unique theatrical partnership. “I think it’s a brilliant idea to take this song, update it, and preserve this beautiful work by letting the world hear it again. Just to be part of this, with the great Mel Blanc, makes me proud more than almost anything else,” he says.
This latest skirmish in the never-ending battle between hapless hunter Fudd and his too-quick quarry, “Daffy’s Rhapsody” should delight kids while offering a new take on the classic cartoon characters that have entertained fans for generations.
Last year, the first short in the current series, “I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat,” was released in theaters with the feature film Happy Feet Two. It starred another well-known pair of comic antagonists, Sylvester and Tweety Bird, in a fresh story directed by Matthew O’Callaghan. Upcoming will be another misadventure for the Road Runner and his tireless pursuer Wile E. Coyote, also directed by O’Callaghan.
In recent years, moviegoers have enjoyed similar screenings of these favorite cartoon characters as Warner Bros. Animation unveiled its first trio of theatrical shorts—“Coyote Falls,” “Fur of Flying” and “Rabid Rider”—alongside selected feature films. Together, these releases are part of an ongoing effort to honor the artistry that earned the Looney Tunes an indelible global identity, while introducing them to new audiences in the same way that they were originally embraced.
“Everyone at Warner Bros. Animation grew up loving the Looney Tunes characters, and it has been both a great honor and an enormous challenge to continue the legacy of these animation icons and introduce them to a new generation of fans,” states Sam Register, Executive Vice President, Creative Affairs, Warner Bros. Animation, who also serves as executive producer of “Daffy’s Rhapsody.”
“Daffy’s Rhapsody” debuted in theaters with the 3D family adventure film Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, from New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures. It was presented in 3D and IMAX wherever the film screened in those formats, as well as in standard 2D.
THE LOONEY TUNES LEGACY
In 2010, Warner Bros. Animation began “re-animating” the Looney Tunes brand by producing a trio of computer-generated animated theatrical cartoons, all of which featured Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. The first of these shorts, “Coyote Falls,” was nominated for an Annie Award for Best Animated Short Subject and earned a place on the Oscar short list.
Following that, longtime rivals Sylvester and Tweety Bird tangled anew in “I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat,” which debuted in theaters alongside the feature Happy Feet Two in 2011.
Releasing its first cartoon in 1930, Warner Bros. created its Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies animated shorts in the hopes of leading the way in “talk-ink” pictures, following the trail blazed by the studio in utilizing sound in motion pictures with The Jazz Singer.
Marrying popular music to animated visuals, these landmark cartoons not only created a workshop of talented animators—including Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett and others—but soon began to feature a stable of beloved characters. Porky Pig was the first character to appear, followed shortly thereafter by Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Sylvester & Tweety and Foghorn Leghorn (all voiced by Mel Blanc), as well as Wile E. Coyote & the Road Runner.
When Mel Blanc died in 1989, he was the holder of several records in the animated field, providing more voices and more characters in more cartoons than any other actor, and providing voices for his original characters longer than any other in his field (Daffy Duck for 52 years and Bugs Bunny for 49). During this time, Warner Bros. animated shorts garnered 16 Oscar statuettes, among countless nominations. Animation is an art form the world over, but the cartoon short is about as classic and all-American as the comic book.
Acclaimed director and animator Matthew O’Callaghan directed “Daffy’s Rhapsody” as well as an untitled Coyote & Road Runner short, to be released later this year. In 2010, O’Callaghan directed the three original 3D theatrical cartoons that introduced Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner to a whole new generation of fans. He did so using his experience with quality character animation combined with computer graphics that put him in the director’s seat to bring a beloved 2D Disney cast into the CG world in the all-CG feature length Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas.
O’Callaghan eventually turned up at Warner Bros. Animation to work with another pair of animated icons: Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. Previously only seen in the traditional 2D hand-drawn format, the beloved duo now burst from the screen in state-of-the-art CG animation, rendered in stereoscopic, cutting-edge 3D.