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The Essential Daffy Duck

Not Essential, But Still Worth A Look

DVD Review by Matthew Hunter

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Own it now on DVD


The Essential Daffy Duck is not essential. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad collection. It's just 99 percent material that's been released to DVD before.

The set is akin to what high-profile bands have been doing with their musical catalogs for years: they reissue their albums in better audio quality with some extras, and then put out "best-of" collections taking bits and pieces from them. Those 'best-of" collections often contain a never-before-released tidbit, be it a "lost" song, a raw rehearsal version of a popular one that sounded good, a cover of another band's song that improved on the original, or a brand new single. This leaves the fans in a bit of a predicament: questioning whether or not to buy a whole collection of material they already own just to experience the one or two items they don't.

Disc One contains Daffy Duck's debut cartoon, Tex Avery's classic "Porky's Duck Hunt" (1937), which has been surprisingly difficult for collectors to track down in the past. A VHS release in the late 1980's contained the short in its original black-and-white form, but its audio was time-compressed and its video was murky. A computer-colorized version aired on TV for years, and if you were lucky enough to record it you got the correct soundtrack, but sacrificed the original black-and-white format. It was slated to appear on the "Golden Collection" releases, but the restoration was complicated and it missed the boat. It turns up on this set as the only new-to-DVD classic short, and it looks and sounds fantastic. "Nasty Quacks"(Frank Tashlin, 1945) turns up well and is nicely restored, so if you passed on the recent Daffy Duck "Looney Tunes Superstars" disc, you can snag that short here. Other than those, it's all double-dips from the previous Golden Collections. All cartoons look great, and "Book Revue" (Bob Clampett, 1946) corrects the interlacing problem it had on the previous release. There's a good mix of cartoons here overall, and there's a good balance of wacky 1940's Daffy and egomaniacal 1950's Daffy, with directors Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Frank Tashlin and Chuck Jones well represented. However, the disc has only one cartoon by Friz Freleng ("A Star is Bored", 1956), and Robert McKimson is completely ignored. Freleng and McKimson both directed a ton of great Daffy cartoons, and more of them should have been included for this set to earn its "Essential" name.

Disc two's Daffy interpretations range from good to awful. "The Duxorcist" and "Night Of The Living Duck" from 1988 are great, but have appeared on previous collections and are included as part of "Daffy Duck's Quackbusters". "Superior Duck" (1996) is a beautifully animated Chuck Jones effort that gets bogged down by excessive cameos, poor voice acting and lack of plot (it's available as a bonus on the Daffy Duck's Quackbusters DVD). "Duck Dodgers, Jr." is a delightful segment from "Tiny Toon Adventures" directed by Kent Butterworth and designed by the great Maurice Noble. Despite some choppy animation, it's worth checking out if you don't already own the Tiny Toons DVDs. "Duck Dodgers in Attack of the Drones" is one of the ill-fated Larry Doyle shorts from 2004. To put it mildly, it sucks. "The Green Loontern" is one of the best episodes from the Duck Dodgers TV series, a fun story in which Daffy gets his costume mixed up with the Green Lantern's at the dry cleaners, leading him on an adventure with the Green Lantern Corps against Sinestro. "Daffy Duck For President" (2004) was a Chuck Jones project left unfinished at the time o f his death in 2002. Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone lovingly completed it, and it's a gem.

Two bonus TV specials are included as bonus material: "Daffy Duck's Thanks-For-Giving Special" and "Daffy Duck's Easter Special."

Nitpicks about double-dipping and neglected animators aside, "The Essential Daffy Duck" is a perfect gift for the person who doesn't own the cartoons already and wants a nice collection of the character's cartoons. For collectors, it's worth picking up for "Porky's Duck Hunt" and some recent cartoons you may not have seen before.

Click here to order THE ESSENTIAL DAFFY DUCK

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Textual content © 2011 by Matthew Hunter.
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