It's not hard to see why Daffy is so appealing. His sleek, angular design allows for him to pull off any sort of insanity while sporting a line of action so fluid the human eyeball has trouble registering it immediately. Check him out scat singing with Little Red Riding Hood in Book Revue (by Bob Clampett c. 1946), sword fighting with Agnus' father in Nasty Quacks (by Frank Tashlin c. 1945), scaring Porky with a fake-schitzophrenic routine in The Prize Pest (by Robert McKImson c. 1951), or diving into a cave full of gold coins in Ali Baba Bunny (by Chuck Jones c. 1957) along with many others and see it for yourself.
However, there is something just below the surface that really makes Daffy the great character that he is. It's his layered personality. Yes, dare I say it, Daffy is about as complex or even moreso than any anime character you could throw at me. ;P You see, Daffy is NOT just the looney duck who suddenly changed into the greedy duck. No, in actual fact, he is both of them at once and more.
Basically, Daffy is based on WB toons co-founder and producer Leon Schlesinger. Leon had a thick lisp which many of the artists and gag writers at the studio found hilarious. But, equally hilarious was Leon's penchant to make himself seem more important than he actually was. For this reason he'd use the profits from the cartooons (which he should have been reinvesting back into the studio) in order to support his luxuriant lifestyle of going to as many expensive Hollywood nightclubs as he possibly could just so he could be near celebrities and hope to be mistaken for one. He also owned a little dinky speedboat that he referred to as his 'yacht' as though calling it that would fool someone into thinking he's a rich bigshot.
This is the very personality quirk they imbued into Daffy. He needed to build himself up and even overcompensate in order to prove to the world (or the other character with him) that he's worth something. It's certainly much more evident in the '50's cartoons such as The Scarlet Pumpernickel (by Chuck Jones c. 1950) or Show Biz Bugs (by Friz Freleng c. 1957) but it was there early on in his wacky days as well. Yes, You Ought To Be In Pictures (by Friz Freleng c. 1940) is the example most often sited so I won't site it here. The one I'm talking about is even earlier than that: Daffy Duck in Hollywood (by Tex Avery c. 1938). Here Daffy actually has the nerve to barge into producer I. M. Stupendous' office and state, "Say, fella! Do you need a good duck actor??" He'd make a similar entrance into a producer's office in A Star is Bored (by Friz Freleng c. 1956) in which he says "Okay, boss, hang up. A star is born and that star is me." He's always had the kahone`s to sell himself big no matter what the situation.
Here, let's watch a bit of Daffy Duck in action. This was made during his looney days during the years of WWII. Note the line of action I mentioned before. By the way, this cartoon also marked Frank Tashlin's triumphant return as a director of WB cartoons as well as the animation debut of Art Davis at WB. (He was brought over by Tashlin from the Columbia Screen Gems studio). I now present Scrap Happy Daffy(by Frank Tashlin c. 1943).
The song near the end points out yet another important aspect of Daffy's personality. He never gives up. Even if the battle sems or is unwinable, Daffy is still in there trying yet one more time. This is seen very clearly in what is now called the "hunters trilogy". These are the cartoons where Daffy and Bugs try to goad Elmer Fudd into shooting each other.
In recent interviews, John (Ren & Stimpy) Kricfalusi has made negative statements towards this series. He does have preference for the earlier Daffy which is understandable. Daffy's filmography from the 1940's is quite awe-inspiring. However, the part where John 's logic fails is when he says "Daffy is not stupid enough to be out-witted by Bugs Bunny all the time. Chuck Jones (the director) is just picking on Daffy." Y'see, not everyone in the history of mankind that has ever been outsmarted had it done because they were stupid. Even the most intelligent college professor has been talked into buying a lemony used car once or twice.
So too, Bugs Bunny does not merely outsmart stupid characters. He has MUCH more skill than that. The reason Bugs wins so many of his battles is because he has an uncanny ability to size up his opponent and find the weakness instantly. That's why Bugs can afford to be so smug, he's figured out his gameplan to victory already. All that's left for him is to carry it out in almost a paint-by-numbers fashion. This is of course hilariously offset by his opponent's staunch determination to "get that wabbit". The reason Bugs has so much fun with Elmer is not just because he's stupid. I mean, he certainly is that, but he's also insecure and overwhelmed by everything. That's usually what trips him up. His stupidity only keeps him blind to the fact that Bugs is uncatchable.
Bugs sees in Daffy yet another aspect of his personality when sizing him up: Daffy impulsively acts before he thinks. This doesn't make Daffy stupid (as John K. says), it merely makes him easier to handle for Bugs. That's why Daffy gets tripped up all the time in the Duck Season/Rabbit Season word play. Daffy just foolishly lets the words spill out of his mouth without listening to what they're saying. Not until it's too late that is. In fact, really, one of the most hilarious aspects of the hunter's trilogy is that Daffy indeed is smart enough to know what's going on in this situation. He sees the strategy that Bugs is using, knows many good ways to counter his strategy, but always manages to fail in his attempts to do just that and is quite pissed off about that. You can see Daffy's face communicate that right after every gunshot to his beak.
Go ahead and check that out in this third installment of the hunter's trilogy: Duck! Rabbit, Duck! (by Chuck Jones c. 1953)
Let's go over the list of Daffy's personality quirks:
1. Inflated ego of himself.
2. Ego developed because of insecurities over counting for nothing.
3. Impulsively acts before thinking.
4. Never gives up.
Watch for these traits in every Daffy Duck cartoon you see from now on. Also, feel free to report any other personality traits you find into the comments section. Then remind me of how Daffy Duck is the single greatest cartoon character ever created (with Bugs Bunny running a close 2nd of course).
I feel I should also add here that Daffy is indeed NOT a racist negro stereotype. Anyone who tells you that (be it either online or anywhere else) is an uninformed moron. The only "evidence" they have to back up this claim is their own paranoid speculation. "Oh, but look at the black feathers" they'd say. With that logic, Johnny Cash was a negro simply because he wore black clothes all the time.
When you read anything online (including anything on this blog) don't believe it outright. Do some research and use your critical thinking skills. That's the only way to find the truth.