Over at Wonders in the Dark today, I’ve posted another entry in the sci-fi countdown, and this one was a particular joy to revisit. At #47, it’s Daffy Duck’s bravura turn as the daring do-er of the future skies in that masterful Chuck Jones joint, Duck Dodgers of the 24 1/2th Century (1953):
1953 also saw Daffy, along with his clever, “eager young space cadet” Porky, embark upon a trip into a fantastical future in Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century. An ingenious, side-splitting parody of the popular Buck Rogers series of film/television/radio serials/comic strips/novellas, Duck Dodgers presented Daffy with perhaps the best showcase for his hilariously egotistical persona, as he battles Marvin the Martian to stake a claim to the far-off Planet X in the name of the Earth. Planet X, by the by, is immensely vital to the future of our planet because, as the Secretary of the Stratosphere, Dr. I.Q. Hi, informs Dodgers, “[t]he world’s supply of Illudium Phosdex, the shaving cream atom, is alarmingly low,” and God forbid our Earth males go about with beard burn.
From the start, Jones and his crew set up a truly wondrous feast for the eyes. The colorful background designs, laid out by the ever-talented Maurice Noble, imagine a future with the typical flying cars and ray guns (those seemingly inspired directly by Buck Rogers, though these Acme-branded versions don’t exactly work the way they should, to uproarious effect). But they also include some cleverly atypical touches that, as Jones recalls in his book Chuck Amuck, are a hallmark of Noble’s particular brand of genius: “Maurice was largely responsible for the grand opening sequences of this film, plus ideas such as the enormous scanning eye, the vaporizers, and the wonderfully exact rocket.” (Sidebar: do the vaporizers remind anyone else of the transporters in Star Trek?) The character designs also feed into the whimsical futuristic feel—based on this animated short, we can safely assume that everyone in the 24 1/2th century must wear some kind of ridiculous headpiece in order to function in that modern society (and yet, Daffy still doesn’t have to wear pants in public. Cartoon fashion logic).
You can read the rest of this piece at Wonders, and as always, be sure to check back daily to read all of the truly great contributions to this year’s countdown event.