Thursday, 1 December 2011

Lucky Ducky

If someone were to compile a list of the top five most famous gags by Tex Avery at MGM, this would have to be in there. It’s from ‘Lucky Ducky’ (1948).

One of my other favourite gags in this cartoon is a visual pun that comes out of nowhere. Other directors had lame visual puns (can anyone say “Famous Studios”?). Avery either set up a visual pun to make fun of it, or he surprised the audience by interrupting the action with one, then carrying on. That’s what he does in this cartoon.

When the sign said “School Crossing,” it meant it.

Something else remarkable is the fact that Avery created Daffy Duck in a hunting picture. Here, he has an entirely different smarty-pants duck in a hunting picture, one you certainly wouldn’t mistake for Daffy. The size of the character and lack of dialogue in ‘Lucky Ducky’ help but the gags and pace of the cartoon are quite different than ‘Porky’s Duck Hunt’ (though I miss the singing fish in this one).

The animators in this cartoon are a transitional group—Walt Clinton and Grant Simmons worked on Avery’s later cartoons while Preston Blair worked on the early ones. They’re joined by Louis Schmitt. Let Kevin Langley tell you more about it by clicking on his name.


  1. The "Technicolor Ends Here" gag is a close cousin to the one Avery did a few years earlier in "Northwest Hounded Police", where the wolf runs past the sprocket holes before running into the theater.

    The key to the visual pun gags is to both in the timing and the animation. Unlike Avery, Famous Studio's problems usually was that the animation was formula (Avery's schoolhouse trots across the scene funny; Famous would have just used a stock walk for the building), while the gag also just has to be there long enough for it to register with the audience before going on to the next bit -- hold it too long and you give the viewers too much time to think about how bad the pun is.

    (Famous could do that too if the desire was there -- in "Voice of the Turkey" the Arnold Stang-voiced bird rising in full tuxedo after the Sid Raymond farmer talks about there being "nothing like a well-dressed turkey" is an obvious punny gag. But it works because of the timing -- the lid is slammed down immediately after Stang announces himself -- and the animation, even while a repeat of Avery's sprocket gag earlier in the cartoon doesn't come across nearly as well as the original because it's held too long).

  2. The duck is definitely NOT ANOTHER MGM duckling - the one in Tom and Jerry's and later HB TV cartoons - and does a mean conga dance at the end as the iris stops and goes to close. I did remember the use of the Technicolor ends here gag being a reused one, JL, good spotting that one.

  3. To set the record straight, the Tom and Jerry duckling *was* treated as the same in MGM studio publicity; posters call him "Lucky Ducky" right through to the end. In THE DUCK DOCTOR, the TNJ duck adopts the Avery duck's colors, too—though, oddly, only for that one cartoon.
    The name "Little Quacker" came from the first TNJ cartoon with the duck—but only seems to have been treated as his given name in the comics.