Judge Victor Valdivia is dethpicable. That's way worse than just being despicable.
"If this isn't the greatest cartoon collection yet, then I'm not Daffy Duck!"—Not Daffy Duck
Like the previous The Essential Bugs Bunny compilation, The Essential Daffy Duck compiles various classic shorts and longer cartoons featuring one specific Looney Tunes character. Also like that previous DVD release, the title Essential is way too loosely used; there are indeed some classic cartoons here, but there is also a lot of forgettable dreck that isn't essential or even watchable. It does have a higher gold-to-dross ratio than the Bugs Bunny release, so there's that, but this is still not the best introduction to the character that it could have been.
Here are the cartoons compiled on two discs:
The good news is most of the cartoons on Disc One are worthy of being labeled "essential." Though all but one have been released on previous DVDs (mostly the Golden Collection sets), these are well-chosen. Any Daffy Duck fan will agree that "Duck Amuck," "Robin Hood Daffy," "Deduce You Say," and "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" belong on any best-of collection. There are also some lesser but still amusing shorts, such as "Nasty Quacks" and "Book Revue," that have some witty lines and clever jokes. Mostly, you'll marvel at the talents of directors like Chuck Jones, Frank Tashlin, and Bob Clampett, who made the best cartoons seen here. You'll also admire the abilities of voice actor Mel Blanc, who turns Daffy into possibly the most complex character in the Looney Tunes library. Alternating between selfish egotism and desperate insecurity, Daffy changed and evolved far more than any other Looney Tunes character, even Bugs Bunny. This set also marks the DVD debut of "Porky's Duck Hunt," a significant cartoon in many ways. Not only is it the first Daffy Duck cartoon, it's also one of the best, featuring some great jokes and unassailable direction by animation legend Tex Avery, in one of the few Daffy Duck cartoons he would direct. You might quibble with a missing cartoon or two ("Draftee Daffy" and "Drip-Along Daffy" would have made great additions) but for the most part it's hard to fault this disc.
It's Disc Two that's problematic. Once again, as with The Essential Bugs Bunny, Warner Bros. has chosen to use this package to fob off some third-rate content that wouldn't fit on any other DVD collection. The cartoons on this disc all date from the 1970s onward, hardly a golden time for Looney Tunes. The Chuck Jones-directed "Superior Duck" has some amusing jokes, while "Duck Dodgers in Attack of the Drones" is easily the funniest cartoon on this disc. Written and directed by Futurama veterans Rich Moore and Eric Kaplan, it pays tribute to the character's history while also inserting some sly pop-culture references. The remaining cartoons on the disc, unfortunately, are much less enjoyable. They range from mediocre to interminable, and none of them would be considered essential under any circumstances. Warner Bros. should have used this disc to add more classic shorts rather than pile on these clinkers. Also included as bonus features are two lengthy TV specials from 1980, Daffy Duck's Easter Special and Daffy Duck's Thanks-For-Giving Special, neither of which is significant. Another extra cartoon is a minor short from 2004, "Daffy Duck for President," that's no more memorable. The disc is rounded out with a 20-minute featurette that's just a bunch of animation clips stitched together with smirky narration. At least the video and audio look decent, although much of the re-mastering was done for these cartoons' earlier DVD releases.
Ultimately, Warner Bros. has once again dropped the ball. A two-disc set of nothing but classic Daffy Duck cartoons would have been a real keeper, especially if it included more unsung gems like "Porky's Duck Hunt." Instead, just as with the Bugs Bunny release, fans get one decent disc and one that's mostly dispensable, resulting in a collection that's hardly essential. Looney Tunes fans deserve better than this.
Guilty of not living up to its billing.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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