Duck Dodgers in a typical pose.

DUCK DODGERS IN THE 24½TH CENTURY

Original medium: Theatrical Animation
First Appeared: 1953
Released by:
Warner Bros.


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During the 1950s, one of the recurring themes in Warner Bros. cartoons was to cast Daffy Duck as the stalwart (but inept) hero in an adventure story genre, with Porky Pig as his …

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… subordinate, servile (but relatively competent) sidekick. They pursued this theme in westerns, private eye stories and others, but nowhere did the schtick achieve greater success than in the sci-fi mini-epic, Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, which was directed by Chuck Jones and released on July 25, 1953.

Tho his name is an obvious riff on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century A.D., Duck Dodgers eventually achieved fame that looks like it'll outlast Buck's. The original cartoon made such an impression on film maker George Lucas (who was 9 years old when it first appeared) that he ordered a brand-new, fully restored print for showing before his 1977 classic, Star Wars. Three years later, its first sequel, Duck Dodgers in the Return of the 24½th Century, was aired on TV. In addition to Jones directing the sequel as well as the original, Mel Blanc reprised his roles as all three major characters.

These included not just Daffy in the title role and Porky as his assistant, Eager Young Space Cadet, but also Marvin the Martian in what many consider to be the climax of his career. He played the adversary, a rival claimant to Planet X, where Duck and Eager hoped to replenish the world's supply of illudium phosdex, the shaving cream atom. But Blanc died before the second sequel, Marvin the Martian in the Third Dimension, made in 1996 for viewing at the Warner Bros. Movie World theme park. There, the voices were done by Joe Alaskey (whose other ducks include Plucky in Tiny Toon Adventures).

In the wake of Disney having spun off one of its existing properties, Buzz Lightyear, into an ongoing space adventure show for kids, Warner did the same with Duck Dodgers. His show debuted August 23, 2003, on Cartoon Network, where Dexter's Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls and other cartoons with sci-fi themes started. Alaskey continued to do the voice, with Michael Dorn (I.M. Weasel), Grey DeLisle (Frankie in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends), Frank Welker (Goddard in Jimmy Neutron), Maurice LaMarche (The Brain) and many others as his various supporting characters and villains.

With the TV show a continuing success, Duck Dodgers is now merchandised as a separate character, in toys, coloring books, video games etc. Success was a little slow in coming, but still not bad for a single part in a oneshot cartoon more than half a century old.

— DDM

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Text ©2007-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Warner Bros.