8 great reasons to watch Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century

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LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

To most casual viewers, only a handful of Warner Bros. shorts are recognizable by name. Yes, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies are incredibly well-remembered and critically acclaimed. But, if pressed, the average person would most likely only be able to specifically name very few. 

Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century is one of those few shorts that has firmly cemented itself within the collective consciousness. This is a cartoon anybody would recognize, whether they've seen it or not. 

Maybe you've seen it before. If that's the case, then it's time to revisit. Maybe this will be your first time watching. Either way, we hope you enjoy these eight great reasons to watch Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century!

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1. Maurice Noble's incredible design work

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For more than 60 years, Maurice Noble contributed production design, layouts, and background art to some of the most legendary and recognizable cartoons of all time. The first feature film he worked on was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He worked on Fantasia, What's Opera Doc? and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Here, in Duck Dodgers, Noble sets the stage for the sci-fi quest, designing distinctive sets like the City of the Future and Planet X.

2. Original musical score by Carl Stalling

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During Stalling's tenure at Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, the composer typically averaged one complete score per week. Oh, by the way, that tenure lasted 22 years. Even within the massive portfolio of his Looney oeuvre, Stalling's Duck Dodgers score stands out. The galactic tone rockets us into space as Stalling quotes Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" and "Egyptian Barn Dance," recontextualizing the melodies as sci-fi soundtrack greatness.

3. Melodies Cinematic Universe?

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The chemical compound that Duck Dodgers is sent to procure, and the reason for the whole story, is called Illudium Phosdex. Now, viewers with a sharp memory will recall that Marvin the Martian uses the similarly-named Illudium Q-36 in Hare-Way to the Stars. While the naming convention may be a coincidence, we instead choose to believe it as proof that the two cartoons share a universe. Typically, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies give us a hard reset after each cartoon, and characters are re-introduced with no knowledge of their previous encounters. However, Illudium could prove that Duck Dodgers and Lighter Than Hare share a timeline!

4. Pigs in Space

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First and foremost, look at Porky's outfit. It's adorable, and he doesn't usually dress like that. If that doesn't hook you, here's this: Porky knows he's in a cartoon. In Chuck Jones' own words, "I always felt that Porky Pig was the subtlest of all the characters because he was consciously playing a part. He's obviously putting Daffy on, but it's a very subtle thing. In Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century, he was playing the space cadet, but he was aware that he was playing it. He was like I would be in a class play — in which the hero really thought he was the character."

5. Sci-Fi Lineage

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In addition to being a memorable, entertaining cartoon, Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century is an important piece of science fiction history. According to George Lucas himself, when the Star Wars filmmaker was 8, seeing this short in theaters inspired him to make his own movies. Steven Spielberg, too, must have been impressed, as he included Duck Dodgers in a scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

6. Cold War Interpretation

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While Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century can be viewed as straightforward entertainment, taking a look back at it through the lens of history leads to some interesting interpretations. For instance, the toon can be "read" as a stand-in for the then-escalating arms race with the Soviet Union. A faceless foe from a "red" planet tries to out-gun our American hero, only to have the battle climax in mutually-assured destruction. But again, maybe it's just a silly duck in a rocket.

7. Passionate Parody

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Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century follows the rules of all great parodies. It starts from a place of love, paying clear homage to Buck Rogers before upending not just that franchise, but space heroes in general. There's clearly no malice or disrespect toward sci-fi. This is a short made by creatives who were fans of the genre, and it shows. 

8. Rarely Hare-less

LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

Is Duck Dodgers the best Warner Bros. short that doesn't feature Bugs Bunny? While that is completely open to taste (let us know what you think in the comments below), it is a fact that this is the first cartoon to feature Marvin the Martian without his (least) favorite foil. Duck Dodgers is the only Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies short produced during the Golden Age that features Marvin but not Bugs Bunny!

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Steve0684 10 months ago
This was when Chuck Jones and his unit was at their best.
frances3agape 11 months ago
One of their BEST, many GENIUS cartoons
daDoctah 11 months ago
Nobody but Chuck Jones could have gotten away with three distinct variations on the same gag is such rapid succession: (1) Marvin fires his disintegrating pistol at Daffy, who breaks the fourth wall to let us know he's wearing his disintegration-proof vest, only for Daffy -- but not his vest -- to disintegrate; (2) Porky just happens to have handy a "reintegrating pistol" that restores "his Heroship, sir", intact but a bit disoriented; and (3) Daffy counters by firing his *own* disintegrating pistol ("and brother, when it disintegrates, it disintegrates!") and the pistol itself disintegrates in Daffy's hand.

This short also has such top-tier moments as Daffy's elaborate diagram on how to get to Planet X ("33,600 turbo miles due up"?) and Porky offering Marvin a gift-wrapped bomb saying "happy b-b-birthday, you thing from another world, you". Even the backgrounds: the first thing we see upon arrival at Planet X is a huge tree in the shape of the letter X.
Stoney 11 months ago
Definitely a classic. Marvin the Martian is my favorite Looney Tunes character, so any cartoon with him is awesome in my book.
cperrynaples 11 months ago
In the immortal words of Porky: "B-b-big deal!"
DocForbin 11 months ago
Let's not forget that there was the Duck Dodgers series that aired on Cartoon Network and later on Boomerang in the early 2000s.
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