There's a secret to doing the best Droopy impression
Chuck Jones explains the madcap genius of Tex Avery cartoons — and how to do a Droopy impression.
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About halfway into "Daredevil Droopy," we see Droopy — the white cartoon dog with long black ears and a tuft of orange hair — swinging from a trapeze at a circus. On the other side of the swing's arc is Spike, the villain of the short, and we watch with worry as Spike feeds new trapeze swings into Droopy's open hands.
We're all just waiting for Spike to do something sinister and knock Droopy down from the trapeze.
The moment finally comes after a few swings, when Spike swaps out a trapeze bar with a lit stick of dynamite and prepares to feed it to the unsuspecting Droopy on his next swing back.
Only, Droopy would never fall into such a trap, and he doesn't swing back this time. Spike's eyes bulge as he realizes the dynamite is swinging back to him. He sets the dynamite down and swan-dives off the trapeze stand, only for the trampoline below to hurl him back up, arriving back on the trapeze stand just in time for the explosion.
That's how a Tex Avery cartoon hits you, blasting you into a delightful alternate universe where your expectations are always thrown for a loopedy-loop.
Beyond his Looney Tunes work, Avery's Droopy remains one of his most iconic and best-loved characters. It's even been hinted that Droopy was his favorite character, as Avery personally directed many of Droopy's shorts and he also used the character more than any other.
Animation fans know that Tex Avery is a legend who didn't just create Droopy, but also had a hand in the genesis of Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, and Bugs Bunny.
Avery was a mentor to Chuck Jones, the famed cartoonist and director behind Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies shorts with Bugs, Daffy, and other Avery creations. Jones told Emmy TV Legends what made Avery so influential to up-and-coming animators like him:
"He was unique, and he pursued animation in a way that nobody else did," Jones said, explaining that Avery's cartoon ethos was what made his work stand out: He found more joy in subverting audience expectations than embedding his iconic characters in their minds.
"He wasn't interested in character," Jones said. "There was only one character that he made in the whole time at MGM, that sustains, and that was, of course, little Droopy."
That means that instead of watching a cartoon and waiting to hear a catchphrase, Avery had his viewers themselves bug-eyed at the chaos he created onscreen. A post on Screening the Past said Avery considered a good gag to be a scene in which "a guy would no sooner get hit with an anvil than he takes one step over and falls in a well."
That's exactly the delightful nonsensical action you can see in "Daredevil Droopy" — and in most cherished Avery cartoons. And that's exactly the sort of thinking that Jones and other animators idolized in Avery's work.
In his interview, Jones smiled thinking of Droopy, clearly as a fan.
"I'll tell everybody a secret…" Jones said. "If you want to talk like Droopy, it's very simple." If you watch the video of the interview, you can watch Jones demonstrate, but we're going to narrate his actions to you here:
Lift your hands to your face, pinch your cheeks and pull the corners of your mouth toward your ears. Then repeat this iconic Droopy line in your best monotone voice:
"You know what, I'm the hero of this picture."
"That's how you do it!" Jones said. "Keep your voice flat and level, and you'll become him."
The one thing you can always expect in a Droopy cartoon, though, is that the little dog will emerge undefeated, no matter what contest arises or feats of strength expected. In Tex Avery's world, no harm can befall the long-faced anti-hero, who couldn't ever be bothered, even by the biggest explosions.
"People try to imitate Tex Avery by making everything violent, but every one of his pictures starts out smoothly and evenly," Jones said. "You knew there was going to be an explosion. But you didn't know when."