Taking us back to a time when Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Space Jam were blowing our tiny little minds with their magical blend of live-action and animation, Uli Meyer’s (who worked on both of those films) 1998 short The Duck is a 9-minute proof-of-concept film in the style of those aforementioned features. The tale of ‘a real duck that turns into a cartoon and decides to become a super hero’ Meyer’s film is not only a nostalgic road-trip to a somewhat forgotten land, but also a welcome reminder that the proof-of-concept short isn’t just restricted to glossy Sci-Fi stories.
When it comes to seminal films in your own personal cinematic history, for me Who Framed Roger Rabbit is up there with some of the more recognisable contemporary classics (The Godfather, Jaws, etc) in terms of impact and memorability. Aged just 10 when I first experienced it at the cinema, it’s a film I’ve never forgotten and a film that still brings a huge, cartoonish smile to my face even now, almost 30-years later.
A little rough around the edges (as you would expect with a proof-of-concept film) and with Meyer admitting himself it’s “way too long”, The Duck was arguably a failure in terms of it being made as a pitch for a feature (although the director reveals they did come “very close to making it”). Yet despite the feature never being made, for those of us that fell in love with dark, surprising look and feel of Robert Zemeckis’ 80’s feature, this short has the one-liners (“What the duck!”), cartoon violence (pie in the face anyone?) and even a Jessica Rabbit styled moll that enchanted us in that original film.
With nostalgia currently playing a huge role in both film and television, it’s nice to get a retro-tinged kick from something that isn’t a reboot or rehash. Coming-back from the dead when Meyer discovered a 35mm negative print buried in his cupboard and got it scanned at Cinelabs in the UK, The Duck feels perfectly at home online where fans can ‘geek-out’ and reminisce over everything they loved about those original features. The world could do with some more zany cartoon adventures like this at the moment!