Mark Hamill — aka Luke Skywalker — confirmed a surprising bit of “Star Wars” trivia on Twitter on Monday: The series’ famous creator, George Lucas, wanted a “Looney Tunes” short to play before the first film.
Specifically, Lucas wanted the Warner Bros. short “Duck Dodgers in the 24th-and-a-Half Century,” a clip of which can be seen below, to accompany theatrical showings of the first Star Wars movie, now known by its subtitle “A New Hope,” which came out in 1977.
Starring Daffy Duck as a space hero, Porky Pig as his sidekick and Marvin the Martian as the antagonist, the seven-minute cartoon was originally released in 1953 and directed by animation legend Chuck Jones.
Hamill confirmed this obscure factoid after the Twitter account Toon In With Me shared images from the short and pointed out that it had been ranked fourth in “The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals,” a book published by cartoon historian Jerry Beck in 1994.
“George really did want this classic Daffy Duck cartoon shown before every screening of [Star Wars],” Hamill wrote. “It would’ve been an icebreaker to let the audience know what was coming was less than dead serious. I was disappointed when we couldn’t get the rights to it & it didn’t happen.”
Lucas’ interest in the short was previously confirmed in a 1983 interview between Jim Korkis, another animation historian, and Jones himself.
“Well, Lucas said that he saw ‘Duck Dodgers’ the year it came out, when he was eight years old and he said that it impressed him so much that he decided he wanted to make movies,” Jones told Korkis. “At least, that’s what he said in interviews at the time … Who really knows? Apparently, it had some influence. I know he loved the layouts done by [background artist] Maurice Noble. Who wouldn’t? They were breathtakingly beautiful.”
Lucas apparently even expressed desire that a “Duck Dodgers” sequel be shown before the 1980 theatrical release of “The Empire Strikes Back,” but the timeframe just wasn’t feasible, Jones said, since the theatrical animation department at Warner Bros. “had been closed for years.”
Jones did end up assembling members of his old team for an eventual sequel (“Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24th-and-a-half Century”) and it aired on television in 1980 as part of the CBS special “Daffy Duck’s Thanks-for-Giving Special.”
While Lucas’ desire for a Looney Tunes cartoon to accompany his films may seem unusual now that “Star Wars” has become such a big franchise, the original inspiration for the space saga came from the pulpy serials of Lucas’ youth — like “Buck Rogers” and “Flash Gordon” — which were relatively light and fantastical in tone.
An early draft poster for “A New Hope” even directly referenced these inspirations, listing Luke Skywalker as a modern version of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, and insisting that “Star Wars” would “make you feel like a kid again.”
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