Every Funny Joke in Rocket Squad

Rocket Squad is a 1956 animated short film in the Looney Tunes series directed by Chuck Jones, and it is widely regarded as one of his greatest shits. The main critique from these “Haters” is that it isn’t funny, and today we will explore their claims by counting and talking about the jokes in this cartoon. So strap yourself to a rocket and let’s la cooking!

Daffy Duck and Porky Pig enjoying a healthy cigarette
Daffy Duck and Porky Pig enjoying a healthy cigarette

As the cartoon begins, text proclaims that “The story you are about to see is true. The drawings have been changed to protect the innocent.” This is, of course, a joke. A chuckleworthy joke too because this is a cartoon set in space, and thus nothing in it could be  true. We are introduced to the setting (a parody of 50s police procedurals such as “Racket Squad”), featuring Daffy Duck and Porky Pig as “Space Cops.” The opening shot of the cartoon features Daffy Duck and Porky Pig flying in their Space Cop Car while dryly delivering  some exposition. We get our second funny joke as Daffy Duck proclaims his name to be “Monday,” his partner’s name to be “Tuesday” (“he always follows me”), with the final punchline being that the day this cartoon occurs on is “Wednesday.” We also get to enjoy the iconic shots of Daffy and Porky smoking cigarettes, widely considered to be the cartoon’s most memorable  image. The backgrounds feature an array of fitfully amusing sight gags, as befitting  a cartoon like this. One such early gag  is a sign  proclaiming “Los Angeles City Limits” on an asteroid, which is slightly funny as it references the very real endless expansion of Los Angeles. During this mindless swooshing through  space, Daffy Duck says they’re returning from a routine investigation of children blowing the rings off Saturn, asking “when will parents learn to keep uranium out of their children’s hands.” The wide availability of child-accessible uranium  is implied to be blamed on bad parenting rather than wider societal issues, so this is of course also a piece of satire to be noted. They get a call from their boss to return to headquarters, which happens with some tame sight gags and recycled backgrounds. I enjoy their barely animated waddle across the massive landscapes, so I shall note down this as a funny joke.

Daffy Duck and Porky Pig wandering across a massive empty room.
Heading to the Crime Lab

As they enter HQ—a massive empty space portraying the excessive scale of an interplanetary civilization—one of the cartoon’s most noteworthy pieces of satire occurs as the internal transportation system of the police headquarters involves a needlessly complex system of capsules speedily traveling through pneumatic tubes. As the rough ride ends, Porky and Daffy exit the tube battered and hurt, with Porky announcing “Isn’t modern science wonderful, people used to have to use the stairs!” We have seen a complex, technocratic system  replacing a superior, simpler system that due to its simplicity has been stamped “Obsolete” by this advanced  society. A valuable lesson even in these days as technosolutions to problems nobody has are all around us. The final kicker, is that this system, like many technosolutions, have been repeatedly suggested and theorized through time. Pneumatic tubes have been in use since the 1700s, yet are present in this space age society as the future. Their use is reminiscent of gimmicky transport solutions such as monorails. Even Elon Musk, proprietor of wonderful modern science, has famously proposed the “Hyperloop”, a public transport system using pneumatic tubes highly reminiscent of those found in this cartoon.

Pneumatic Tubes
Battered Porky Pig and Daffy Duck
“Isn’t Modern Science Wonderful?”

They end up at a video phone desk, where Daffy gets a call from his boss who is on the other side of the desk. Consider this sequence of events: they got a phone call from their boss in the car, traveled millions of miles  to HQ, and navigated its mazal structures, only to end up with another  phone call. The inefficiencies of the future have been exposed, and thus this is a joke. After this they go to the scene of the crime through a teleporter labeled “Scene of the Crime” and watch a robot suck up footprints for a bit, before returning to HQ with a bag of clues, which they put into an “Ajax Crypto-Analyzer,” which outputs a piano roll which Daffy and Porky put into a player piano, which plays a tune which gives them the clue they need. This piano business is quite funny, and is the first funny joke in a while. 

Daffy Duck and Porky Pig hanging around a Player Piano
Police Work

The criminal they find in the files is proclaimed to be “So clever they’ve never been suspected of anything.” They go to a machine that locates known criminals, whose buttons humorously are labeled with names of Looney Tunes staff members which is funny. This sequence of events of Porky and Daffy actually committing police work, shows even in their work they are detached. They’re merely bystanders to computer automation. yet the evidence and clues don’t seem very convincing, it just keeps pointing towards the direction Porky and Daffy were already going in their case. 

List of Criminals
There are only 10 known criminals.

They go chase the criminal, which includes a return of the Los Angeles gag from the beginning when they “lose the criminal in a smog bank above Los Angeles” (they’re still far out in space). They successfully catch the criminal and the case goes to “Ultra Superior Court” where Daffy and Porky get 30 years in prison for false arrest. The cartoon thusly ends.

Wonderful Space

The main feature of the cartoon is the portrayal of massive, inconvenient, and automated futuristic environments,  with a light sprinkling of sight gags dryly commenting on the events. I chuckled a couple of times. I think the cartoon has a total of 13 laughs in it, which is an unlucky number, so I can see why this cartoon is so widely disliked.

That’s it for this cartoon milk, next time we are going to count the jokes in “My Little Duckaroo” so look forward to that! Bye-bee!

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