Duck Dodgers in the 24½th (twenty-fourth and a half) Century is a Merrie Melodies cartoon created in 1952 and released on July 25, 1953 (with a production code of 1264), starring Daffy Duck as space hero Duck Dodgers, Porky Pig as his assistant, and Marvin The Martian as his opponent. Marvin the Martian had been introduced as an unnamed villain in Haredevil Hare (1948) playing opposite Bugs Bunny (and was given the name Commander X-2 in 1952's The Hasty Hare), but this cartoon was the first of many appearances of Duck Dodgers.
In 1994, it was voted #4 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. In 2004, it was retrospectively awarded a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
The cartoon was directed by Chuck Jones (credited as Charles M. Jones), with the story by Michael Maltese, voices by Mel Blanc, and original music by Carl Stalling. The animation was credited to Lloyd Vaughan, Ken Harris and Ben Washam, with Harry Love receiving a credit for effects animation. The distinctive layouts were designed by Maurice Noble and the backgrounds produced by Phil DeGuard.
Uncredited is the noteworthy quotation of Powerhouse by Raymond Scott in the score by Stalling.
The plot of the cartoon involves Duck Dodgers' search for the rare element Illudium Phosdex, "the shaving cream atom." In the future, the only remaining supply of the element is on the mysterious "Planet X", which fortunately is found when Dodgers follows a path leading from Planet A to Planets B, C, D, and so on. Dodgers is about to claim Planet X in the name of the Earth when Marvin the Martian lands on the same planet (in a ship called the Martian Maggot) and claims it in the name of Mars. The stage is set for a battle of wits (or lack thereof) between the two cartoon stars.
Porky Pig also appears in the cartoon, playing the role of the "Eager Young Space Cadet". As he does in a number of Jones' cartoons, he plays the role of the straight man, getting the job done and foiling the villain while Daffy Duck blusters and repeatedly gets himself blown to smithereens.
Considering the period in which the cartoon was produced (the Second Red Scare was in full swing during the 1950s era), some scholars have used the cartoon to parallel the futility of the Cold War and the arms race. They note that by the end of the cartoon, the planet that Duck Dodgers and Marvin the Martian are fighting over has been destroyed, and the remaining area claimed by Daffy at the end is barely large enough for him to stand upon. The dismissive attitude to Dodgers' pyrrhic victory is epitomized by Porky's cynical response to his boss's overblown proclamation, "B-B-Big deal."
In the sci-fi series Babylon 5, the character of Michael Garibaldi is a fan of Daffy Duck, and describes "Duck Dodgers" as his "second favorite thing in the universe". In the episode "Midnight on the Firing Line", Garibaldi looks for someone to share it with, and eventually watches the cartoon with Ambassador Delenn.
When the main character of the science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) wakes up, after trying all night to make contact with the aliens, his daughter is watching "Duck Dodgers".