Pink Panther, The Pink Panther cartoon character.
The Pink Panther cartoon character is the main character in a series of animated short films. The character originally appeared in the opening and closing credit sequences of the 1963 live-action feature film The Pink Panther. The popularity of the character spawned a series of animated short films, and the character would appear in the opening sequence of every film in The Pink Panther series (except A Shot in the Dark). One-hundred twenty-four Pink Panther shorts (either theatrical or made-for-television) were produced, along with three prime-time television specials.
The first entry in the series, 1964’s The Pink Phink, featured the Panther harassing his foil, a little moustached man resembling an animated version of the feature films’ Inspector Clouseau, by constantly trying to paint the little man’s blue house pink. The Pink Phink won the 1964 Academy Award for Animated Short Film, and subsequent shorts in the series, usually featuring the Panther opposite the little man, were successful releases.
In an early series of Pink Panther animated cartoons, the Pink Panther generally remained silent, speaking only in two theatrical shorts, Sink Pink and Pink Ice. Rich Little provided the Panther’s voice in the latter shorts, modelling it on that of David Niven (who had portrayed Clouseau’s jewel-thief nemesis in the original live-action film). Years later Little would overdub Niven’s voice for Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther.
All of the animated Pink Panther shorts utilized the distinctive jazzy theme music composed by Henry Mancini for the 1963 feature film.
By the late-1960s, the Pink Panther cartoons were being shown Saturday mornings on NBC. Pink Panther shorts made after 1969 were produced for both broadcast and film release, typically appearing on television first, and released to theatres by United Artists. A number of sister series joined The Pink Panther on movies screens and on the airwaves, among them The Ant and the Aardvark, The Tijuana Toads (a.k.a. The Texas Toads), Hoot Kloot, and Misterjaw (a.k.a. Mr. Jaws and Catfish). There were also a series of animated shorts called The Inspector, with the bumbling Clouseau inspired Inspector and his Spanish-speaking sidekick Sgt. Deux-Deux, whom the Inspector is forever correcting. (“Deux” is French for “two”, meaning the little man’s name is both a pun and a play on words, “two” appearing two times in the name.) Other DePatie-Freleng series included Roland and Rattfink, The Dogfather (a Godfather pastiche), with a canine Corleone family and two Tijuana Toads spinoffs, The Blue Racer & Crazylegs Crane.
In 1976, the half-hour series was revamped into a 90-minute format, as The Pink Panther Laugh and a Half Hour and a Half Show; this version included a live-action segment, where the show’s host, comedian Lenny Schultz, would read letters and jokes from viewers. This version flopped, and would change back to the original half-hour version in 1977.
DePatie-Freleng Enterprises was the last studio to produce new theatrical cartoons, finally ending production on Pink Panther and the other series in 1980. That year, United Artists Television syndicated a half-hour, repackaged version of the series, complete with original theatrical intros, outros and NBC-produced commercial bumpers, to local stations. Due to contractual obligations, many stations showed the series in the evening, as opposed to mornings or afternoons.
A single cartoon preceded the main feature in older James Bond VHS releases. In late 2004 in the UK and later in February 2006 in the US, all of the Pink Panther cartoons were released on DVD from MGM Home Entertainment.
After ending the Panther’s theatrical run, DePatie-Freleng produced a series of three prime time Pink Panther television specials for ABC. The first of the specials was 1978’s A Pink Christmas, which premiered on ABC during the panther’s theatrical run for movie theaters. It featured the panther in New York being cold and hungry looking for a juicy holiday dinner. Two other primetime specials premered after the theatrical shorts ended in theaters, 1980’s Olympinks and 1981’s Pink At First Sight.
The studio was sold to Marvel Comics in 1981, and became “Marvel Productions”. In 1984, the Pink Panther was licensed to Hanna-Barbera Productions, who produced the short-lived Saturday morning series The Pink Panther and Sons, in which the still-silent Panther was given two talking sons, Pinky and Panky.
Yet another new series of cartoons, called The Pink Panther, produced by MGM television animation, appeared in 1993, and had the Pink Panther speaking with the voice of Matt Frewer (of Max Headroom fame). Unlike the classic animated shorts, not all episode titles contained the word “pink”, although many instead contained the word “panther”.