THE INSPECTOROriginal Medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: DePatie-Freleng
First Appeared: 1964
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The classic era of theatrical animation drew to a close during the 1950s and '60s, but theatrical animation itself wasn't quite ready to do so yet. Even TV mogul Hanna-Barbera dabbled in the field, with its Loopy de Loop series, launched in 1959 and distributed by Columbia
Pictures (The Fox & the Crow, Mr. Magoo). An entire studio, DePatie-Freleng, grew from the personnel and facilities left behind by the demise of the Warner Bros. animation department. Its first impact on the field came from the production of an animated title sequence to a live-action feature.
Two continuing characters came out of that job. The Pink Panther, eponymous star of the sequence but not an actual character in the movie that bore its name; and The Inspector. The latter looked and acted just like the Peter Sellers character, Inspector Clouseau, whose ineptitude drove the movie's plot.
He made his first animated appearance in the title sequence of Clouseau's second film, A Shot in the Dark (released June 23, 1964), where he was obviously intended to represent Clouseau. But in his actual cartoon series, the name was never mentioned. The inspector whose name was merely assumed to be "Clouseau" made his series debut in The Great De Gaulle Stone Operation, which was released December 21, 1965.
Like the Sellers character, this Inspector for the French Surete had a remarkable ability to solve every case by dumb luck, even while bungling every aspect along the way. He was assisted by Sgt. Deux Deux (pronounced "dodo", no relation), also a dimbulb who managed to muddle through, and answered to a police commissioner known only as The Commissioner (aka The Chief). This set of characters stumbled around but always came out on top through about three dozen cartoons, released by United Artists during the next few years. The last was Carte Blanched, which came out May 14, 1969.
The title character (whatever his name was) and Deux Deux were voiced by Pat Harrington Jr., who also voiced a couple of DC Comics superheroes on TV about the same time. The Chief in the first several outings was Larry Storch (Cool Cat, Tom Dracula). Later, the part was played by Paul Frees (Ludwig von Drake, Boris Badenov). It was often narrated by Marvin Miller (various voices in Jonny Quest, Gerald McBoing-Boing and elsewhere). Other voices included June Foray (most of the female voices in Jay Ward cartoons), Hal Smith (Gyro Gearloose in DuckTales) and Lennie Weinrib (Inch High, Private Eye).
The Inspector never had his own TV show, but he did appear in back segments of shows where The Pink Panther was the star. He did, however, have his own Gold Key comic book for 19 issues, from July, 1974 through February, 1978.
In more recent years, The Inspector hasn't exactly been a superstar, but he hasn't been completely absent from the scene. For example, he made guest appearances with The Pink Panther on TV, during the 1990s. And he appeared in the animated title sequence of the 2006 remake of The Pink Panther — only this time, he was redesigned to look like the new star, Steve Martin.