The Pink Panther. Artist: Friz Freleng.


Original Medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: DePatie-Freleng Studios
First Appeared: 1963
Creators: Friz Freleng and Hawley Pratt
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Isadore "Friz" Freleng spent most of his career as a director of animated shorts for Warner Bros., where he was responsible for such characters as Speedy Gonzales, Tweety & Sylvester, and …

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Yosemite Sam. That ended in 1963, when Warner closed its cartoon studio. So he and his new partner, David DePatie, leased the building that had housed the Warner studio, and went into business for themselves.

One of the new studio's first jobs was the animated opening of the Blake Edwards film, The Pink Panther. Freleng and his long-time layout man, Hawley Pratt, designed a character to go with the title, and animated him in time to Henry Mancini's theme music. As good as the movie turned out to be, the animation that went with it had a greater long-term impact.

So well did audiences respond, that United Artists, which had released the film, commissioned DePatie-Freleng to produce a series of theatrical cartoons based on the character. The first of them, Pink Phink, which came out December 18, 1964, won an Academy Award, and another, The Pink Blueprint, was nominated in 1966. Freleng himself directed the initial outing, but subsequent cartoons in the series — which ran to almost 100 cartoons, the last of which was released in 1981 — were directed by Pratt, Gerry Chiniquy, and Art Davis (all of whom had worked with Freleng at Warner).

The Panther made the transition to television in 1969. Each episode of The Pink Panther Show ran two of the character's theatrical cartoons and one from DePatie-Freleng's second cartoon series, The Inspector (based on the Peter Sellers character from the original Pink Panther feature film). This was only the first of several TV incarnations, some of which used made-for-TV Pink Panther shorts. The New Pink Panther Show replaced the Inspector segment with another DePatie-Freleng series, The Ant & the Aardvark. The Pink Panther Laff And A Half Hour ran all those, plus segments devoted to Texas Toads and Misterjaw. Think Pink Panther ran from 1977-78, and The All-New Pink Panther Show, which premiered in 1978, dropped everything but the Panther himself, and added a new segment based on a former minor player, Crazylegs Crane.

There was also a Pink Panther comic book, no less than 87 issues of which came out from Gold Key between 1971 and '84. Most of them had art by Warren Tufts, famous among comics fans for his work on the Lance and Casey Ruggles newspaper strips (and not so famous for The Lone Spaceman). Harvey Comics licensed the character between 1993 and '94, and reprinted several of the Tufts issues.

And there have been Pink Panther lunch boxes, and T-shirts, and pajamas, and all the other standard licensing paraphernalia — not just in America, but everywhere. Since the cartoons are done in pantomime, with Mancini's familiar "Pink Panther" music in the background, no translation has been necessary for them to become as popular all over the world as they are in their country of origin.


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Text ©2000-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DePatie-Freleng.