The Pink Panther
The Pink Panther is the movie industry's hippest cartoon star. Film audiences of all ages, sophisticated cinemaohiles and drive-in denizens alike love the high style, clever humor and colorful adventures of this pink-inked feline.
Initially created by Friz Freleng for the opening title sequence of Blake Edward's, 1964 comedy farce THE PINK PANTHER, the cartoon character received reviews that were as good or better than the film itself! The new star had obviously clawed his mark, and a series of short subjects was immediately put info production.
Friz Freleng was the perfect man for the job. Having begun his career in the same small Kansas City studio where Walt Disney got his start in animation, Freleng moved to California in the late 1920s. He was soon helping fellow Kansas City animators Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising start up the series of "Looney Tunes" for Warner Brothers release. With the exception of one year with M-G-M in the mid-1930s, Freleng was a Warner Brothers stalwart, becoming Senior Director and supervising now-classic cartoons staring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tweety for over 30 years. Freleng also directed the first cartoons starring Sylvester, Porky Pig and Yosemite Sam, ultimately winning four Academy Awards® for the studio.
When Warner Brothers shut down its animation department in 1962, Freleng teamed up with cartoon producer David DePatie to make animated commercials and industrial films. At this time, director Blake Edwards - himself an aficionado of the classic Warner Brothers cartoons and silent comedies - approached Freleng about providing animation for the opening moments of his next film.
David DePatie recalls: "We got together with some of our guys and came up with probably 100 to 150 different illustrations of the Panther. I remember very well thatwe took them over to Blake's office and spread them all out and that he knew exactly what he wanted. He went right over, pointed to one of them and said 'that's the guy!'"
"Then they asked us to do a storyboard," remembers Freleng. "They just flipped when they saw it! When we finally got it onto the screen and they previewed it, the comment from the press was that the titles were better than the picture."
The cool contemporary style of the design and graphics (co-credited to Hawley Pratt), the distinctive theme music from Henry Mancini, and the pantomime comedy were a complete departure from the cheaply made theatrical cartoons created by their competitors. The first Panther cartoon, THE PINK PHINK , was honored with an Academy Award®. "We made them for the theaters, and we made them for adults really," says Freleng. "They didn't appeal to children; they're a little too sophisticated. Adults are the people who are really the fans."
Though the theatrical cartoons continued for almost twenty years, it is the earlier entries - those directed by Friz Freleng and Hawley Pratt - which are considered classics. Freleng and Pratt placed the Panther in many offbeat situations: spoofing 60s trends such as secret agents in PINKFINGER and youth culture in PSYCHEDELIC PINK ; exploring musical themes in PINK, PLUNK, PLINK and romping into the surreal in PINK PUNCH. However the most entertaining of all the shorts are those featuring "the little man," who can turn up as anyone - including a safecracker in DIAL 'P' FOR PINK and a drunk in PINK PAJAMAS.
When Edwards directed an Inspector Clouseau follow-up the next year, a similar situation occurred. The DePatie/Freleng opening title for A SHOT IN THE DARK, (1964) brought demands for yet another theatrical series. The resulting group of witty and distinctive cartoons, entitled THE INSPECTOR, featured the voice talents of comedian Pat Harrington as both the not-so-clever Inspector and his faithful assistant Deaux-Deaux.
The Pink Panther live-action feature films continued into the 70s, 80s, and 90s, each beginning with lavish animated opening titles.
This information from laserdisc cover of THE PINK PANTHER ANIMATION ARCHIVE
©1994 MGM/UA Home Video