The Pink Panther is a fictional animated character who appeared in the opening and closing credit sequences of every film in the Pink Panther series except for A Shot in the Dark and Inspector Clouseau. In the storyline of the original film, The Pink Panther was the name of a valuable pink diamond; in the credits, this was shifted to an animated pink panther.
The Panther's popularity spawned a spin-off franchise of theatrical shorts, merchandise, a comic book, and television cartoons. He appears in 124 short films (either theatrical or televised), 10 television shows and three primetime specials. The character is closely associated with "The Pink Panther Theme", composed by Henry Mancini.
The Panther's real name was shown to be "Pinky" in the cartoon "Pink-In"
DePatie-Freleng/United Artists cartoons
The animated Pink Panther character's initial appearance in the live-action film's title sequence, directed by Friz Freleng, was such a success with audiences and United Artists that the studio signed Freleng and his DePatie–Freleng Enterprises studio to a multi-year contract for a series of Pink Panther theatrical cartoon shorts. The first entry in the series, 1964's The Pink Phink, featured Pink harassing his foil, a little white-mustachioed man who is actually a caricature of Friz Freleng (this character is officially known as The Little Man), 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 Pink Panther opposite the Little Man, were successful releases.
In an earlier series of the Pink Panther animated cartoons, Pink generally remained silent, speaking only in two theatrical shorts, Sink Pink (one line) and Pink Ice (throughout the film). Rich Little provided Pink's voice in these shorts, modeling 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, due to Niven's ill health.) Most of the animated Pink Panther shorts utilized the distinctive jazzy theme music composed by Henry Mancini for the 1963 feature film, with additional scores composed by Walter Greene or William Lava.
The Pink Panther is often seen in episodes as a prankster, as he likes pulling pranks on the janitor whenever he's seen. He has a high level of curiosity, as he loves discovering and trying new things. He is shown to like hospital treatment more than other types and likes the habit of eating and for some reasons, going on a diet to lose weight when overweight. He is often shown to want things done his way, such as tampering with the Mona Lisa and painting a house that is supposed to be blue, going to opposites in both cases. He is also very sneaky, not using force to get what he wants, but rather depending on sneaky tricks to go about his goals.
The Pink Panther has pink fur and snout. He has black eyes with yellow sclerae and whiskers.
The Pink Panther makes his last "classic" theatrical appearance in the title sequence of Son of the Pink Panther, now being blended with live-action footage. He jumps from a screen, wears some dark sunglasses, takes a baton from Henry Mancini, and begins to conduct Bobby McFerrin's a capella rendition of his own theme song. Things go swimmingly, until the footage being shown on the screen begins to warp and burn.
Horrified, the Panther dashes for the projection booth, where he finds the animated caricature of Jacques Gambrelli, who had trapped himself in the film roll. He nervously smiles at the Panther, who only angrily glares at him as he tries to roll the film back into the projector. Jacques tries to walk away, but the strip of film wrapped around his leg gets caught on the Panther's tail, causing Jacques to trip. He tries to catch himself on a lever, but ends up causing the projector to reverse, which sends the Panther rocketing through the booth window and splashing onto the screen.
Inside an abstract animated world filled with floating shapes of all sizes, the Panther and Jacques both attempt to grab the Panther's baton, but both can never seem to hold onto it for long. This ends in the Panther getting tossed out of the screen, with Jacques careening out shortly afterwards and crashing into him. The baton falls into the Panther's hands once again, but denigrates. This having been Jacques' fault, the Panther angrily chases him around the studio and back into the screen.
Back in the animated world, a flap-like door opens in front of Jacques, who now has the baton. The Panther sneaks up behind him and pats his shoulder, and while Jacques looks away, he grabs the baton from his hands. Jacques turns, only to see the Panther right in front of him, and reacts in surprise as the flap closes on him. Having finally rid himself of the fiendish gendarme, the Panther closes out the title sequence and the films begins.
At the end of the film, the shot freezes on Jacques' stupid, smiling face, as the Panther appears along with his titular theme song. The animated Jacques cuts away his live-action counterpart's face from the inside with a handsaw, causing it to land squarely onto the panther's foot. Having been crossed one last time, the Panther jumps into the hole after Jacques, and angrily chases him off into the darkness as the credits roll.
The Pink Panther Show
- Main article: The Pink Panther Show
In Fall 1969, the Pink Panther cartoons made their way to NBC television shown Saturday mornings via The Pink Panther Show. NBC added a laugh track to the original cartoons, with Marvin Miller brought on as an off-camera narrator talking to the Pink Panther during bumper segments featuring the Pink Panther and The Inspector together. The series featured a live-action introduction, over the theme song, which featured the Panthermobile.
Pink Panther shorts made after 1969 were produced for both broadcast and film release, typically appearing on television first, and released to theaters by United Artists. One version of the show was calledThe Pink Panther Show. A list of spin-off series joined The Pink Panther on movie 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 Clouseau-inspired Inspector and his sidekick Sgt. Deux-Deux, whom the Inspector is forever correcting. 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 and Crazylegs Crane.
The German television version which started airing in 1973 on ZDF was presented in 30-minute episodes, composed of two Pink Panther cartoons, one episode of The Inspector and one episode of The Ant and the Aardvark. Most notably, the difference between the German and the English version of the Pink Panther is a rhymed narration in the German version (spoken by voice actor Gert Günther Hoffmann), commenting and describing the plot. For this show, custom intro and end sequences were cut together from existing pieces of animation.
In 1976, the half-hour series was revamped into a 90-minute format, like 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.
In 1978, The Pink Panther moved to ABC and was rebranded The All-New Pink Panther Show, where it lasted one season before leaving the network domain entirely. The ABC version of the series featured 16 episodes with 32 new Pink Panther cartoons and 16 of Crazylegs Crane. The 32 entries were later released theatrically by United Artists.
Later television shows and specials
During the final years of the Panther's theatrical run, DePatie-Freleng produced a series of three primetime Pink Panther television specials for ABC. The first was 1978's A Pink Christmas. It featured Pink in New York who is cold and hungry looking for a holiday dinner. The other two specials premiered on ABC after the shorts officially ended in theaters, 1980's Olym-Pinks and 1981's Pink at First Sight. In November 2007, the three specials were released on a single disc DVD collection, The Pink Panther: A Pink Christmas from MGM Home Entertainment/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
The studio was sold to Marvel Comics in 1981 and became Marvel Productions (now a part of The Walt Disney Company). In 1984, a new Saturday morning series was produced entitled Pink Panther and Sons. In this incarnation (produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions with Freleng serving as creative producer for the series), the still-silent Pink Panther was a father of his two talking sons, Pinky and Panky. While popular, critics complained that there was not enough Pink Panther to maintain interest for a full 30 minutes.
A new series of cartoons was created in 1993, simply titled The Pink Panther, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Animation, premiered in syndication in 1993, and had the Pink Panther speaking with the voice of Matt Frewer (of Max Headroom fame). Unlike the original shorts, not all episode titles contained the word "pink," although many instead contained the word "panther." Voice impressionist John Byner returned to voice both the Ant and the Aardvark.
In July 2007, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and Jordan's Rubicon animation company began co-production of the animated series Pink Panther and Pals portraying a teenaged panther and his friends. The 26-episode animated series premiered in the United States in 2009 on Cartoon Network. On December 7, 2011, a new 22-minute holiday special entitled A Very Pink Christmas, starring the classic iteration of the panther, aired on ABC Family.
In 1971, Gold Key Comics began publishing a Pink Panther comic book, with art by Warren Tufts. The Pink Panther and the Inspector lasted 87 issues, ending only when Gold Key ceased operations in 1984. The spinoff series The Inspector (also from Gold Key) lasted 19 issues, from 1974 to 1978.
A Pink Panther comic strip was started in 2005. It was written and illustrated by Eric and Bill Teitelbaum, who also create Bottom Liners. It is distributed by Tribune Media Services.
As of today, The Pink Panther is well known among classic cartoons, as such the character was been referenced and parodied in many shows, on the flipside, he has also made official guest appearances in shows, and been used in advertising
- The Pink Panther Show intro theme was used by Nike in a viral campaign of Pink Mercurial Vapor IV football boots using the French football star Franck Ribery mimicking the character of the Pink Panther.
- Pink Panther is a segment guest in the episode "Karate is K" of PBS' Sesame Street, for about 9 seconds.
- Television personality Regis Philbin can be seen in a commercial for Sweet'N Low talking to a taxi cab driver. After the camera changes the view, the audience realizes that the driver is The Pink Panther.
- Owens Corning features him on their website and in advertising for their pink-colored residential building insulation.
- The German phone company Deutsche Telekom uses Pink Panther as an advertising mascot since 1995 in Germany.
- Japanese R&B/pop singer Namie Amuro, who is a fan of the cartoon, uses him as the theme of her album cover art for her album "Queen of Hip-Pop". A special character the "Namie Panther" based on Amuro herself was also created as a counterpart to the Pink Panther. Both characters were heavily featured in her music video for her promotional single "WoWa." Because of the Pink Panther deal, all of the material released for the album had been pink. First, pressing packaging of the album included Pink Panther stickers and a Pink Panther styled newspaper containing lyrics for the album.
- In Spain, a Pantera Rosa cake is sold. It is coated in pink.
- In the Family Guy episode "Halloween on Spooner Street", after Brian is spray-painted pink, the Pink Panther walks up and asks Brian if this is his first-day pink. Brian says "Yeah", upon this reply, the Pink Panther says, "Welcome to Hell."
The Pink Panther is associated with a number of cancer awareness and support organizations. The Pink Panther is the mascot of the New Zealand Child Cancer Foundation and for a line of clothing to promote breast cancer awareness.
As the Pink Panther historian Jerry Beck states, Classic animation pretty much died in the '60s, everyone had kind of bailed out. But his creators didn't rest on their laurels. They didn't make the cartoons to look like Warner Bros. cartoons, or Disney cartoons, or the UPA look of Mister Magoo and Gerald McBoing-Boing. They came up with their own clever new style. The only other important cartoon of the '60s was Yellow Submarine.
The Pink Panther was, therefore a notable contribution to the animation art form. Top animation directors such as Hawley Pratt, Gerry Chiniquy, Robert McKimson, and Sid Marcus contributed to a distinctive style, supported by master story writer John W. Dunn. Produced after theatrical cartoons' golden age of the 1940s and 50s, they were constrained to the limited animation techniques applied to Saturday morning cartoons of 1960s and after. Within these limitations, the Pink Panther made creative use of absurd and surreal themes and visual puns and an almost completely wordless pantomime style, set to the ubiquitous Pink Panther theme and its variations by Henry Mancini. The overall approach is reminiscent of the classic silent movies of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
Cultural references were more muted and stylized, resulting in a cartoon with longer-term, more cross-cultural appeal not shared by contemporaries such as Yogi Bear and The Flintstones, with their greater reliance on contemporary American pop culture. The Pink Panther also remained constrained to the classic six-minute form of theatrical shorts, while contemporaries expanded into longer, sitcom-like storylines, up to a full 30 minutes of broadcast TV in the case of The Flintstones. Freleng's colleagues credit his sense of creative timing as a key element to the cartoon's artistic success. Freleng himself regarded the Pink Panther as his finest achievement and the character he most identified with, according to family and colleagues interviewed on the 2006 DVD release.