The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection
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The Pink Panther is - paws down - the world's grooviest cartoon star. In 1964, this pink-inked feline slinked onto the opening credits of Blake Edwards' caper film by the same name and threatened to steal the entire show. Sleek, sophisticated and witty, the animation, produced by Friz Freleng and David H. DePatie, was a stylish departure from its contemporaries and an instant hit. A subsequent short film, The Pink Phink, would go on to win* an Oscar® and spawn a celebrated series of six-minute cartoons featuring the sly cat. Now, for the first time, 124 cartoons produced by Freleng and DePatie between 1964 and 1980 are collected here in a swingin' 5-disc set. With over 14 hours of "pink comedy," you can't help but lick your whiskers!
One of the unforeseen (and hugely profitable) benefits of the first Pink Panther movie was the popularity of the cartoon cat from that film's classic credits sequence. Added on a hunch by director Blake Edwards and concocted by the DePatie-Freleng animation team, the slinky pink feline immediately spawned his own series of cartoons, first for theatrical release and later for television. The saga is gathered in The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection, five discs of 124 cartoons, plus extras. This would have to be considered the ultimate such collection, and more than the average fan could handle in a few sittings (or a few dozen). But they're all here.
When United Artists commissioned David DePatie and Friz Freleng (whose new company was born from the eclipse of the old Warner Bros. cartoon unit) to make freestanding Pink Panther cartoons, their first effort struck gold. Literally: The Pink Phink won the Oscar for best animated short subject, and is still a prime example of circa-1964 line drawing and visual humor. Most of the early shorts display a sure sense of timing and a cheeky feel for the era; they were directed by Freleng and Hawley Pratt (Pratt's design for the Pink Panther had been selected by Blake Edwards from dozens of offerings at the time of the first feature). In two of the first handful, Sink Pink and Pink Ice, the Pink Panther himself speaks stray lines of dialogue, a mistake that would not be repeated later. One unwelcome aural intrusion: some of the cartoons here have a laugh track from the TV series, even on the Oscar-nominated Pink Blueprint.
Animation voiceover veterans of the era chimed in with narration or voices for other characters; for instance, the indefatigable Paul Frees does the narration on Phinkfinger, a funny spoof of 007-style spy movies. But most of the cartoons are wordless, which is one reason they remained popular internationally for so many years. The main reason is the slinky character of the Panther, a mischievous hipster who could be either the instrument of chaos or the victim, depending on the cartoon. The plots tend toward the cartoon verities: the necessity of catching a mouse or silencing an alarm clock, for instance. A documentary, Behind the Feline, gives a fine account of the history of the character; it is also bundled on a previous boxed set, The Pink Panther Film Collection. Useful new extras include a portrait of Friz Freleng by his daughters, an illuminating interview with animator-director Art Leonardi, and a delightful vignette with Leonardi instructing us on how to quickly draw the Pink Panther. The opening-title sequences from five Pink Panther movies are included. Throughout the cartoons and the extras, you will be reminded of one incalculable boost to the series: Henry Mancini's lithe, foxy theme music, which surely had much to do with the character's enduring fame. Mancini gets an onscreen shout-out in Pink, Plunk, Plink, in which the Panther tries to inject his theme into an orchestral performance of Beethoven's Fifth. --Robert Horton
- Documentary: "Behind the Feline - The Cartoon Phenomenon"
- Featurette: The Story Behind the Animation
- Interview with Friz Freling's daughters
- How to draw the Pink Panther
- Page to Screen: original storyboard-to-screen cartoon comparisons
- Animated main titles sequences
- "Life In A Pink Panther Factory". An in-depth interview with the Pink Panther's creators, David H DePatie and Friz Freleng
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* Behind the Feline: The Cartoon Phenomenon - Documentary examines the popularity of the Pink Panther cartoons through interviews with Blake Edwards and David H. DePatie.
* Pink Patter With Art Leonardi: The Story Behind the Animation - Featurette explores the history and creation of the series thru discussion with original animator Art Leonardi.
* Remembering Friz - An interview with the creator's daughters on Friz Freleng's legacy.
* Think Pink: How to Draw the Pink Panther - A short drawing lesson from original animator Art Leonardi.
* Page to Screen: In the Pink & Pink Blueprint - Features original storyboard-to-screen cartoon comparisons of "In the Pink" and "Pink Blueprint" shorts.
* Animated Main Title Sequences of... The Pink Panther, A Shot in the Dark, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Revenge of the Pink Panther, Trail of the Pink Panther.
* "Life in a Pink Factory" From American Cinematographer - An in-depth text interview with the Pink Panther's creators, David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng.
The special features on the fifth disk are fun too, especially the title credits to the Peter Sellers' "Pink Panther" movies. That's where I started -- watching the opening credits to "The Pink Panther" and then going back to the first short from the early 60s.
The other reviews are right when they say some of the weaker cartoons are the ones where the Pink Panther talks. It seems so superfluous, like they threw in a voice for him because they needed to. But I can see where the animators were just getting the sense of the character with those early shorts, and it was probably worth the experimentation just to see if it worked. Fortunately, saner heads prevailed, and the Pink Panther quickly lost his voice. The occasional laugh track is equally jarring, again appearing in one short and not the next.
Overall, this set is certainly worth it for Pink Panther fans young and old. The humor is light, the animation is fun and stylized, and the soundtrack rocks. This is cartooning at its best!