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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) (Blu-ray)
The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) (Blu-ray)
Kino // Unrated // June 26, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted July 17, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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In the annals of animated short cartoons, the DePatie-Freleng's story is, perhaps, the most unusual. Not long after its inception, Pink Panther and other DePatie-Freleng shorts began turning up on Saturday morning television, even as new shorts featuring the same characters were being released to theaters. It was a strange thing to be a ‘70s kid watching The Pink Panther Show (1969-80) Saturday mornings, then in the evening see another Pink Panther short at the local drive-in.

By the early 1960s, pretty much all the major studios had given up on theatrical short cartoons. DePatie-Freleng came about when in 1961 David DePatie became the last executive in charge of Warner Bros.'s rapidly declining cartoon division. Soon after, the studio informed DePatie that Warners would be ending its cartoon production altogether, as soon as the last batch of shorts was completed. Sensing an opportunity, he partnered with cartoon director (and, by this point, also producer) Friz Freleng to lease WB's animation department holdings and produce new material independently, probably with an eye on commercials, feature film title design, and miscellaneous projects for television.

But, as fate would have it, one of their first projects was to design the animated titles for Blake Edwards's The Pink Panther (1963), which turned out to be a huge box office success, in no small part because of its charming cartoon title design, featuring as it did a rascally pink panther, representing the fabled Pink Panther diamond in the movie, around which the plot revolves. At a time when nearly every studio in town was closing shop, Edwards (via his Geoffrey Productions) and distributor United Artists probably shocked DePatie and Freleng by not only contracting a series of Pink Panther theatrical cartoons but ordering several years' worth of shorts all at once, an unprecedented arrangement. It was a shrewd move because, from the beginning, they played the long game: release ‘em to theaters, then sell packages of these rapidly-made, prolific-in-number shorts to TV.


The shorts contained in (Blake Edwards') The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection (Volume 2, 1966-1968), as well as the nearly concurrent The Inspector series, grew directly out of The Pink Panther and its first sequel, A Shot in the Dark (1964), released just six months later. For the latter, Edwards wanted to capitalize on Peter Sellers's growing popularity. Conversely, the Pink Panther shorts capitalized on the more nebulous, less-defined character from The Pink Panther's opening titles. Though not intended, a direct effect of the Pink Panther cartoon shorts was that Edwards's live-action comedies became identified with the Pink Panther brand, even though only one of the sequels, Return of the Pink Panther (1975), figured the Pink Panther diamond into its plot. Everything since, beginning with The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), brought back the cartoon character to playfully menace the cartoon inspector in the opening titles.

The cheaply-made shorts, like Edwards's movies, wring out a lot of mileage far beyond what was originally intended. The early Pink Panther shorts use snippets from the animated title work on The Pink Panther in the opening credits, and Henry Mancini's famous theme is recycled endlessly. (In the end, Mancini may have made more money on these cartoons than the feature films.)

The shorts are done in the signature DePatie-Freleng minimalist style, with simple, almost schematic backgrounds and imaginative if limited animation. As a cartoon character, the Pink Panther probably peaked in the ‘70s Blake Edwards features, whose opening title animations were more lavishly done and more sophisticated, targeting adults more than children. (The opening titles for The Pink Panther Strikes Again features clever movie parodies, for instance.) By contrast, in these shorts the mute Pink Panther character falls somewhere between Bugs Bunny and Daffy and/or Donald Duck, playfully causing others problems in some, growing increasingly exasperated with unresolvable problems in others.

The best Pink Panther shorts were those that broke away from the tried-and-true gags of the Warner Bros./Disney canon. Gradually, the humor in these shorts derived from surreal concepts of time and space and science generally, like another dimension that the Pink Panther character effortlessly navigated but other struggled with vainly. Most of the shorts have little to no dialogue, making them more universally appealing but which also help uproot them from reality.

The set includes the following: Pink-a-Boo; Genie with the Light Pink Fur; Super Pink; Rock a Bye Pinky; Pinknic; Pink Panic; Pink Posies; Pink of the Litter; In the Pink ; Jet Pink ; Pink Paradise; Pinto Pink; Congratulations It's Pink; Prefabricated Pink; The Hand is Pinker Than the Eye; Pink Outs; Sky Blue Pink; Pinkadilly Circus; Psychedelic Pink; and Come On In! The Water's Pink.

Video & Audio

The shorts are on one Blu-ray disc, in 1.37:1 format. Presumably they were intended for 1.66:1 widescreen in theaters but composed also with the 4:3 television format in mind. The framing is comparatively tight, so the decision to go with 1.37:1 seems reasonable. The image is fairly impressive throughout, with the subtle color palette especially benefiting. The DTS-HD 2.0 mono (English only, no subtitles) is adequate. The disc is region A encoded.

Extra Features

Good supplements accompany the disc. These include audio commentaries on many of the shorts, featuring author Mark Arnold, historian Jerry Beck, filmmaker Greg Ford, cartoon writer William Hohauser, and DePatie-Freleng storyman Art Leonardi; two storyboard-to-screen comparisons, on In the Pink and The Pink Blueprint; and the television adapted version of Pink Outs.

Final Thoughts

Not great cartoon shorts but mildly entertaining, and good to throw on ahead of a 1966-68 feature, The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Volume 2 is Recommended.




Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian and publisher-editor of World Cinema Paradise. His new documentary and latest audio commentary, for the British Film Institute's Blu-ray of Rashomon, is now available.

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