Combustible Celluloid

The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection (1964-1975)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Think Pink

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection on DVD

How cool is Pink? It's amazing how cool this cat still is after so long. He begins nearly every cartoon with a kind of skip-strut, sometimes even smoking a cigarette in a holder. He never speaks, always gets into trouble, but is never totally perturbed. He mostly has a perplexed look as if to say, "How did I get myself into this again?" He faces a variety of opponents, from a talking scale to an uncooperative horse, and sometimes even an offscreen narrator (as in the classic Pinkfinger). Mostly, he annoys the little white man (does he have a name?) without intending any malice. And each short ends almost arbitrarily. Sometimes Pink wins; sometimes he loses. It's a refreshing change from many of today's hyperkinetic, desperate-to-please cartoons.

In the famous first cartoon, The Pink Phink (1964), developed after the title sequence on the 1964 film became such a hit, Pink is morally offended when the little man begins painting a house blue. So he secretly begins painting over the blue with pink paint while the little man isn't looking, leading to a collection of clever little visual gags. The film won an Oscar for Best Animated Short.

Now The Pink Phink, Pinkfinger and every single other Pink Panther short (124 in all) are available in a five-disc box set from MGM Home Video. Or the bargain-minded can purchase just the first three discs (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3) at $14.94 each.

Pink's trajectory stayed virtually the same over the years. In most cases, he's simply looking for something to eat or someplace warm to stay, or sometimes he's just bored and is looking for something to do. Once, Pink's creators attempted to give him a voice for one dismal short, Pink Ice, and it failed miserably. Later, they gave him a laugh track when the shorts began running on television.

One of the major talents behind "The Pink Panther" was famous animator Friz Freleng of Tweety and Sylvester fame at Warner Brothers. Freleng directed nine or so of the earliest shorts, and this work rivals the best of his more famous Warner Brothers work. What sets these shorts apart is their beautifully minimalist backgrounds, often with pencil smudges still showing.

Some of the shorts are better than others, but the majority of them are surprisingly still very funny. Their deadpan cool makes them relevant for today's hipster generation.

Starring: Dave Barry, Mel Blanc, June Foray, Rich Little, Paul Frees, etc.
Written by: John W. Dunn, Bob Kurtz, etc.
Directed by: Friz Freleng, Gerry Chiniquy, Arthur Davis, etc.
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 661 minutes
Date: March 17, 2006

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