On September 6, 1969, a cartoon cat with pink fur and the manners of an English aristocrat became the subject of his own animated cartoon The Pink Panther Show. While this cat had previously waltzed across screens since the opening sequence of the first Pink Panther film in 1963, this Saturday morning cartoon would garner the character his highest profile.
Created by David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng, the series was produced by Mirisch Films and DePatie–Freleng Enterprise. The original series aired on NBC from 1969 to 1978, with subsequent incarnations under several names produced over its 10 years on various television networks. This latest addition to the already expansive British-American media franchise, saw the Pink Panther stumble into difficult situations with an inept French police detective, Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Often accompanied by a Spanish gendarme, Sergeant Deux-Deux, this ragtag team would battle villains at the behest of the long-suffering Surete Commissioner.
Early episodes of this series consisted of three theatrical cartoons, one featuring the Inspector sandwiched by two Pink Panther entries. The opening sequence followed a boy driving the Panthermobile to the Chinese Theatre as images of animals and clips of the panther from Reel Pink, Come On In! The Water's Pink and Put Put Pink play in the background. Upon arrival, the Pink Panther and the Inspector then disembark from the Panthermobile and enter the famous theater. End credits see the Inspector climbing back into the Panthermobile, as the Pink Panther chases behind the car. Both the opening and end credits are accompanied by the show’s title song, “Panther Pink Panther From Head To Toes,” written by Doug Goodwin.
In 1976, the 30-minute show was revamped into the 90-minute show It’s the All New Pink Panther Laugh-and-a-Half Hour-and-a-Half Show Introducing Misterjaw. This poorly received version included a live-action segment with comedian Lenny Schultz reading letters and jokes from viewers. Eventually, the show reverted to the original 30-minute version as Think Pink Panther. Across its 10-year run, The Pink Panther Show had a variety of names including The Pink Panther Meets the Ant and the Aardvark, The Pink Panther and Friends and The All New Pink Panther Show to name a few.
Even after 50 years, the iconic imagery of the Pink Panther and the instrumental score used throughout the franchise are instantly recognizable to fans of all ages. In recent years, MGM has often teased plans to develop a live-action/animated Pink Panther film focused on the Pink Panther cartoon character. Who knows, with the growing trend for combining live-action with CGI, audiences may be told to “Think Pink” in the not-so-distant future.