Reviews: Pink Panther: The Ultimate Guide to the Coolest Cat in Town!
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Pink Panther: The Ultimate Guide to the Coolest Cat in Town!

Book Review by Charles Brubaker

WARNING: Contains Spoilers. Read at risk.

Animation historian Jerry Beck has written many books on animation, both past and present. "Outlaw Animation", "Warner Bros. Animation Arts", and "Looney Tunes: The Ultimate Visual Guide", to name a few. One of his latest, however, is good as the other one. His latest book all about "Pink Panther", both the movie series and the cartoon from DePatie-Freleng. This book is a must for "Pink Panther" cartoon fans.

DePatie-Freleng Enterprises formed when Warner Bros. closed their animation department in 1963, thus, which made "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" short subjects for many decades. Friz Freleng, and then animation producer David DePatie, didn't give up and rented the animation studio in Warner's lot, to form their own studio, giving Friz more creative freedom on his cartoons. The studio mostly made animated titles and commercials. However, their big break came when Blake Edwards, who was filming his movie, "The Pink Panther", contacted the studio, wanting a design for the Panther. Blake wanted a cartoon character in his film, that was a panther colored pink. Friz and Dave got their artists to draw their designs, for Blake to select in the movie. He picked Hawley Pratt's design and six months later, he commissioned them to make an animated opening using the character. The rest is history.

Now on to the book. The book begins with a foreword by Blake Edwards, who talks about his years with Clouseau and the Pink Panther movie. He described Clouseau taking the traits of a cartoon character, which I agree. Next, we have an introduction with David H. DePatie, who writes about how the Pink Panther cartoon character came to be, from the phonecall with Blake Edwards, to how they proposed the opening storyboards to the Mirish brothers, who David described as "the three wise men". While he may have exaggerated that the opening for the movie was the reason the film was a success, his p.o.v. on the success of the Panther is worth reading.

The book is divided into decades, for 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and even the 2000s, and Jerry Beck managed to track down A LOT of stuff about the Pink Panther. Because of my time and the high number of items with the Pink Panther, I will only talk about stuff I found to be my favorite read.

One of the plus of this book is that OTHER DFE stars have their chance to share their spotlight. Each have two pages devoted to them (except "The Inspector", which has FOUR pages). Here's what to expect:

THE INSPECTOR section Includes original sketches from John W. Dunn. I thought it was interesting that Sgt. Deux-Deux originally looked like Charlie Brown. There's a brief character bio on the Inspector, Sergeant Deux-Deux, and the Commissioner.

In "The Inspector's Casebook", Jerry Beck outlines some of the villians the Inspector went through, including The Blotch (Cirrhosis of the Louvre), Captain Clamity (Reux, Reux, Reux Your Boat), and the Mad Bomber (Napoleon Blown Aparte).

I personally think that THE ANT AND THE AARDVARK section is the best. This contains an all-new drawing of the Aardvark and the Ant, provided by Art Leonardi himself. This section describes how the main titles for the cartoon was made, which used the "paper tear" technique. One of the biggest highlights in this section is the original design for the Aardvark (by John Dunn), who looked like Gene Deitch's Sidney the Elephant. Interesting to point out that Aardvark's nose and mouth was not in the same place, while in the final version, provided by Corny Cole, has the mouth and the nose in the same place.

Then there's ROLAND & RATTFINK, the most obscure DFE character of all time, IMO. Like the Ant & Aardvark page, this contains an all new drawing of Roland and Rattfink from Art Leonardi. Highlights in this section including the original design for the characters, which looked something you expect in those abstract Disney cartoons (John Dunn worked at Disney for years). Another highlights are storyboard pages from "Hurts and Flowers" and "Hawks and Doves". I thought it was interesting that "Roland and Rattfink" series was inspired by political activism and peace movements against the war on Vietnam. Also contains a summery from "Sweet and Sourdough".

TIJUANA TOADS also gets a chance to hog the spotlight. Not much in this section compared to the ones about "Roland and Rattfink" and "The Ant and the Aardvark", although it contains an original background drawing by Dick Thomas and part of the model sheet for Pancho. Plus, plot summeries for "A Pair of Greenbacks", "Never on Thirsty", and "The Froggy Froggy Duo", and a brief info on the redubbed "Texas Toads".

THE BLUE RACER, a spinoff of "Tijuana Toads", also gets his spotlight. This described the beginning for the Blue Racer on his appearance in "Tijuana Toads", and a character bio for the Japanese Beetle and "Kid", a one-shot character that appeared in Bob McKimson's "Fowl Play". While this page doesn't have any model sheets or production drawings, it does have a sub-section called "Changing Skins", which compares Blue Racer designs from Robert McKimson, Sid Marcus, and Gerry Chiniquy. Contains a plot sypnosis from "Freeze a Jolly Good Fellow", "Aches and Snakes", and a little on "Wham and Eggs".

Yes, even HOOT KLOOT is in this book. This part of the book contains character bios on Fester and Crazywolf. Highlights including model sheets for Kloot, Fester and Crazywolf. Also contains a storyboard for the rejected opening sequence of the series, which is actually pretty funny. Includes a plot sypnosis for "Kloot's County" (sic).

And then, DFE's last theatrical series, THE DOGFATHER. Contains character bios for Boss Dog (aka Dogfather), Pug, Louie, and Rocky. Also talks about the retro 1920s design in the series, with a color chart for Dogfather's car. Included are modelsheets and production drawings for the series, and plot sypnosis for "M-O-N-E-Y Spells Love", "Haunting Dog", and "Saltwater Tuffy". Also, this contains a whole new drawing for Dogfather, Pug and Louie by director Art Leonardi.

That's not all. Even series from the "Pink Panther" TV show gets a part on the book.

MISTERJAW's chapter contains character bios on Misterjaw, Catfish, and Harry Halibut, his methods of getting food, and plot sypnosis for "Showbiz Shark", "Cool Shark", "To Catch a Halibut", "Merry Sharkman Merry Sharkman", and "Shopping Spree".

Toads' spinoff, CRAZYLEGS CRANE is in this book. Includes character history, from his appearance in "Tijuana Toads", "Blue Racer" and "Dogfather" to his own series. Character bios for the Natch'l-born Fool (Crazy Legs), Mrs. Crazy Legs (from a Blue Racer short "Aches and Snakes"), Dragonfly, and Crane Jr. Plot sypnosis for "Crane Brained", "Life with Feather", "King of Swamp", "Sonic Broom", and "Winter Blunderland".

There's even a section about PINK PANTHER AND SONS, a Sat. AM show produced by Hanna-Barbera which was mostly about Pink Panther's sons. Friz Freleng was the creative producer and Art Leonardi directed some parts. I never saw this show, and somehow, I don't think I want to. ;)

And let's not forget MGM's THE PINK PANTHER from 1993. While this was never my favorite, I have fond memory of seeing this on TV, and I think it's worth reading. They brought back many DFE characters, including The Inspector (the design is a mix of 1960s "The Inspector" and the Clouseau seen in the opening of RETURN, STRIKES AGAIN, REVENGE, and TRIAL), The Ant and the Aardvark (once again voiced by John Byner), and little man, and the Dogfather. However, the Dogfather and his gang was severely redesigned to make him more or a "Rat Pack" instead of the Corleone clan seen in the original theatrical series.

There's also the movies. Yes, for THE PINK PANTHER, A SHOT IN THE DARK, INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU, THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER, THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN, REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER, TRIAL OF THE PINK PANTHER, CURSE OF THE PINK PANTHER, SON OF THE PINK PANTHER, and finally, Steve Martin's THE PINK PANTHER.

In these, they contain credits, stills from the movie and the animated titles, plot sypnosis, and occasionally, the movie poster, trivias, and behind the scene infos.

There are also pages devoted to Pink Panther MEMORABILIAS, from each decade starting 1960s. Jerry Beck tracked down many merchandises for this book, including ceramics, toys, coloring books, board games (some which features Misterjaw and The Inspector), children's books, and even The Inspector's disguise kit! Some of them are typical cartoon character merchandise (like the coloring book), although several (especially the ceramics) tends to be ridiculous (no wonder Bill Watterson refused to merchandise "Calvin and Hobbes"!). A lot of them are very rare, so good luck finding those on eBay.

There were also snippets from the comic-book with the Pink Panther and the Inspector, along with one of the unpublished comic-strip. If you don't know, there were two failed attempts for the "Pink Panther" comic-strip.

If you wondered how different DFE director's near identical styles are, then check out pages 62 and 63, devoted to ANIMATION DIRECTORS. Jerry talks about Friz Freleng, Hawley Pratt, Robert McKimson, Gerry Chiniquy, Art Davis, Sid Marcus, and Art Leonardi and how their styles are unique. I thought it was a neat page. Even I didn't notice these styles, so this was a big plus.

In my opinion, the biggest highlight in this book were all the model sheets Jerry Beck tracked down. This was a big for me because before then, I never saw model sheets from DFE cartoons. Sure, you can find DFE cels and production drawings on eBay, but never a model sheet. Along with model sheets, there were layout drawings, from Tom Yakutis, Dick Ung, and Roy Morita.

Model sheets are spread throughout the book, including the filmography section.

There were also storyboards, including one from "Crazylegs Crane", where it reveals that his original name was "Ichabod Crane".

Then there's the filmography. From the theatrical years (1964 - 1977), the "All New Pink Panther Show" releases (1978 - 1981), the movies, episode guide for "Misterjaw", "Crazylegs Crane", "Pink Panther and Sons", and the made-for-TV specials starring the Panther, and the MGM series from 1993. Spread throughout the filmography are DFE cels, animation drawings, model sheets, and new drawings from Art Leonardi.

There were few credit errors in the filmography. To list a few

The animators for "Hiss and Hers" is missing. They are Robert Taylor, Don Williams, Bob Richardson.

The directors for "Blue Racer Blues" and "Blue Aces Wild" were switched. "Blues" was directed by Art Davis while "Aces" was directed by Gerry Chiniquy.

Cel drawings with Pink Panther walking with a backpack on page 132 and 133 says they were from "Pink Plasma", even though it's from "Sherlock Pink". This mistake however was my fault because since I didn't have both shorts in my hand at the time Jerry asked me about that, I had to remember from memory.

Dick Ung was listed as a layout artist for "Eagle Beagles" and "From Nags to Riches", while my copy of the cartoon shows Richard Thomas doing both the layouts and the background.

If you want to be technical, both Dick Ung and Richard H. Thomas was credited doing layouts for "Deviled Yeggs", although I think the Dick Ung credit was a mistake in Art Leonardi's part.

The books ends with a bio on Friz Freleng and an afterword by DFE animator Art Leonardi, who shares his years on Pink Panther, and other people that worked on the cartoon. Leonardi also drew the entire DFE gang reading the "Pink Panther Guide" book with Leonardi, which I thought was neat.

Overall, I liked this book. It's refreshing to read more about Freleng's studio more than I knew about. Keep in mind that I only pointed out stuff I thought was interesting. There was MANY more, including an interview with Steve Martin, commercials with the Pink Panther, the DFE studio itself, et al.

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