|Pepé Le Pew|
|First appearance||Odor-able Kitty (January 6, 1945)|
|Created by||Chuck Jones|
|Voiced by||Mel Blanc (1945-1989)|
Maurice LaMarche (Space Jam-current)
Bruce Lanoil (Looney Tunes: Back in Action)
Joe Alaskey (Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas)
Billy West (some video games)
Greg Burson (Carrotblanca, Tiny Toon Adventures)
Jeff Bennett (Dancing Pepé short)
Frank Welker (Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries)
Rene Auberjonois (The Looney Tunes Show)
|Spouse(s)||Lola Bunny, 7 ex-wives|
Pepé Le Pew is a fictional character in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons, first introduced in 1945. A French skunk that always strolls around in Paris in the springtime, when everyone's thoughts are of "love", Pepé is constantly seeking "l'amour" of his own. However, he has two huge turnoffs to any prospective mates: his malodorous scent, and he cannot take 'no' for an answer, blissfully convinced that the girl is flirting with him, even when she physically assaults him. Pepé is stereotypically French in the way Speedy Gonzales is stereotypically Mexican.
Pepé Le Pew storylines typically involve Pepé in pursuit of what appears to be a female skunk ("petite femme skunk"). But, usually, the supposed female skunk is actually a black cat (retroactively named Penelope Pussycat) who has had a white stripe painted down her back, often by accident (as by squeezing under a fence with wet white paint). Usually Penelope runs away from him anyway because of his putrid odor or because of his overly aggressive manner, most the first reason than the last as Penelope can be just, or even more aggressive and promiscuous than Pépe himself.
Chuck Jones, Pepé's creator, wrote that Pepé was based (loosely) on the personality of his Termite Terrace colleague, writer Tedd Pierce, a self-styled "ladies' man" who reportedly always assumed that his infatuations were requited. Pepé's voice, provided by Mel Blanc, was based on Charles Boyer's Pépé le Moko from Algiers (1938), a remake of the 1937 French film Pépé le Moko. Eddie Selzer, animation producer—and Jones' bitterest foe—at Warners then once profanely commented that no one would laugh at those cartoons. However, this did not keep Selzer from accepting an award for one of Pepé's pictures several years later. There have been theories that Pepé was based on Maurice Chevalier. However, in the short film, Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood, Jones says Pepé was actually based on himself, but that he was very shy with girls, and Pepé obviously was not. A prototype Pepé appears in 1947's Bugs Bunny Rides Again, but sounds similar to Porky Pig.
In the shorts, a kind of pseudo-French or Franglais is spoken and written primarily by adding "le" to English words (example: "le skunk de pew"), or by more creative mangling of French expressions with English ones, such as "Sacre Maroon!", "My sweet peanut of brittle", "Come to me, my little melon-baby collie!" or "Ah, my little darling, it is love at first sight, is it not, no?", and "It is love at sight first!" The writer responsible for these malapropisms was Michael Maltese.
Relationship with Penelope Pussycat
In some episodes, Penelope Pussycat has attempted to help Pepé get rid of his odor.
The Academy Award-winning 1949 short For Scent-imental Reasons ended with an accidentally painted (and now terrified) Pepé being aggressively pursued by a madly smitten Penelope (who has been dunked in dirty water, leaving her with a ratty appearance and a developing head cold, completely clogging up her nose). Penelope locks him up inside a perfume shop, hiding the key down her chest, and proceeds to turn the tables on the now imprisoned and effectively odorless Pepé.
In another short, Little Beau Pepé, Pepé, attempting to find the most arousing cologne with which to impress Penelope, sprays a combination of perfumes and colognes upon himself. This resulted in something close to a love-potion, leading Penelope to fall madly in love with Pepé in an explosion of hearts. Pepé is revealed to be extremely frightened of overly-affectionate women ("But Madame!"), much to his dismay, as Penelope quickly captures him and smothers him in more love than even he could imagine.
And yet again, in Really Scent, Pepé removes his odor by locking himself in a deodorant plant so Penelope (or known as "Fabrette", in this instance a black cat with an unfortunate birthmark) would like him (this is also the only episode that Pepé is acutely aware of his own odor, having checked the word Pew in the dictionary). However, Penelope (who in this picture is actually trying to have a relationship with Pepé because all the male cats of New Orleans take her to be a skunk and run like blazes, but is appalled by his odor) had decided to make her own odor match her appearance and had locked herself in a Limburger cheese factory. Now more forceful and demanding, Penelope quickly corners the terrified Pepé, who, after smelling her new stench, wants nothing more than to escape the amorous female cat. Unfortunately, she will not take "no" for an answer and proceeds to chase Pepé off into the distance, with no intention of letting him escape.
Although Pepé usually mistakes Penelope for a female skunk, in Past Perfumance, he realises that she is a cat when her stripe washes off. Undeterred, he proceeds to cover his white stripe with black paint, taking the appearance of a cat before resuming the chase.
Chuck Jones first introduced the character (originally named Stinky) in the 1945 short Odor-able Kitty. This differs from later entries in several areas: Pepé spends his time in (unknowing) pursuit of a male cat, who has deliberately disguised himself as a skunk for reasons of his own; and in the closing gag, Pepé is revealed to actually be a philandering American skunk named Henry (complete with wife and children!). For the remaining cartoons Jones directed, Pepé retained his accent, nationality, and bachelor status throughout, and the object of his pursuit was always (or nearly always) female.
A possible second cameo appearance is at the end of Fair and Worm-er (Chuck Jones, 1946). This skunk doesn't speak, but looks identical (or is a close relation) and shares the same mode of travel and a slight variation of Pepé's hopping music.
A skunk often identified as Pepé appears in the Art Davis-directed cartoon Odor of the Day (1948); in this entry, the theme of romantic pursuit is missing as the skunk (in a nonspeaking role, save for a shared "Gesundheit!" at the finish) vies with a male dog for lodging accommodations on a bitterly cold night.
Pepé himself made a more obvious cameo in Dog Pounded (1954), where he was attracted to Sylvester after the latter tried to get around a pack of guard dogs, in his latest attempt to capture and eat Tweety Bird, by painting a white stripe down his back (in his only appearance in a Freleng short).
For some unknown reason, Penelope is always mute (more precisely - does only natural cat sounds) in these stories; only the self-deluded Pepé speaks (several non-recurring human characters are given minimal dialogue, often nothing more than a repulsed, "Le pew!").
Pepé was, at one point, integral to the storyline for the movie Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Originally, once Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and their human co-stars arrived in Paris, Pepé was to give them a mission briefing inside a gift shop. Perhaps because of the group receiving their equipment in Area 52, Pepé's scene was cut, and in the final film, he plays only a bit part, dressed like a police officer, who tries to help one of the human co-stars (played by Brendan Fraser) after his co-star (played by Jenna Elfman) is kidnapped. However, some unused animation of him and Penelope appears during the end credits, thus giving viewers a rare glimpse at his cut scene, and his cut scene appears in the movie's print adaptations. Pepé also appears in Space Jam, where his voice has curiously been changed into an approximation of Maurice Chevalier, as opposed to more traditional vocalization.
Pepé was going to have a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit but was later dropped for reasons unknown.
Pepé appeared once in Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Who Bopped Bugs Bunny" and is the mentor to the character Fifi La Fume, and also made a cameo appearance in the Histeria! episode "When America Was Young". Pepé also has a small cameo in the Goodfeathers segment, "We're No Pigeons", on Animaniacs.
In "The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries", in the episode,"Platinum wheel of Fortune", when Sylvester gets a white stripe on his back, a skunk immediately fall in love with him. This is not Pepe, however, he does say, "What can I say, Pepe Le Pew is my third cousin. It runs in the family". However, Pepe did appear in "Tweety's High-Flying Adventure", he appears to fall in love with both Sylvester and Penelope.
In the 1995 animated short Carrotblanca, a parody/homage of the classic film Casablanca, both Pepé and Penelope appear: Pepé (voiced by Greg Burson) as Captain Renault and Penelope (voiced by Tress MacNeille) as "Kitty Ketty", modeled after Ingrid Bergman's performance as Ilsa. Unlike the character's other appearances in cartoons, Penelope (as Kitty) has extensive speaking parts in Carrotblanca.
Jerry Orbach stated in interviews that when cast as Lumière in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, he based the character's voice and mannerisms on an amalgam of Chevalier's and Pepé's characteristics.
Johnny Depp claims that he drew upon Pepé (along with guitarist Keith Richards) for his characterization of Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
In Loonatics Unleashed, a human descendant of Pepé, called Pierre Le Pew has appeared as one of the villains of the second season of the show. Additionally, Pepé and Penelope Pussycat appear as cameos in a display of Otto the Odd, in the series. In the episode The World is My Circus, Lexi Bunny complains that "this Pepé Le Pew look is definitely not me" after being mutated into a skunk-like creature.
A 2009 Valentine's Day-themed AT&T commercial brings Pepé and Penelope's relationship up to date, depicting Penelope not as repulsed by Pepé, but madly in love with him. The commercial begins with Penelope deliberately painting a white stripe on her own back; when her cell phone rings and displays Pepé's picture, Penelope's lovestruck beating heart bulges beneath her chest in a classic cartoon image.
Pepe Le Pew has appeared in the "The Looney Tunes Show" episode Members Only voiced by Rene Auberjonois and the "Merrie Melodies" musicvideo; "cock of the walk" sung by Foghorn Leghorn. He also had his own song "Skunk Funk".