The Pink Panther is a fictional animated character who appeared in the opening and/or closing credit sequences of every film in the Pink Panther series except for A Shot in the Dark and Inspector Clouseau. In the storyline of the original film, the "Pink Panther" was the name of a valuable pink diamond named for a flaw that showed a "figure of a springing panther" when held up to the light in a certain way; in the credits this was translated to an animated pink panther.
The character's popularity spawned a spin-off franchise of theatrical shorts, television cartoons and merchandise. He starred in 124 short films, 10 TV shows and 4 TV specials. The character is closely associated with "The Pink Panther Theme", composed by Henry Mancini.
The animated Pink Panther character's initial appearance in the live action film's title sequence, directed by Friz Freleng, was such a success with audiences and United Artists that the studio signed Freleng and his DePatie–Freleng Enterprises studio to a multi-year contract for a series of Pink Panther theatrical cartoon shorts. The first entry in the series, 1964's The Pink Phink, featured Pink harassing his foil, a little white mustachioed man who is often considered a caricature of Friz Freleng (this character is officially known as The Little Man), by constantly trying to paint the Little Man's blue house pink. The Pink Phink won the 1964 Academy Award for Animated Short Film, and subsequent shorts in the series, usually featuring the Pink Panther opposite the Little Man, were successful releases.
In an early series of Pink Panther animated cartoons, Pink generally remained silent, speaking only in two theatrical shorts, Sink Pink (one line) and Pink Ice (throughout the film). Rich Little provided Pink's voice in these shorts, modeling it on that of David Niven (who had portrayed Clouseau's jewel thief nemesis in the original live-action film). (Years later, Little would overdub Niven's voice for Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, due to Niven's ill health.) All of the animated Pink Panther shorts utilized the distinctive jazzy theme music composed by Henry Mancini for the 1963 feature film, with additional scores composed by Walter Greeneor William Lava.
In the fall of 1969, the Pink Panther cartoons made their way to NBC television shown Saturday mornings via The Pink Panther Show. NBC added a laugh track to the original cartoons, with Marvin Miller brought on as an off-camera narrator talking to the Pink Panther during bumper segments featuring the Pink Panther and The Inspector together.
Pink Panther shorts made after 1969 were produced for both broadcast and film release, typically appearing on television first, and released to theaters by United Artists. One version of the show was called The Think Pink Panther Show. A number of sister series joined The Pink Panther on movie screens and on the airwaves, among them The Ant and the Aardvark, The Tijuana Toads (a.k.a. The Texas Toads), Hoot Kloot, and Misterjaw (a.k.a. Mr. Jaws and Catfish). There were also a series of animated shorts called The Inspector, with the bumbling Clouseau inspired Inspector and his Spanish-speaking sidekick Sgt. Deux-Deux, whom the Inspector is forever correcting. ("Deux" is French for "two," meaning the little man's name is both a pun and a play on words, "two" appearing twice in the name.) Other DePatie-Freleng series included Roland and Rattfink, The Dogfather (a Godfather pastiche), with a canine Corleone family and two Tijuana Toads spinoffs, The Blue Racer and Crazylegs Crane.
In 1976, the half-hour series was revamped into a 90-minute format, as The Pink Panther Laugh and a Half Hour and a Half Show; this version included a live-action segment, where the show's host, comedian Lenny Schultz, would read letters and jokes from viewers. This version flopped, and would change back to the original half-hour version in 1977. In 1978, after nine years on NBC, The Pink Panther moved to ABC, where it lasted one season before leaving the network realm entirely. The ABC version of the series featured sixteen episodes with 32 new Pink Panther cartoons, and 16 of Crazylegs Crane. The 32 new Pink Panther cartoons were eventually released to theaters by United Artists.
In 1971, Gold Key Comics began publishing a Pink Panther comic book, with art by Warren Tufts. The Pink Panther and the Inspector lasted 87 issues, ending only when Gold Key ceased operations in 1984. The spinoff series The Inspector (also from Gold Key) lasted 19 issues, from 1974 to 1978.
During the final years of the Panther's theatrical run, DePatie-Freleng produced a series of three primetime Pink Panther television specials for ABC. The first was 1978's A Pink Christmas. It featured the cool cat in New York being cold and hungry looking for a juicy holiday dinner. The other two specials premiered on ABC after the shorts officially ended in theaters, 1980's Olym-Pinks and 1981's Pink at First Sight. In November of late 2007, the three specials were released on a single disc DVD collection, The Pink Panther: A Pink Christmas from MGM Home Entertainment/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
The studio was sold to Marvel Comics in 1981, and became Marvel Productions. In 1984, the Pink Panther was licensed to produced the short-lived Saturday morning series, Pink Panther and Sons in which the still-silent Pink Panther was given two talking sons, Pinky and Panky. Yet another new series of cartoons, called The Pink Panther, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Animation, premiered in syndication in 1993, and had the Pink Panther speaking with the voice of Matt Frewer (of Max Headroom fame). Unlike the original shorts, not all episode titles contained the word "pink," although many instead contained the word "panther."
In July 2007, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and Jordan's Rubicon animation company began co-production of the animated series Pink Panther and Pals portraying a teenaged panther and his friends. The 26 episode TV series premiered worldwide in Fall 2009 on Cartoon Network. After acquiring United Artists in the early 1980s, MGM continues to own the ancillary rights and trademarks to the Pink Panther franchise today. The German television version which started airing in 1973 in ZDF, was presented in 30-minute episodes, composed of one Pink Panther cartoon, one episode of The Inspector and one episode of The Ant and the Aardvark. Most notably, the difference between the German and the English version of The Pink Panther is a rhymed narration in the German version (spoken by voice actor Gert Günther Hoffmann), commenting and describing the plot. For this show, custom intro and end sequences were cut together from existing pieces of animation.
A Pink Panther comic strip was started in 2005. It was written and illustrated by Eric and Bill Teitelbaum, who also create Bottom Liners. It is distributed by Tribune Media Services.
As of today, the Pink Panther continues to be a friendly character in advertising.
- The Pink Panther Show intro theme was used by Nike in a viral campaign of Pink Mercurial Vapor IV football boots using the French football star Franck Ribery mimicking the character of the Pink Panther.
- Pink Panther is segment guest in the episode "Karate is K" Sesame Street.
- American television personality Regis Philbin can be seen in a commercial for Sweet'N Low talking to a taxi cab driver. After the camera changes the view, the audience realize that the driver is the Pink Panther.
- Owens Corning features him on their website and in advertising for their pink-colored residential building insulation.
- The German phone company Deutsche Telekom uses Pink Panther as an advertising mascot since 1995 in Germany.
- Japanese Pop/R&B singer Namie Amuro, who is a fan of the cartoon, uses him as the theme of her album cover art for her album Queen of Hip-Pop. A special character the "Namie Panther" based on Amuro herself was also created as a counterpart to the Pink Panther. Both characters were heavily featured in her music video for her promotional single "WoWa." Because of the Pink Panther deal, all of the material released for the album had been pink. First pressing packaging of the album included Pink Panther stickers and a Pink Panther styled newspaper containing lyrics for the album.
- In Spain, a Pantera Rosa cake is sold. It is coated in pink.
- In the Family Guy episode Halloween on Spooner Street, after Brian is spray painted pink, the Pink Panther walks up and asks Brian if this is his first day pink. Upon Brian's reply, the Pink Panther says, "Welcome to Hell."
- The Pink Panther is associated with a number of cancer awareness and support organisations. The Pink Panther is the mascot of the New Zealand Child Cancer foundation and for a line of clothing to promote breast cancer awareness.