Watch 15 Hours of The Pink Panther for Free

Remem­ber Sat­ur­day morn­ings?

If you’re an Amer­i­can of a cer­tain age, you prob­a­bly spent a good chunk of them sprawled in front of the TV, absorb­ing a steady stream of net­work car­toons pep­pered with ads for toys and sug­ared cere­al.

One of Sat­ur­day morn­ing’s ani­mat­ed stars stood out from the crowd, a lanky, bipedal feline of a dis­tinct­ly rosy hue.

He shared Bugs Bunny’s anar­chic streak, with­out the hopped-up, motor­mouthed inten­si­ty.

In fact, he bare­ly spoke, and soon went entire­ly mute, rely­ing instead on Hen­ry Mancini’s famous theme, which fol­lowed him every­where he went.

Above all, he was sophis­ti­cat­ed, with a min­i­mal­ist aes­thet­ic and a long cig­a­rette hold­er.

Direc­tor Blake Edwards attrib­ut­es his last­ing appeal to his “promis­cu­ous, fun-lov­ing, dev­il­ish” nature.

John Cork’s short doc­u­men­tary Behind the Feline: The Car­toon Phe­nom­e­non, below, details how Edwards charged com­mer­cial ani­ma­tors David DePatie and Friz Fre­leng with cre­at­ing a car­toon per­sona for the Pink Pan­ther Dia­mond in his upcom­ing jew­el heist caper.

DePatie, Fre­leng and their team draft­ed over a hun­dred ren­der­ings in response to the char­ac­ter notes Edwards bom­bard­ed them with via telegram.

Edward’s favorite, designed by direc­tor Haw­ley Pratt, fea­tured the icon­ic cig­a­rette hold­er and appeared in the fea­ture film’s trail­er and title sequence, ulti­mate­ly upstag­ing a star stud­ded cast includ­ing David Niv­en, Clau­dia Car­di­nale, Robert Wag­n­er, and Peter Sell­ers as Inspec­tor Clouse­au.

The car­toon panther’s sen­sa­tion­al debut prompt­ed Unit­ed Artists to order up anoth­er 156 shorts, to be released over a four to five year peri­od. The first of these, The Pink Phink, not only estab­lished the tone, it also nabbed the Acad­e­my Award for 1964’s best ani­mat­ed short.

Although he was cre­at­ed with an adult audi­ence in mind — the nar­ra­tor of the orig­i­nal the­atri­cal trail­er asks him about bed­room scenes — his word­less tor­ment of the sim­pli­fied car­toon Inspec­tor proved to be mon­ey in the bank on Sat­ur­day morn­ings.

The Pink Pan­ther Show ran from 1969 to 1980, weath­er­ing var­i­ous title tweaks and a jump from NBC to ABC.

Syn­di­ca­tion and cable TV ensured a vibrant after­life, here and in oth­er coun­tries, where the character’s sophis­ti­ca­tion and reliance on body lan­guage con­tin­ues to be a plus.

The plots unfold­ed along pre­dictable lines — the groovy pan­ther spends 6 min­utes thwart­ing and bedev­il­ing a less cool, less pink-ori­ent­ed char­ac­ter, usu­al­ly the Inspec­tor.

Every episode’s title includes a ref­er­ence to the star’s sig­na­ture col­or, often to groan­ing degree — Pink of the Lit­terPink-A-BooThe Hand Is Pinker Than the EyePinkcome TaxThe Scar­let Pinker­nel.…

We won’t ask you to guess the col­or of Pink Pan­ther Flakes, man­u­fac­tured under the aus­pices of Post, a Pink Pan­ther Show co-spon­sor.

“I thought it was just fine for the film,” Edwards says of the ani­mat­ed Pink Pan­ther in Cork’s 2003 doc­u­men­tary, “But I had no idea that it would take off like that, that it would have that kind of a life of its own… that kind of a mer­chan­dis­ing life of its own. Thank god it did!”

Stay cool this sum­mer with an 11-hour Pink Pan­ther marathon, com­prised of the fol­low­ing free com­pi­la­tions of Sea­sons 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Sea­son 1

Sea­son 2

Sea­son 3

Sea­son 4

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

How Looney Tunes & Oth­er Clas­sic Car­toons Helped Amer­i­cans Become Musi­cal­ly Lit­er­ate

The Ani­ma­tions That Changed Cin­e­ma: The Ground­break­ing Lega­cies of Prince Achmed, Aki­ra, The Iron Giant & More

Peter Sell­ers Per­forms The Bea­t­les “A Hard Day’s Night” in Shake­speare­an Voice

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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