How The Pink Panther Painted The Mona Lisa’s Smile: Watch the 1975 Animation, “Pink Da Vinci”

Just a little fun to send you into the summer weekend. Above, we present the 1975 animated short, “Pink Da Vinci,” which IMDB frames as follows:

Another battle of the paintbrush between the Pink Panther and a diminutive painter, who this time is Leonardo Da Vinci, painting his masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. The little Da Vinci paints a pouting mouth on the Mona Lisa, but the Pink Panther decides to covertly replace the pout with a smile. When the smile wins the appreciation of an art patron, Da Vinci is enraged and repaints the pout. The Pink Panther repeatedly changes the pout to a smile while the little painter is not looking, and ultimately it is the Pink Panther’s version of the Mona Lisa that hangs in the Louvre.

If this whets your appetite, watch 15 hours of Pink Panther animations here.

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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

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

An Introduction to Nicolas Bourbaki, One of the Most Influential Mathematicians of All Time … Who Never Actually Lived

In 20th-century mathematics, the renowned name of Nicolas Bourbaki stands alone in its class — the class, that is, of renowned mathematical names that don’t actually belong to real people. Bourbaki refers not to a mathematician, but to mathematicians; a whole secret society of them, in fact, who made their name by collectively composing Elements of Mathematic. Not, mind you, Elements of Mathematics: “Bourbaki’s Elements of Mathematic — a series of textbooks and programmatic writings first appearing in 1939—pointedly omitted the ‘s’ from the end of ‘Mathematics,'” writes JSTOR Daily’s Michael Barany, “as a way of insisting on the fundamental unity and coherence of a dizzyingly variegated field.”

That’s merely the tip of Bourbaki’s iceberg of eccentricities. Formed in 1934 “by alumni of the École normale supérieure, a storied training ground for French academic and political elites,” this group of high-powered mathematical minds set about rectifying their country’s loss of nearly an entire generation of mathematicians in the First World War. (While Germany had kept its brightest students and scientists out of battle, the French commitment to égalité could permit no such favoritism.) It was the pressing need for revised and updated textbooks that spurred the members of Bourbaki to their collaboratively pseudonymous, individually anonymous work.




“Yet instead of writing textbooks,” explains Quanta‘s Kevin Hartnett, “they ended up creating something completely novel: free-standing books that explained advanced mathematics without reference to any outside sources.” The most distinctive feature of this already unusual project “was the writing style: rigorous, formal and stripped to the logical studs. The books spelled out mathematical theorems from the ground up without skipping any steps — exhibiting an unusual degree of thoroughness among mathematicians.”  Not that Bourbaki lacked playfulness: “In fanciful and pun-filled narratives shared among one another and alluded to in outward-facing writing,” adds Barany, “Bourbaki’s collaborators embedded him in an elaborate mathematical-political universe filled with the abstruse terminology and concepts of modern theories.”

You can get an animated introduction to Bourbaki, which survives even today as a still-prestigious and at least nominally secret mathematical society, in the TED-Ed lesson above. In the decades after the group’s founding, writes lesson author Pratik Aghor, “Bourrbaki’s publications became standard references, and the group’s members took their prank as seriously as their work.” Their commitment to the front was total: “they sent telegrams in Bourbaki’s name, announced his daughter’s wedding, and publicly insulted anyone who doubted his existence. In 1968, when they could no longer maintain the ruse, the group ended their joke the only way they could: they printed Bourbaki’s obituary, complete with mathematical puns.” And if you laugh at the mathematical pun with which Aghor ends the lesson, you may carry a bit of Bourbaki’s spirit within yourself as well.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Beautiful, Innovative & Sometimes Dark World of Animated Soviet Propaganda (1925-1984)

Growing up, we assembled our worldview from several different sources: parents, siblings, classmates. But for most of us, wherever and whenever we passed our formative years, nothing shaped our early perceptions of life as vividly, and as thoroughly, as cartoons — and this is just as Lenin knew it would be. “With the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922,” writes New York Times film critic Dave Kehr, “Lenin proclaimed the cinema the most important of all the arts, presumably for its ability to communicate directly with the oppressed and widely illiterate masses.”

Lenin certainly didn’t exclude animation, which assumed its role in the Soviet propaganda machine right away: Soviet Toys, the first U.S.S.R.-made cartoon, premiered just two years later. It was directed by Dziga Vertov, the innovative filmmaker best known for 1929’s A Man with a Movie Camera, a thrilling articulation of the artistic possibilities of documentary. Vertov stands as perhaps the most representative figure of Soviet cinema’s early years, in which tight political confines nevertheless permitted a freedom of  artistic experimentation limited only by the filmmaker’s skill and imagination.

This changed with the times: the 1940s saw the elevation of skilled but West-imitative animators like Ivan Ivanov-Vano, whom Kehr calls the “Soviet Disney.” That label is suitable enough, since an Ivanov-Vano short like Someone Else’s Voice from 1949 “could easily pass for a Disney ‘Silly Symphony,'” if not for its un-Disneylike “threatening undertone.” (Not that Disney couldn’t get darkly propagandistic themselves.)




With its magpie who “returns from a flight abroad and dares to warble some of the jazz music she has heard on her travels” only to have “the hearty peasant birds of the forest swoop down and rip her feathers out,” Someone Else’s Voice tells a more allegorical story than those in most of the shorts gathered in this Soviet propaganda animation playlist.

The playlist’s selections come from the collection Animated Soviet Propaganda: From the October Revolution to Perestroika; “workers are strong-chinned, noble, and generic,” writes the A.V. Club’s Tasha Robinson. “Capitalists are fat, piggish cigar-chompers, and foreigners are ugly caricatures similar to those seen in American World War II propaganda.” With their strong “anti-American, anti-German, anti-British, anti-Japanese, anti-Capitalist, anti-Imperialist, and pro-Communist slant,” as Kehr puts it, they would require an impressionable audience indeed to do any convincing outside Soviet territory. But they send an unmistakable message to viewers back in the U.S.S.R.: you don’t know how lucky you are.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How Pixar’s Movement Animation Became So Realistic: The Technological Breakthroughs Behind the Animation

More than a quarter-century ago, Toy Story made Pixar Animation Studios into a household name. Nobody had ever seen a computer-animated feature of such high quality before — indeed, nobody had ever seen a computer-animated feature at all. Though the movie succeeded on many more levels than as a proof of technological concept, it also showed great ingenuity in finding narrative materials suited to the capabilities of CGI at the time, which could render figures of plastic and cloth (or, as other studios had demonstrated slightly earlier, dinosaurs and liquid-metal cyborgs) much more realistically than human beings. Ever since, Pixar has been a byword for the state of the art in computer-animated cinema.

An enormous and ever-growing fan base around the world shows up for each of Pixar’s movies, one of two of which now appear per year, with great expectations. They want to see not just a story solidly told, but the limits of the underlying technology pushed as well.




“How Pixar’s Movement Animation Became So Realistic,” the Movies Insider video above, works its way through the studio’s films, comparing the then-groundbreaking visual intricacy of its earlier releases like Toy Story and Finding Nemo to much more complex pictures like Coco and Soul. Not only do these recent projects feature human characters — not action figures or monsters or fish or cars, but human beings — they feature human characters engaging in such quintessentially human actions as playing music.

What’s more, they portray it with a level of realism that will shock anyone who hasn’t made it out to a Pixar film since the 1990s. Achieving this has necessitated such efforts as equipping Soul‘s piano-playing main character with 584 separate control parameters in his hands alone, about as many as Toy Story‘s cowboy-doll star had in his entire body. But though ever-more-realistic visuals will presumably always remain a goal at Pixar, the magic lies in the accompanying dose of unrealism: mythological visions, trips to the spirit world, and superhuman acts (or attempts at them) also count among Pixar fans’ demands. Ambitious animators push their tools to the limit in pursuit of reality, but truly ambitious animators push them past the limit in pursuit of imagination.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Indie Animation in a Corporate World: A Conversation with Animator Benjamin Goldman on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #88

In the perennial conflict between art and our corporate entertainment machine, animation seems designed to be mechanized, given how labor-intensive it is, and yes, most of our animation comes aimed at children (or naughty adults) from a few behemoths (like, say, Disney).

Your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by Benjamin Goldman to discuss doing animation on your own, with only faint hope of “the cavalry” (e.g. Netfilx money or the Pixar fleet of animators) coming to help you realize (and distribute and generate revenue from) your vision. As an adult viewer, what are we looking for from this medium?

We talk about what exactly constitutes “indie,” shorts vs. features, how the image relates to the narration, realism or its avoidance, and more. Watch Benjamin’s film with Daniel Gamburg, “Eight Nights.”

Some of our other examples include Jérémy Clapin’s I Lost My Body and Skhizein, World of Tomorrow, If Anything Happens I Love You, The Opposites Game, Windup, Fritz the Cat, Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation, and Image Union.

Hear a few lists and comments about this independent animation:

Follow Benjamin on Instagram @bgpictures. Here’s something he did for a major film studio that you might recognize, from the film version of A Series of Unfortunate Events:

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

The Aesthetic of Anime: A New Video Essay Explores a Rich Tradition of Japanese Animation

Giant robots, superpowered schoolgirls, berzerker martial artists: we all know the sort of figures that represent anime. Though clichéd, the widespread nature of these perceptions actually shows how far Japanese animation has come over the past few decades. Not so long ago, the average Westerner didn’t know the meaning of the world anime, let alone its origin. Today, thanks not least to the films of Hayao Miyazaki‘s Studio Ghibli, the average Westerner has likely already been exposed to one or two masterworks of the form. This viewing experience provides a sense of why Japanese animation, far from simply animation that happens to be Japanese, merits a term of its own: any of us, no matter how inexperienced, can sense “The Aesthetic of Anime.”

Taking that concept as the title of their latest video essay, Lewis and Luiza Liz Bond of The Cinema Cartography show us a range of cinematic possibilities that anime has opened up since the 1980s. I recall, long ago, staying up late to tune in to the Sci-Fi Channel’s “Saturday Night Anime” block to catch such classics from that decade as Venus Wars and Project A-Ko.




While Japanese animation in all its forms has gone much more mainstream around the world since then, it hasn’t resulted in a loss of artistic, narrative, and thematic inventiveness. On the contrary, Bond argues: over the past quarter-century, series like Neon Genesis EvangelionSerial Experiments Lain, and Death Note have not only pushed the boundaries of anime, but demonstrated a power to “re-signify storytelling conventions that go beyond the anime form itself.”

In the effort to reveal the true nature of “the misunderstood and often disregarded world of anime,” this video essay references and visually quotes dozens of different shows. (It stops short of the also-vast realm of feature films, such as Ghost in the Shell or the work of Satoshi Kon.) Its range includes the “existential meditation on loneliness” that is Cowboy Bebop, subject of another Bond exegesis previously featured here on Open Culture, and “city pop-fueled Superdimensional Fortress Macross,” which did so much back in the 80s to define not just giant-robot anime but anime itself. Trope-heavy, over-the-top, and “unapologetically weird” though it may seem (but usually not, as Bond implies, without self-awareness), anime continues to realize visions not available — nor even conceivable — to any other art form.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Three Leonard Cohen Animations

Leonard Cohen, High Priest Of Pathos…

     Lord Byron of Rock and Roll…

          Gentleman Zen

                Master Of Misery…Morbidity… Erotic Despair…

                    Prince of Pessimism…Pain…

                         Troubadour For Troubled Souls…

The gravel-voiced singer-songwriter accumulated hundreds of nicknames over a career spanning more than half a century. He wasn’t thrilled by some of them, remarking to the BBC, “You get tired, over the years, hearing that you’re the champion of gloom.”

Taken all together, however, they make for a decent composite portrait of a prolific artist whose sensuality, mordant wit, and obsession with love, loss, and redemption never wavered.




He took some hiatuses, including a 5-year stint as a monk in California’s Mount Baldy monastery, but never retired.

His final studio album, You Want It Darker, was released mere weeks before his death.

Journalist Rob Sheffield articulated the Cohen mystique in a Rolling Stone eulogy:

This man was both the crack in everything and the light that gets in. Nobody wrote such magnificently bleak ballads for brooding alone in the dark, staring at a window or wall – “Joan of Arc,” “Chelsea Hotel,” “Tower of Song,” “Famous Blue Raincoat,” “Closing Time.” He was music’s top Jewish Canadian ladies’ man before Drake was born, running for the money and the flesh. Like Bowie and Prince, he tapped into his own realm of spiritual and sexual gnosis, and like them, he went out at the peak of his musical powers. No songwriter ever adapted to old age with more cunning or gusto. 

Cohen also excelled at interviews, leaving behind a wealth of generous, freewheeling recordings, at least three of which have become fodder for animators.

The animation at the top of the page is drawn from Cohen’s 1966 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Adrienne Clarkson, shortly after the release of his experimental novel, Beautiful Losers. (His debut album was still a year and a half away.)

Earlier in the interview, Cohen mentions the “happy revolution” he encountered in Toronto after an extended period on the Greek island of Hydra:

I was walking on Yorkville Street and it was jammed with beautiful, beautiful people last night. I thought maybe it could spread to the [other] streets and maybe even … where’s the money district? Bay Street?… I thought maybe they could take that over soon, too.

How to tap into the source of all this happiness?

The future Zen monk Cohen was pretty convinced it could be located by sitting quietly, though he doesn’t condemn those using drugs or alcohol as an assist, explaining that his fellow Canadian, abstract expressionist Harold Town, “gets beautiful under alcohol. I get stupid and generally throw up.”

8 years later, WBAI’s Kathleen Kendel came armed with a poem for Cohen to read on air, and also plumbed him as to the origins of “Sisters of Mercy,” one of his best known songs, and the only one that didn’t require him to “sweat over every word.” (Possibly the consolation prize for his dashed hopes of erotic adventure with the song’s protagonists.)

(The animation here is by Patrick Smith for PBS’ Blank on Blank series.)

Animator Joe Donaldson riffs on an excerpt from Cohen’s final major interview, with The New Yorker’s editor-in-chief, David Remnick, above.

Remnick recalled that his subject, who died a few days later, was “in an ebullient mood for a man… who knew exactly where he was going, and he was headed there in a hurry. And at the same time, he was incredibly gracious.”

The 82-year-old Cohen spoke enthusiastically if somewhat pessimistically about having a lot of new material to get through, “to put (his) house in order,” but also admitted, “sometimes I just need to lie down.”

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

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