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This Saturday morning NBC cartoon show featured the Pink Panther and The Inspector (a cartoon version of Peter Sellers’ famous Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther movies).
There were three cartoon shorts per episode, with additional short vignettes between the cartoons.
In September, 1971, The Pink Panther Show became The Pink Panther Meets the Ant and the Aardvark, a new NBC series.
The Inspector disappeared, and new characters were introduced – An easy-going ant named Charlie, and a hungry aardvark (with a snout like the hose of a vacuum cleaner), who wants to eat the Ant.
The ant sounded just like Dean Martin, while the aardvark sounded like Jackie Mason. Both voices were in fact provided by comedian John Byner.
In 1976, NBC expanded its Pink Panther Show to 90 minutes, and cartoons with the panther, the Inspector, and The Ant and the Aardvark joined by The Texas Toads (a duo of intellectually-challenged toads from the Rio Grande) who were always in search of flies and fun. This segment was also known as The Tijuana Toads.
Misterjaw (a self-important, scheming shark with a German accent) was also added to the line-up (voiced by Arte Johnson).
The first Pink Panther cartoons made specifically for television came in 1978’s The All-New Pink Panther Show. Accompanying these segments was a new character named Crazylegs Crane. With the help of his son, Crane Jr., the dim-witted bird chased a dragonfly named Dragonfly without much success.
After running steadily on television for ten years the Pink Panther was taken off the air in 1979.
Five years later, NBC launched Pink Panther & Sons. While the panther still refused to speak, it didn’t really matter, since he was always surrounded by his sons Pinky, Panky, and Punkin, who more than made up for their father’s silence.
With the title character reduced essentially to the role of babysitter, the series left the air after a less-than-stellar run.
The final version of the beloved character debuted in 1993 as the syndicated The Pink Panther.
While these episodes were well written and artistically animated, the series upset many traditional Panther fans by giving the character a voice (even if that voice did come from Matt “Max Headroom” Frewer).
Whatever support it may have lost, the show won back fans old and new with its slapstick humour and its resurrection of The Ant and the Aardvark and fellow DePatie-Freleng creation The Dogfather (voiced by Joe Pesci). The new version also featured new creations Voodoo Man and Manly Man.
After two seasons and 52 episodes, the Pink Panther again slunk into hiding, but after three decades of fame, it isn’t likely the great cat will be gone forever.
The Pink Panther
Pat Harrington Jr.
Pat Harrington Jr.
Larry D. Mann