As originally mentioned in my review of Volume 1, Friz Freleng was an instrumental figure in animation history because of his work on Warner Brothers' Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes. He and producer David H. DePatie went on to form DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. Kino Lorber Animation has been releasing that company's work on Blu-ray. After a few years of creating theatrical cartoons, DePatie-Freleng brought them to television with The Pink Panther Show, which premiered on NBC on September 6, 1969. DePatie-Freleng resumed producing theatrical shorts again in 1971. The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Volume 4 presents the next 22 cartoons in the series.
Most of the cartoons in this set feature the two storylines that the character had been successful with: The Panther as either a chaotic force or on the receiving end of one. On occasion, the Panther and Little Man are drawn slightly different from previous cartoons, and the latter usually appears white or flesh-colored.
A Fly in the Pink is a remake of The Pink Tail Fly with the mosquito replaced by a scientifically augmented fruit fly. This idea also loosely repeated with a flea as the nemesis in The Pink Flea. Psst Pink finds the Panther chasing after a wayward spare tire. There's a good sound gag when the music is slowed down as the Panther wearily makes his way up the stairs. In an interesting artistic choice or they ran out of time, all humans are just one color, white, with black lines, except for a cop who is blue. Pink 8 Ball uses the same premise with the Panther chasing after a basketball, not a billiard ball as title refers to, he intended as gift.
The Little Man runs a diner and hires the Panther as a cook in Pink Blue Plate. One of the funny gags of the whole set was Little Man, who gets accidentally trapped in a cement block, getting smacked in the eyes, his only visible parts, with a pie by an angry construction worker. Pink Streaker is not as exciting as it sound as the Panther pesters the Little Man on the slopes as he learns to ski. Forty Pink Winks finds the Panther looking for a place to sleep in a hotel while the Little Man hotel inspector tries to run him out.
The woods are a frequent setting for Panther shorts. In Pink Tuba-dore, the Little Man is sent to the there by townsfolk who can't stand his tuba playing. While there, he he disturbs the Panther living in a tree. The Panther is a park ranger in Keep Our Forests Pink and has to deal with the Little Man ignoring all the rules as he camps. In Pink Campaign, the Panther seeks revenge after Little Man cuts down tree Panther lives in. He begins to steal things, making the Man think he is going mad.
Gong with the Pink sees the Panther getting hired as a waiter at a Chinese restaurant. He has to bang a gong for every item on menu. The vibrations of which cause problems inside the Little Man's glass shop, which is nonsensically located between the dining room and the kitchen, on the second floor. Some of his co-workers could have been drawn with more sensitivity.
The Panther is a stowaway aboard a luxury liner in Pink Aye and the Little Man, a waiter, tries to catch him. The ending has an unexpected twist regarding who gets their comeuppance. In Trail of the Lonesome Pink, Jacques and Jules, two Canadian Little Men, one blue, one beige, are fur trappers. With the help of snapping turtles, the Panther seeks to save the animals and teach the Men a lesson.
The Panther helps other animals in this set: adopting a salmon (Pink Salmon), befriending an elephant (Pink Elephant), and helping a bird fly south (Bobolink Pink). After reading The Scarlet Pimpernel, the Panther takes on the identity of The Scarlet Pinkernel, working on behalf of dogs against the Little Man dog catcher.
Pink Da Vinci, the first directed by Freleng old cohort Robert McKimson, casts the Little Man as Leonardo, so the Panther has traveled back in time. He angers Leonardo by altering the Mona Lisa, giving her a smile instead of a frown. This is a variation of the very first Panther cartoon, The Pink Phink, where he painted everything pink the Little Man painted blue. The Little Man is Dracula in Pink Plasma and Tarzan in It's Pink, but Is It Mink?
Pink Pranks breaks from the typical storyline the Panther ends up in Arctic where he is befriended by a seal. The Panther is pursued by a polar bear while the seal is pursued by Little Man. The multiple characters makes the plot more interesting. Pink-In finds the Panther reading old letters from an army buddy, which is just an excuse to reuse scenes from G.I. Pink, Pink in the Clink, Pink Pajamas, Pickled Pink, and The Pink Package Plot.
Like the previous volumes, the video has received 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. I could easily repost my past raves about the video quality because Kino Lorber remains the high standard of past Panther releases. The colors shine in vivid hues. Blacks are inky and whites are bright. There is a as much detail as the animators created. Aside from minor specks of black and white that appear, the image looks clean.
The audio is available in DTS-HD MA 2.0. The Panther cartoons are predominantly music and effects with only a few instances of dialogue, such as the newscaster in A Fly in the Pink or the voice of the buddy in Pink-In, which are clear. The music comes through with strong clarity and are balanced well mixed with the effects. The track exhibits no signs of age or defect.
For the Special Features, there are 12 with commentaries. Returning speakers from the previous volumes are filmmaker Greg Ford (four), historian Jerry Beck (two), cartoon writer Wiliam Hohauser (two), and author Mark Arnold (four). A Fly in the Pink contains archival audio of Friz Freleng, Gerry Chiniquy, and Art Leonardi. “Pink Patter with Art Leonardi” (15 min) is an interview with the animator/director who provides some history about DePatie-Freleng and the Panther cartoons.
While I recommend the entire series to date, Volume 4 of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection is as good a place to jump in as any. The cartoons are enjoyably ridiculous because the creators go for the laugh first. Kino Lorber does a great job with the high-def presentation and their usual experts offer insight for those who want to learn more.