DePatie-Freleng Enterprises

DePatie-Freleng Enterprises
Industry Animation
Fate Partnership dissolved, remainder acquired by Marvel in 1981, and its intellectual properties acquired by several properties since Friz Freleng's death and then.
Successor Marvel Productions
Founded 1963
Founder David H. DePatie
Friz Freleng
Defunct 1981
Key people
David H. DePatie
Friz Freleng
Products Television shows
Theatrical shorts
Television specials
Title sequences
Television commercials
Owner David H. DePatie
Friz Freleng

DePatie-Freleng Enterprises (also known as Mirisch-Geoffrey-DePatie Freleng Productions when involved with the Mirisch brothers and Geoffrey Productions; and DFE Films) was an American animation production company, active from 1963 to 1981. Based in Burbank, California, DFE produced theatrical cartoons, animated series, commercials, film title design sequences and television specials. Notable among these are The Pink Panther film titles and cartoon shorts, as well as the Dr. Seuss cartoon adaptations made for CBS and ABC. Most DFE productions are now owned by Marvel Entertainment (a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company), with some exceptions.[1]


DFE was founded by two former Warner Bros. Cartoons employees, director/composer/producer Friz Freleng and executive David H. DePatie, after Warner Bros. closed its animation studio in 1963.[2] Although Freleng and DePatie were no longer working for Warner Bros., a generous gesture from a Warner executive allowed Freleng and DePatie to lease the former Warner cartoons studio on California Street in Burbank, complete with equipment and supplies for a few dollars each year. Although DFE's initial business was commercials and industrial films, several lucky breaks put the new studio into the theatrical cartoon business.

Director Blake Edwards contacted DFE and asked them to design a panther character for Edwards's new film, The Pink Panther. Pleased with the design for the character, Edwards contracted with DFE to produce the animated titles for the film. Upon the film's release, the titles garnered a tremendous amount of attention, so much that a large amount of the picture's gross is believed to have been generated by the success of DFE's title sequence.

DFE soon agreed to a contract with United Artists to produce a series of cartoon shorts featuring the Pink Panther, which would include over 100 shorts for both theatrical release and television through 1980. Also in 1964, Freleng and DePatie's old employer, Warner Bros., contracted with DFE to produce new Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons for television.[3]

DePatie and Freleng found themselves overflowing with work. Many of the animators who had worked at Warner Bros. in the 1950s and 1960s returned to the old Warner cartoon studio to work for DFE. The first entry in the Pink Panther series, The Pink Phink, was directed by Freleng and won the studio its only Academy Award in 1964. In 1967, DFE would receive another Academy Award nomination for The Pink Blueprint.

Pink Panther and other television series

The Pink Panther theatrical series of cartoons became the basis of a Saturday morning television series, The Pink Panther Show, which also included theatrical cartoons of The Inspector and eventually The Ant and the Aardvark, Roland and Rattfink, and The Texas Toads (Tijuana Toads). Like most animated television cartoons at the time, The Pink Panther Show contained a laugh track with narration.

The cartoons were edited and in some cases re-dubbed to meet television standards and practices for content. The Pink Panther Show had several incarnations during the 1970s. The show was very popular on NBC's Saturday morning line-up, starting as a half-hour program and expanding a few years later to 90 minutes each week.

The studio provided the animated sequences for the 1969-1970 television series My World and Welcome to It based on the drawings of James Thurber.

DFE was one of the subcontractors for the 1964-1967 Warner Bros. cartoons, along with Format Films. The Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies shorts made by the studio can be easily identified by their modernized "Abstract WB" opening and closing sequences (although the "Abstract WB" opening and closing sequences were first used in three cartoons made by Warner Bros. Cartoons). DFE didn't continue doing Warner cartoon work until the late 1970s/early 1980s, with the TV specials Bugs Bunny's Easter Special (1977), Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales (1979), and Daffy Duck's Easter Show (1980). DFE also created Return to the Planet of the Apes, which ran on NBC from 1975 to 1976 and The Oddball Couple, which ran on Saturday mornings on ABC from 1975 to 1977.

One of the studio's television specials was The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas (1973), with Tommy Smothers voicing the little bruin who goes out to find Christmas (in the human world) while his fellow bears head for hibernation. DFE was also responsible for a number of Dr. Seuss specials, including The Cat In The Hat and different incarnations of The Grinch.

Later years

Inflation, the increasing costs of producing theatrical cartoons, and the pressures of producing TV series caused the quality of DFE's output to drop in the mid-to-late 1970s. In 1981, Freleng and DePatie sold DFE Films to Marvel Comics, and Freleng returned to Warner Bros. Animation, which Warner Bros. had re-opened the previous year, to produce a series of feature films featuring vintage Warner cartoons with new connecting footage. DePatie made the transition to become the head of Marvel Productions, as DFE was renamed.

Although Marvel produced mainly superhero cartoons and animated series based on licensed toy lines (including Hasbro properties), it continued to produce new productions starring the Pink Panther (titles for Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther and a special for television, Pink at First Sight). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Animation would later make a 1993 revival series of the Pink Panther as a joint venture between MGM, Mirisch-Geoffrey-DePatie-Freleng and United Artists, a decade after DFE's merger with Marvel and Mirisch/UA's merger into MGM.

In the 1990s, Marvel sold its animation catalog to Saban Entertainment. In 2001, Saban, Fox Family and Fox Kids were sold to The Walt Disney Company, with the Dr. Seuss material and all other licensed properties belonging to their respective owners. Disney also bought Marvel Comics in 2009, bringing DFE's libraries of all-original and Marvel Comics-based cartoons full circle under one roof; all of these properties are now distributed by Disney–ABC Domestic Television. (At the present time, however, the copyrights for both The Houndcats and The Barkleys appear not to have been renewed, and are therefore in the public domain.)

While the television catalog has often changed hands over the years, the theatrical cartoons continue to be owned by their original distributors: United Artists (via its current corporate parent, MGM) for the Mirisch Company cartoon library and Warner Bros. for the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons.

List of theatrical and television cartoons

In a short matter of time, DFE began producing television shows as well as theatricals and specials, becoming a competitor to Hanna-Barbera and Filmation. The studio's various cartoons, specials and shows are listed below.

Theatrical series

Original series

Title Years Notes
The Pink Panther 1964–1980
The Inspector 1965–1969
Roland and Rattfink 1968–1971
The Ant and the Aardvark 1969–1971
Tijuana Toads 1969–1972
The Blue Racer 1972–1974
Hoot Kloot 1973–1975
The Dogfather 1974–1976

Commissioned series

TV series

Title Years Network Notes
The Super 6 1966–1967 NBC
Super President 1967–1968 NBC
Here Comes the Grump 1969–1971 NBC
The Pink Panther Show 1969–1980 NBC/ABC co-production with United Artists Television and Mirisch Films
Doctor Dolittle 1970–1971 NBC co-production with 20th Century Fox Television
The Barkleys 1972–1973 NBC
The Houndcats 1972–1973 NBC co-production with Viacom Enterprises
Bailey's Comets 1973–1975 CBS
The Oddball Couple 1975 ABC co-production with Paramount Television
Return to the Planet of the Apes 1975–1976 NBC co-production with 20th Century Fox Television
Baggy Pants and the Nitwits 1977–1978 NBC
What's New, Mr. Magoo? 1977–1979 CBS co-production with United Productions of America
The New Fantastic Four 1978 NBC co-production with Marvel Comics Animation
Spider-Woman 1979–1980 ABC co-production with Marvel Comics Animation

Commissioned series

TV specials

Original specials

Airdate Title Network Notes
April 7, 1970 Goldilocks and the Three Bears NBC co-production with the Mirisch Company
March 10, 1971 The Cat in the Hat CBS
February 14, 1972 The Lorax CBS
November 12, 1972 Clerow Wilson and the Miracle of P.S. 14 NBC
January 6, 1973 Luvcast U.S.A. ABC episode of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie
February 7, 1973 The Incredible, Indelible, Magical Physical, Mystery Trip ABC an ABC Afterschool Special
October 15, 1973 Dr. Seuss on the Loose CBS
December 17, 1973 The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas NBC
April 3, 1974 Clerow Wilson's Great Escape NBC
May 15, 1974 The Magical Mystery Trip Through Little Red's Head ABC an ABC Afterschool Special
February 19, 1975 The Hoober-Bloob Highway CBS
December 14, 1975 The Tiny Tree NBC
February 16, 1977 My Mom's Having a Baby ABC an ABC Afterschool Special, a co-production with Dick Clark Productions
October 29, 1977 Halloween Is Grinch Night ABC
February 1, 1978 Michel's Mixed-Up Musical Bird ABC an ABC Afterschool Special
December 7, 1978 The Pink Panther in: A Pink Christmas ABC
February 22, 1980 The Pink Panther in: Olym-Pinks ABC
March 5, 1980 Where Do Teenagers Come From? ABC an ABC Afterschool Special
May 2, 1980 Pontoffel Pock, Where Are You? ABC
1981 Dennis the Menace: Mayday for Mother NBC
February 14, 1981 Pink at First Sight ABC production finished by Marvel Productions
May 20, 1982 The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat ABC production finished by Marvel Productions

Commissioned specials

Airdate Title Network Notes
April 7, 1977 Bugs Bunny's Easter Special CBS for Warner Bros.
November 27, 1979 Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales CBS for Warner Bros.
April 1, 1980 Daffy Duck's Easter Special NBC for Warner Bros.

TV commercials

Film and television title design

Pink Panther series

Other films and Tv series

Former Warner Bros. Cartoons employees at DePatie-Freleng

In the beginning, DePatie-Freleng had virtually the same facilities, personnel and producer as Warner Bros. Cartoons. Although Chuck Jones would later work with DePate-Freleng on The Cat in the Hat, Jones and most of his group of artists ended up at Sib Tower 12 Productions independently producing new Tom and Jerry cartoons for MGM.

Although many DePatie-Freleng employees contributed greatly to the success of its product, story artist and Disney and Warner alumnus John W. Dunn created most of the studios' new cartoon series, both for theatrical release and for television. These series included The Ant & The Aardvark, The Tijuana Toads, Here Comes The Grump, and Roland and Ratfink, among others.

Many of the DFE cartoons were written and storyboarded by Dunn, including the first Pink Panther cartoon, The Pink Phink. Dunn's drawing style also found its way into the DFE cartoons.

The list below features many former Warner staffers, but also includes former Disney, MGM and Lantz staffers as well.







  1. The exceptions include all Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons (owned by Warner Bros.), all cartoons produced for United Artists (owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), the Dr. Seuss cartoon specials it produced (currently licensed from copyright owner Dr. Seuss Enterprises through Warner Bros.), Doctor Dolittle and Return to the Planet of the Apes (owned by 20th Century Fox), The Tiny Tree (owned by sponsor AT&T), What's New, Mister Magoo? (owned by DreamWorks Classics/NBCUniversal) and The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas (currently owned by Lionsgate).
  2. "Irreverent Imagination: The Golden Age of Looney Tunes - Video Dailymotion". Dailymotion. 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  3. 1 2>

External links

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