MGM said today that it is developing a new Pink Panther movie, a live-action/animated hybrid that will take its cues from the tone set by the original Friz Freleng and David De Patie cartoons in addition to that of Blake Edwards’ films. That means that the focus will be on the Pink Panther character itself more than Inspector Clouseau, who took over the spotlight for Edwards’ movies thanks to Peter Sellers’ creation of one of the most iconic comedy characters of all time. ...
MGM is today, of course, little more than a corporate name-plate. But when the current owners root around for projects in the library that might gain traction commercially, they come up with the De Patie-Freleng property. And doing an animated hybrid feature.
Which is interesting, because animation veteran Art Leonardi told me how that cartoon pink panther came into being at the studio of De Patie-Freleng, and how it made Mr. Freleng and Mr. De Patie independantly wealthy. It seems that after De Patie-Freleng developed the animated character for the titles of the original live-action film, they asked and were granted a large percentage of profits deriving from future use of that cartoon character.
The Mirisch brothers, who said "yes" to the De Patie-Freleng request, didn't know the gold mine they were sitting on. Or how much they were giving away. (How could they? The gold mine -- all the shorts and commercials and t.v. shows -- were in the future, and so undiscovered.) And the money flowed back to the old cartoon makers for years. And the Mirisches, I'm told, were always a bit chapped about it.
So here we are half a century later, and it looks like ... if the rights are still held by the De Patie and Freleng estates ... that there might be yet more money changing hands. And of course the other story: yet one more company jumps aboard the cartoon gravy train. I wonder if MGM will get Steve Martin to come back and play the second lead?