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DePatie-Freleng Enterprises
Fate Acquired by Marvel Comics and merged with Marvel Comics Animation
Successor Marvel Productions
Founded 1963
Founder(s) David H. DePatie
Friz Freleng
Defunct 1981
Key people David H. DePatie
Friz Freleng

DePatie-Freleng Enterprises (or DFE Films) was a Hollywood-based animation production company, active from 1963 to 1981. They produced theatrical cartoons, animated series, commercials, title sequences and television specials. Notable among these is a line of Dr. Seuss adaptations made for CBS including 1971's The Cat in the Hat. Most DFE productions are owned by The Walt Disney Company; exceptions are all Looney Tunes cartoons (owned by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment), all non-Looney Tunes theatrical cartoons (owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), the Dr. Seuss cartoons, including The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, Dr. Seuss on the Loose, The Hoober-Bloob Highway, Halloween Is Grinch Night, Pontoffel Pock, Where Are You? and The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat (currently being owned only by Universal Studios), Return to the Planet of the Apes (owned by 20th Century Fox), and What's New, Mister Magoo? and The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas (both currently being owned by Classic Media). Another DFE production with outside ownership is The Oddball Couple, currently owned by CBS Studios.

Contents

Origins

DFE was founded by Warner Bros. Cartoons alumni Friz Freleng and partner David H. DePatie after Warner Bros. quit the animated cartoon business in 1963.

Although Freleng and DePatie were no longer working for Warner Bros., a generous gesture from a WB executive allowed Freleng and DePatie to continue to work at the old WB cartoon plant 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 movie, The Pink Panther. Pleased with the design for the character, Edwards contracted with DFE to produce the animated titles for the movie. When the movie was released, the titles garnered a tremendous amount of attention, so much in fact that a huge 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 (once the owner of the pre-1950 Warner feature library, along with all color cartoons released prior to August 1, 1948 and all but the first Harman/Ising Merrie Melodies) to produce over 100 new theatrical cartoons featuring the Pink Panther and friends over a 10+ year period. Around the same time, Freleng and DePatie's old employer, Warner Bros., decided to make more WB cartoons. Contracting with DFE in the old Warner Cartoon studio, on the Warner lot, DePatie and Freleng found themselves overflowing with work.

Many of the animators who had worked at Warner Bros. in the 1950's and 1960's returned to the old Warner studio working for DFE. Beginning the new Pink Panther series with The Pink Phink, which was directed by Freleng, DFE won their only Oscar in 1964. A few years later, in 1967, DFE would receive another nomination for The Pink Blueprint.

List of theatrical and television cartoons

In a short matter of time, DFE began producing television shows as well as theatricals. Like Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng became an animation studio powerhouse. DFE's various cartoons and shows are listed below.

Ending graphic for Looney Tunes under DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, circa 1965.

Theatrical series:

Television series:

Special Theatrical 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 make them more PC. The Pink Panther Show had several incarnations during the 1970's. The show was very popular on NBC's Saturday morning line-up. The show started with a half-hour time slot in its first year and within a few years was expanded to 90 minutes each week.

Other cartoons and television series

DFE was one of the subcontractors for the 1960s Warner Bros. cartoons, along with Format Films. The Looney Tunes shorts made by the studio can be easily identified by their modernized "Abstract WB" opening and closing sequences. DFE would continue to do Warner Cartoon work into the 70's with the Looney Looney Christmas Tales Holiday special.

DFE made the animated title sequence for the television show I Dream of Jeannie, created and produced by Sidney Sheldon for Screen Gems between 1965 and 1970. They were also responsible for the animated opening sequence for the 1965-1969 Wild Wild West series, and the innovative animated sequences for the 1969-1970 television series My World and Welcome to It, based on the drawings of James Thurber. They 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 their television specials was 1973's The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas, with Tommy Smothers voicing the little bruin who goes out to find Christmas (in the human world) while his fellow bears head for hibernation instead. DFE was also responsible for a number of Dr. Seuss specials, including The Cat In The Hat and different incarnations of The Grinch.

Warner Bros. Members at DePatie-Freleng

In the beginning, Depatie Freleng was the Warner Bros. studio with a new name. The facilities, the personnel and producer were virtually the same. Although Chuck Jones would later work with Depatie Freleng on a few Looney Toons and Seuss projects in the 70's, Jones and most of his group of artists ended up independently producing new Tom & 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 probably had the most impact on the company. With the exception of The Pink Panther, Dunn created most of the studios' new cartoon series (theatrical and otherwise) which included The Ant & The Aardvark, The Tijuana Toads, Here Comes The Grump, Roland and Ratfink, etc.

Many of the better DFE cartoons were written and storyboarded by Dunn, including the first Pink Panther cartoon, The Pink Phink. Dunn's unique drawing style also found its way into the DFE cartoons. When talking about DFE its impossible to ignore Dunn's tremendous contributions.

The list below features many former Warner staffers, but also includes Ex Disney, MGM and Lantz staffers as well. All made their impact on DFE.

Producers

Directors:

Writers:

Voices:

Music:

Later years

With the escalating expense of producing theatrical cartoons and the pressures of producing series television, quality eventually began to drop in the mid- to late 70's. Even with this consideration, DFE still managed to produce better-quality animation product than its competition.

In 1981, Freleng and DePatie sold DFE Films to Marvel Comics and Freleng returned to Warner Bros. Studios to produce a series of feature films featuring the older Warner cartoons with new connecting footage. DePatie made the transition to become the head of Marvel Productions.

Although Marvel would produce mainly superhero cartoons as well as animated series based on licensed toy lines, they would also continue to produce some new Pink Panthers (titles for Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther and a special for TV, The Pink Panther in: Pink at First Sight). In the 90s, Marvel sold their animation back catalog to Saban Entertainment. In 2001, Saban, as well as Fox Family and Fox Kids, was sold to Disney, thus the non-licensed DFE library fell into the hands of Disney, with the Dr. Seuss material and all other licensed propertys belonging to their respective owners.

While the television catalog has largely 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.

External links

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