|Pepé Le Pew|
|Pepé Le Pew, as seen in Little Beau Pepé|
|First appearance||Odor-able Kitty (January 6, 1945)|
|Created by||Chuck Jones|
|Voiced by||Mel Blanc (1945-1989)
Maurice LaMarche (Space Jam-current)
Bruce Lanoil (Looney Tunes: Back in Action)
Joe Alaskey (Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas)
Greg Burson (Carrotblanca, Tiny Toon Adventures)
Frank Welker (Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries)
Pepé Le Pew is a fictional character in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons, first introduced in 1945. A French anthropomorphic skunk that always strolls around in Paris in the springtime, when everyone's thoughts are of "love", Pepé is constantly seeking "l'amour" of his own. However, he has one huge turnoff to any prospective mates: his malodorous scent. Furthermore, he can't take 'no' for an answer, blissfully convinced that the girl is flirting with him, even when she physically assaults him.
Pepé Le Pew storylines typically involve Pepé in pursuit of what appears to be a female skunk ("petite femme skunk"). But, usually, the supposed female skunk is actually a black cat (retroactively named Penelope Pussycat) who has had a white stripe painted down her back, often by accident (as by squeezing under a fence with wet white paint). Usually Penelope runs away from him anyway due to his putrid odor or because of his overly aggressive manner.
Chuck Jones, Pepé's creator, wrote that Pepé was based (loosely) on the personality of his Termite Terrace colleague, writer Tedd Pierce, a self-styled "ladies' man" who reportedly always assumed that his infatuations were requited. Pepé's voice, provided by Mel Blanc, was based on Charles Boyer's Pépé le Moko from Algiers (1938), a remake of the 1937 French film Pépé le Moko. Eddie Selzer, animation producer—and Jones' bitterest foe—at Warners then once profanely commented that no one would laugh at those cartoons. However, this did not keep Selzer from accepting an award for one of Pepé's pictures several years later. There have been theories that Pepé was based on Maurice Chevalier. However, in the short film, Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood, Jones says Pepé was actually based on himself, but that he was very shy with girls, and Pepé obviously was not. Melville Cooper, in his role in the Pride and Prejudice (1940 film), has facial features fully consistent with Pepé's, plus in his most important scene where he steadfastly refuses to believe the sincerity of the rejection of his love object, Elizabeth, he acts just like Pepé would.
In the shorts, a kind of pseudo-French or Franglais is spoken and written primarily by adding "le" to English words (example: "le skunk de pew"), or by more creative mangling of French expressions with English ones, such as "Sacre Maroon!", "my sweet peanut of brittle", "Come to me, my little melon-baby collie!" or "Ah, my little darling, it is love at first sight, is it not, no?", and "It is love at sight first!" The writer responsible for these malapropisms was Michael Maltese.
Blanc's voice for the character closely resembles the one he used for "Professor Le Blanc", the harried violin instructor on The Jack Benny Program.
In some episodes, Penelope Pussycat has attempted to help Pepé get rid of his odor.
The Academy Award-winning 1949 short For Scent-imental Reasons ended with an accidentally painted (and now terrified) Pepé being aggressively pursued by a madly smitten Penelope (who has been dunked in dirty water, leaving her with a ratty appearance and a developing head cold, completely clogging up her nose). Penelope locks him up inside a perfume shop, hiding the key down her chest, and proceeds to turn the tables on the now imprisoned and effectively odorless Pepé.
In another short, Little Beau Pepé, Pepé, attempting to find the most arousing cologne with which to impress Penelope, sprays a combination of perfumes and colognes upon himself. This resulted in something close to a love-potion, leading Penelope to fall madly in love with Pepé in an explosion of hearts. Pepé is revealed to be extremely frightened of overly-affectionate women ("But Madame!"), much to his dismay, as Penelope quickly captures him and smothers him in more love than even he could imagine.
And yet again, in Really Scent, Pepé removes his odor by locking himself in a deodorant plant so "Fabrette" (in this instance a black cat with an unfortunate birthmark) would like him (this is also the only episode that Pepé is acutely aware of his own odor when he finally checks the word Pew in the dictionary). However, Fabrette (who in this picture is actually trying to have a relationship with Pepe because all the male cats of New Orleans take her to be a skunk and run like blazes, but is appalled by his odor) had decided to make her own odor match her appearance and had locked herself in a Limburger cheese factory. Now more forceful and demanding, Fabrette quickly corners the terrified Pepé, who, after smelling her new stench, wants nothing more than to escape the amorous female cat. Indeed, the real skunk has just de-odorized himself in a perfumery, curiosity having driven him to look up "le pew" he hears so much in a dictionary, to his shock. Unfortunately, she will not take "no" for an answer and proceeds to chase Pepé off into the distance, with no intention of letting him escape. (Credited to Abe Levitow, this cartoon is the only short in the Pepé Le Pew series not directed by Chuck Jones, save the debatable Art Davis-helmed Odor of the Day—see below).
Pepe generally make passes at conventional house cats, although three pictures do break the usual formula:
Chuck Jones first introduced the character (originally named Stinky) in the 1945 short Odor-able Kitty. This differs from later entries in several areas: Pepé spends his time in (unknowing) pursuit of a male cat, who has deliberately disguised himself as a skunk for reasons of his own; and in the closing gag, Pepé is revealed to actually be a philandering American skunk named Henry (complete with wife and children!). For the remaining cartoons Jones directed, Pepé retained his accent, nationality, and bachelor status throughout, and the object of his pursuit was always (or nearly always) female.
A possible second appearance is in Fair and Worm-er (Chuck Jones, 1946). This skunk doesn't speak, but looks identical (or is a close relation) and shares the same mode of travel and a slight variation of Pepé's hopping music.
A skunk often identified as Pepé appears in the Art Davis-directed cartoon Odor of the Day (1948); in this entry, the theme of romantic pursuit is missing as the skunk (in a nonspeaking role, save for a shared "Gesundheit!" at the finish) vies with a male dog for lodging accommodations on a bitterly cold night. This should be noted as one of the two cartoons where the character, if this is indeed Pepé, used his scent-spray as a deliberate weapon: delivered from his tail in a machine gun-like fashion. The other one is Touché and Go, where he frees himself from the jaws of a shark.
Pepé himself made a more obvious cameo in Dog Pounded (1954), where he was attracted to Sylvester after the latter tried to get around a pack of guard dogs, in his latest attempt to capture and eat Tweety Bird, by painting a white stripe down his back (in his only appearance in a Freleng short).
For some unknown reason, Penelope is always mute (more precisely - does only natural cat sounds) in these stories; only the self-deluded Pepé speaks (several non-recurring human characters are given minimal dialogue, often nothing more than a repulsed, "Le pew!").
Pepé was, at one point, integral to the storyline for the movie Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Originally, once Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and their human co-stars arrived in Paris, Pepé was to give them a mission briefing inside a gift shop. Perhaps because of the group receiving their equipment in Area 52, Pepé's scene was cut, and in the final film, he plays only a bit part, dressed like a police officer, who tries to help one of the human co-stars (played by Brendan Fraser) after his costar (played by Jenna Elfman) is kidnapped. However, some unused animation of him and Penelope appears during the end credits, thus giving viewers a rare glimpse at his cut scene, and his cut scene appears in the movie's print adaptations. Pepé also appears in Space Jam, where his voice has curiously been changed into an approximation of Maurice Chevalier, as opposed to more traditional vocalization.
Pepé was going to have a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit but later dropped out for reasons unknown.
Pepé occasionally and seldom appeared on Tiny Toon Adventures as the mentor to the character Fifi Le Fume, and also made a cameo appearance in the Histeria! episode "When America Was Young". Pepe also has a small cameo in the Goodfeathers segment, We're No Pigeons, on Animaniacs.
In the 1995 animated short Carrotblanca, a parody/homage of the classic film Casablanca, both Pepé and Penelope appear: Pepé (voiced by Greg Burson) as Captain Renault and Penelope (voiced by Tress MacNeille) as "Kitty Ketty", modeled after Ingrid Bergman's performance as Ilsa. Unlike the character's other appearances in cartoons, Penelope (as Kitty) has extensive speaking parts in Carrotblanca.
In Loonatics Unleashed, a human descendant of Pepé, called Pierre Le Pew has appeared as one of the villains of the second season of the show. Additionally, Pepé and Penelope Pussycat appear as cameos in a display of Otto the Odd, in the series. In the episode The World is My Circus, Lexi Bunny complains that "this Pepé Le Pew look is definitely not me" after being mutated into a skunk-like creature.
A 2009 Valentine's Day-themed AT&T commercial brings Pepé and Penelope's relationship up to date, depicting Penelope not as repulsed by Pepé, but madly in love with him. The commercial begins with Penelope deliberately painting a white stripe on her own back; when her cell phone rings and display's Pepés picture, Penelope's lovestruck beating heart bulges beneath her chest in a classic cartoon image.
In Dave Chappelle's 2000 televised special "Killin' Them Softly" Dave mentions Pepé.
(Directed by Chuck Jones unless otherwise indicated)
Pepe Le Pew is an animated skunk created by the Warner Brothers. His original name was "Stinky".