Brass tacks, people. Let's get down to 'em...
Pinto Pink sucks. And the brass tacks need to be sharply nailed into the hooves of the horrid horse that inhabits the barely-conceived center of this decrepit nag of a cartoon. Somewhere along the way, after Friz Freleng handed over the directing reins to Hawley Pratt, a key factor was forgotten about The Pink Panther. This would be the fact that the Panther works best as a character when he is subtly, and mostly unknowingly, antagonizing some cad or simpleton going about their day to day routine, which just happens to coincide with their being in the vicinity of the big pink cat. Because the Panther lacks little personality outside of his calm and cool manner, he has to be used just right to elicit any recognizable identification with the audience. And while the crude antics of the horse in Pinto Pink might make you want to kick or pull a gun on the creep just like the Panther eventually does, such cranky behavior is really not what the Panther started out displaying, and certainly not the way he behaved in his best (i.e. early) films.
The Panther shorts often used the contrasting character to not only be that in personality, but also in look, with the human characters often appearing to be completely white, even in clothing, and this film is no exception. The horse is an entirely white creature (it is hard not to, and entirely pleasing to, imagine him as a future bag of glue), and he reminds me somewhat of a negative version of one of the chalk drawing creatures that Simon drew on Capt. Kangaroo, only this what a horse would look like if Simon were three, drunken, mentally weak and possessed of both tremors and broken fingers. In both hands. (I don't want the possibility of an out for the creator of this pile of its own dung.) To top off the horror, the horse is laden with a spine-splintering death chortle of a laugh, that the fiend unleashes with unwarranted regularity throughout the course of the film. This amazes me mainly because I'm still trying to figure out at what the hell the horse was laughing, because I certainly didn't see anything funny. Perhaps he is laughing at the audience for attending this tripe.
The Pink Panther is in the desert, hot and tired from hitchhiking to Anaheim (I like to imagine that the Panther is planning to jump ship to Disney) with little luck except for the bad variety. He pulls a Claudette Colbert leg routine on a passing motorist (he apparently has red and white stockings beneath his pink skin) and ends up with his foot getting a tire tread across it. He runs across the described demonic horse on a ranch, decides that riding the "steed" to Anaheim would be luxury indeed, and the remainder of the film is a series of short blackout gags involving Pink's frustrations with trying to saddle and/or ride the monster. I would also like to point out that the Panther is actually trying to steal the horse, and as he reveals at a late point that he is in possession of a pistol, it is armed robbery that he is committing.
The problem is not just that there are hardly any funny gags in the cartoon, which is a shame because the plot is not a bad one to start; but some of the setups start a mile before any potential punchline is in sight, and SURPRISE! They only take about three steps towards that mile distant target, instead just ending the setup without a punchline, or at least with what they think is a punchline. Oh, there are some attempts at gags used previously throughout the history of cartoons, but since they were done previously and better elsewhere, there is little point to include them in this film except for... hmmm... oh, yeah!... unless of course you have a complete defecit of original ideas. That would be Pinto Pink in a nutshell. (It might even point to a broad definition of the cartoon industry by the end of the 60's.) Add to that the fact that there is no one to root for in the picture: the horse's laughter is never stopped with any sort of comeuppance, and the Panther is thoroughly a cad throughout the story. I guess by that point, Pratt just figured that the audience would automatically side with the once lovable feline (John Dunn, the story man, gets a bit of blame on this, too), and that affection would carry them through the picture regardless of story, design or gaggery. Well, if the latter days of the Warners line are any indication, with the countless underwhelming and largely unfunny variations on the Speedy-Daffy dynamic, this is not true. A bad cartoon is a bad cartoon, no matter what well-developed characters might be cast in it. Or especially if a badly-designed poorly-struck horse is at the heart of the matter.
As I headed toward Anaheim for the first time, if I had run across this same shite horse in this same situation, and I were supplied with the same weaponry that the Panther has in this film, there would have been a different ending. In fact, the cartoon would have ended two minutes into its run. One chalkboard-scratching laugh from that nag's hellish mouth, and there would have been another fast-food enterprise established in Anaheim. It would have been called Chortley's, but don't get me wrong if you are reading, PETA. We wouldn't serve horse. Even that bag of crap is far too palatable to be served here. No, we would feed bad cartoons back into the mouths of the people who created them. Hanna-Barbera would be in all the time feasting on most of their 70's TV output. A special side menu would be set up for Paramount for destroying Popeye in the late 40's onward. And...
DING! Hawley Pratt, your order of Pinto Pink is up! Thank you for dining at Chortley's!
Pinto Pink (Depatie-Freleng, 1967) Dir: Hawley Pratt
Cel Bloc Rating: 4