If you are going to try to match (you cannot hope to top it) Chuck Jones' Bully for Bugs, the Bugs Bunny vs. Toro south-of-the-border epic from Warner Bros. in 1953, then you had better have something better up your sleeve than simply using a boldly similar name to the older film (which is considered in many circles to be one of Bugs' and Chuck's best efforts). In the Pink Panther's case, in Bully for Pink, he has a couple things going for him when he enters the fray: he has a terrifically light and charming production design, and, most importantly, he has a Magic Cape.
Pink dreams, for whatever stupid reason, of becoming a toreador. He eyes the bullfighting posters on his wall and imagines himself victorious in the ring, practicing his moves in pantomime. He goes to a trunk full of clothing, but when he picks up the cape inside of it, it falls to tiny little pieces, the only things holding the fabric together being the mass of hungry little moths residing within it. Frustrated, he takes to the streets, sitting out on a parkbench dressed in full matadorial attire, sans the one item he requires to complete it. Luckily, a magician named Marvelo, who possesses a Magic Cape, has just finished a grand performance in another venue, and is himself out for a stroll. The Panther, not knowing who the man is or the magnitude of the article of clothing draped about the man's shoulders, sees only what he needs: a red cape. Behind a pillar, he sneakily makes off with the cape, and heads to the arena. There just so happens to be an amateur bullfighting competition this day, and he is just in time to join it. He enters the arena, and the crowd starts in with a mix of cheers and catcalls, flowers and one flowerpot, one of which conks the Panther square in the noggin.
Suddenly, Toro crashes through the wall, causing Pink to gulp mightily in fear. The bull charges the Panther and runs right into the cape, taking it with him on the top of his horns. He twirls the cape playfully, but when the Panther removes it, there is a birdcage sitting atop the bull's head. The bull charges again, but this time, when he hits the cape, he disappears totally. Pink shakes the cape, but the only thing that drops out of it is an angry little white rabbit, who proceeds to kick Pink hard in the kneecap, and then jumps back into the cape. The bull then reappears, and then some rather standard chase material follows for the next minute or so. Eventually, Toro charges into the cape again and falls fast asleep. When Pink moves the cape aside, the rabbit is asleep in the dirt, too; however, the bunny awakens, and gets things charged again by kicking the bull in the nose. The bull knocks Pink into the air, but the cat drifts down safely via the Magic Cape turning into a parachute, and when Pink hits the ground, he disappears into the cape. The bull shakes it to pry the Panther loose, but he only succeeds in freeing the disgruntled rabbit again, who kicks the bull right in the kneecap. The rabbit then kicks Pink out of the cape.
Finally, the bull charges again, and when he runs through the cape, he is magically cut in twain, with the back half stuck on the cape, and his front half somehow running off by itself. The front half of the bull is reasonably embarrassed, at least enough so to plug a barrel onto his midsection in a similar fashion to the way that naked cartoon characters often cover their accidental nudity. The bull espies his bottom half chasing the Panther, and then he gives chase to the other two, leading to an amusingly odd visual image of the wrong end bringing up the rear in the chase. Finally, the bull takes to crying over his body being in two pieces, and the Panther consoles the creature. He has the bull run into the cape to try to get his two halves back together again. Once the bull enters, the rabbit immediately hops out carrying two suitcases presumably full of his belongings. He has had enough of the intrusions into his cape, and he takes off for better lodgings elsewhere. Meanwhile, the bull emerges from the cape in one big, happy piece, and rumbles off into the distance. The Panther is victorious, but then the moths that formerly lived in his other cape fly in and attack the Magic Cape. They fly off after some quickly vicious munching, and the Panther turns the cape to the audience to reveal the words "The End" chewed into the fabric, which the Panther peers through as the film irises out.
Never quite as good as the setup would suggest, Bully for Pink at least sticks with the plotline with which it began, always a problem in Panther cartoons, and there are enough funny bits to keep the film interesting. A midway series of banal chase moments sort of kills it for a while, but the film rallies back with the decent half-bull scenario to end the film on an up note; and I hope that it was the writers who were clever enough to suggest that the film come full-circle with the moth ending. If it were merely a happy accident that they devour the magic cape at the conclusion, then the Panther development team was even more scattershot than I have suspected.
As for matching Bugs Bunny in the bullfighting department... well, you know that wouldn't happen. The Panther never took a left turn at Albuquerque, and as you might realize by now, that is when Bugs did some of his best work. If the rabbit in Bully for Pink had tried to live up to his cousin, then you might have had something even bigger. But he high-tailed it when the going got rough; Bugs just kicked flank steak...
Bully for Pink (Depatie-Freleng, 1965) Dir: Hawley Pratt
Cel Bloc Rating: 6