David H. DePatie, veteran animation executive and co-founder of Pink Panther studio DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, died of natural causes on September 23. He was 91.

David H. DePatie
David H. DePatie

DePatie began his career at Warner Bros., where his father was an executive (who would eventually become vp and general manager of the studio). David joined the in-house animation studio, then known as Warner Bros. Cartoons, becoming its last producer before it was shut in 1963.

The same year, DePatie teamed up with veteran WB director Friz Freleng to form their namesake studio, DePatie–Freleng Enterprises. Freleng was the creative director while DePatie oversaw the operational side. The pair didn’t have to move: they managed to lease WB’s old animation studio on in Burbank. Many ex-WB artists would come to work for them.

The new studio landed on its feet: it was swiftly approached to animate titles for Blake Edwards’s 1963 live-action feature The Pink Panther. The titles, featuring the now-famous pink cat, were a hit, spawning a long-running spin-off series of theatrical and tv shorts. The first of these, 1964’s The Pink Phink, won an Oscar.

DePatie-Freleng animated these shorts, as well as numerous spin-off series based on characters introduced in Pink Panther stories. The studio picked up other high-profile commissions, including Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts for WB, Dr. Seuss tv specials, and NBC’s Return to the Planet of the Apes.

In 1981, the studio was sold to Marvel Comics, with which it had partnered on shows like Spider-Woman (1979–80), and renamed Marvel Productions. While Freleng returned to WB, DePatie stayed to head the new Marvel studio as president and CEO. He executive-produced series such as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981–83) and The Incredible Hulk (1982–83), before retiring later in the decade.

Below is an interview with DePatie in which he speaks about the development of DePatie-Freleng:

Image at top: “The Pink Phink”

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