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The Pink Panther Finds His Voice

August 29, 1993|N.F. MENDOZA N.F. MENDOZA..BD: TIMES STAFF WRITER

At 30, he's still pink and cool as ever.

The Pink Panther is getting ready for bed and brushing his teeth in typically sly fashion. As he climbs into bed, he yawns and says, "Good night, Goldie."

"Good night , Goldie" ????

Hey, wait a minute! The Pink Panther doesn't talk. Isn't Henry Mancini's music all we've ever heard as the Panther sound?

Well, at least till now. The crafty cat has finally found his voice. And it sounds suspiciously like Max Headroom's.

In Blake Edwards' series of "Pink Panther" movies beginning in 1964, all Mr. Panther had to do was slink about to overshadow bumbling Inspector Clouseau. And, true, he uttered a few words in one of the 140 original "Panther" theatrical shorts, which first aired on television in 1968.

"But that was for something special and he had a sort of David Niven voice," says executive producer Mark Young.

"It was a very upper-crust sort of voice used in the animated opening sequence of one of the movies," says Matt Frewer ("Max Headroom," "Shaky Ground," "Doctor, Doctor") who got the role as the new voice of the Panther over 200 other actors. "He never did have an extended voice."

Young and Kelly Ward, story editor and voice director for the new syndicated Panther cartoon series, knew they had to find a special voice to match the Panther's unique brand of smart-alecky wit.

"I think he (the Pink Panther) matches me pretty well," Frewer says. "The character moves in a sort of slouchy, devil-may-care way and that's how I move or, at least," he adds laughing, "how I think of myself!"

New characters will take part in the Panther's slinky fun, along with the original David DePatie-Friz Freleng secondary characters, including the Inspector, Dogfather and the Ant & the Aardvark. Supporting voices come from Wallace Shawn ("The Princess Bride"), Joe Piscopo ("Saturday Night Live"), John Byner ("The Ed Sullivan Show"), Dan Castellaneta ("The Simpsons"), Jo Anne Worley and Ruth Buzzi ("Laugh-In").

"The Pink Panther" airs at 8:30 a.m. on KCOP. Premieres Sept. 13.

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