Both of the new animated children's shows that premiere today play off earlier cartoons.
The suave, rose-colored feline who made his debut in 1964 in the titles for Blake Edwards' live-action comedy, "The Pink Panther," and later starred in 140 theatrical shorts and a television series, returns in new adventures at 8:30 a.m. (KCOP, Channel 13).
For the first time in his 29-year career, the Panther talks: Matt Frewer (Max Headroom) provides a voice that suggests Dudley Do-Right turned yuppie. Having the Panther speak seems annoying and unnecessary: He's always been a silent character and the show's best jokes are presented in pantomime. Although the animation looks at least as good as the earlier TV show, the writing is uneven. When the Panther appears as an eager but slightly inept hero, he can be funny; he's not much fun when he becomes a victim.
"Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs" (4:30 p.m. on Fox) combines the frantic, precious humor of "Tiny Toons" with an homage to the zany shorts Bob Clampett directed during the '30s.
The Warner brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and their Warner sister, Dot, escaped from the studio animation department in 1930, and have returned to plague studio psychiatrist Dr. Scratchandsniff. The frenetic trio often seems more obnoxious than comic, and the boys spend most of their time ogling the psychiatrist's sexy nurse, a Jessica Rabbit knock-off.
Unlike Bugs Bunny, the Animaniacs don't have personalities underlying their mischief. Although they're lavishly animated by television standards, Wakko, Yakko and Dot never emerge as coherent characters: The writers and artists give them lots of shtick to do but no reason to do it.