DePatie-Freleng was an oddity in the 1970s animation industry. They were the last to produce short films for theaters. Indeed, after Walter Lantz shut down his studio in 1972, they were the ONLY one making theatrical shorts. The Pink Panther was a popular franchise and had an even longer life when they were broadcast on Saturday Mornings. Other DFE theatricals such as The Ant and the Aardvark, The Inspector, and Tijuana Toads (redubbed “Texas Toads”) also had life in television after the original run ended.
But there were also some that never made it on television. The Dogfather, which ended up being the last theatrical series from the DFE studio, is one of them – and probably their most obscure shorts. Forty years ago, produced in the wake of the “Godfather” fad, The Dogfather centered on a leader of a canine mafia (voiced by Bob Holt). In several cartoons he is shown having a full gang of dogs, but the ones most of the stories centered on were Pug (also voiced by Holt), Dogfather’s large, bumbling right-side man, and Louie (voiced by Daws Butler), an over-enthusiastic labrador who wants to be on the boss’s good side.
DePatie-Freleng was already in decline when these cartoons were made, and The Dogfather was no exception. DFE had no qualms recycling old Warner Bros. ideas, but The Dogfather took this to the extreme. Many of the early cartoons were direct ripoffs of the old Warner cartoons. The Goose That Laid a Golden Egg (1974), for example, was an almost scene-by-scene remake of a 1950 Merrie Melody Golden Yeggs (1950), right down to the “Oh my aching back” line. Heist and Seek (1974) was Bugsy and Mugsy (1957), and even has Pug being teamed up with a dog henchman named “Rocky”. Deviled Yeggs (1974) was a redo of Satan’s Waitin’ (1953), with a cat hitman in Sylvester’s role.
Honestly, even if this was Friz Freleng producing these, I wonder if Warner Bros. would have considered suing if they knew about such Intellectual Property thievery. After a while, they started to rely less on recycling old plot ideas, but that didn’t do much for the series.
As with most DFE theatricals, exactly 17 cartoons were made, released from 1974 to 1976. Hawley Pratt directed the first two cartoons (The Dogfather and The Goose that Laid a Golden Egg), his last cartoons before retiring. Gerry Chiniquy directed most of the rest, with Art Leonardi handling four. DFE’s head writer John W. Dunn wrote most of the stories, but David Detiege also did a few. Other credited writers include Bob Ogle, Don Christiansen, and even Friz Freleng himself.
Below is the final Dogfather cartoon, Medicur, released in 1976. United Artists continued to release made-for-TV Pink Panther cartoons to theaters for few more years, but DFE otherwise stopped producing theatrical shorts full-time.
This wasn’t the end of the Dogfather, believe it or not. In 1993, MGM Animation produced a new “Pink Panther” TV series for syndication. An updated version of Dogfather, Pug, and Louie appeared as minor characters. Dogfather himself was voiced by Joe Piscopo in this version.
The Dogfather is an example of an obscure cartoon that SHOULD remain obscure.
From Jerry Beck’s Pink Panther: The Ultimate Guide (and used with permission) an abridged Dogfather filmography. For complete credits and plot lines, buy the book yourself (it’s available for as little as 1-cent used on Amazon)!
1. The Dogfather (6/27/74) D: Hawley Pratt
2. The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg (10/4/74) D: Hawley Pratt
3. Heist & Shriek (10/4/74) D: Gerry Chiniquy
4. The Big House Ain’t A Home (10/31/74) D: Gerry Chiniquy
5. Mother Dogfather (10/31/74) D: Art Leonardi
6. Bows & Errors (12/29/74) D: Gerry Chiniquy
7. Devilled Yeggs (12/29/74) D: Gerry Chiniquy – Still Photo at top of this post is from this film.
8. Watch The Birdie (3/20/75) D: Gerry Chiniquy
9. Saltwater Tuffy (3/20/75) D: Art Leonardi
10. M-O-N-E-Y Spells Love (4/23/75) D: Art Leonardi
11. Rock-A-Bye… Maybe (4/23/75) D: Gerry Chiniquy
12. Haunting Dog (5/2/75) D: Gerry Chiniquy
13. Eagles Beagles (5/5/75) D: Gerry Chiniquy
14. From Nags To Riches (5/5/75) D: Gerry Chiniquy
15. Goldilox & The Three Hoods (8/28/75) D: Gerry Chiniquy
16. Rockhounds (11/20/75) D: Art Leonardi
17. Medicur (4/30/76) D: Gerry Chiniquy