October 15, 2014 posted by

DePatie Freleng’s “The Dogfather”


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.

dogfather-titleBut 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.

dogfather-250Honestly, 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


  • These show up on WGN in Chicago as filler between movies on Thanksgiving.

    • Very often if a station cared to play “All Dogs Go To Heaven” on Thanksgiving (or any other day), it would usually come with a Dogfather short to fill time at the end (I’m sure this was MGM’s doing).

  • This series should have remained obscure.

    • Yeah well, some just can never let it die completely (especially foreigners unaware of what it ripped off because they liked it all the same).

  • There is an even more obscure Saturday morning live action NBC interview program from the early-to-mid 1970s timeframe, one episode of which actually toured DFE and showed Friz Freleng supervising an episode of the then-upcoming “Dogfather” cartoon. The segment was enthusiastically narrated by the late Wolfman Jack. Over the shot of a cel painter filling in the main character’s hues, then holding it in reverse over its corresponding background, he exclaimed “Now, THAT’S painting’, Jack!” The series may have been called ‘Go!’ or something similar. Haven’t seen it in over 30 years but it probably still exists in a tape vault somewhere on earth.

    • Yes, Tom. The show was called “Go”. The episode in question originally aired on November 2, 1974 on NBC. I talk about it (and “The Dogfather” and everything else) in my upcoming book “Think Pink: The Story of DePatie-Freleng” to be published by BearManor Media in 2015. You can see the “Go” episode if you go to the Paley Museum in Los Angeles.

    • Tom, it WAS called “Go”! I saw that, too, and it was an interview with the short’s costar Daws Butler, with Bob Holt (who, after all, wasn’t in the same profile) nowhere around, and I thought (at just 13) that it was another DePatie-Freleng TV show (what with them doing both and no mention of whther it was a series for big or small screen.) BTW Frank Welker is the dumb dog, sort of like Mel Blanc’s famed Lennie variation (and post-Rain Man, Frank would do a similiar dog voice, on Animaniacs as Runt.Ring a bell?:))

      The short’s a steal, from as mentioned, Friz’;z own 1952 “Tree for Two”, .:) Take care!

    • Hopefully someday will see it before it rots to obscurity as well.

    • BTW Frank Welker is the dumb dog, sort of like Mel Blanc’s famed Lennie variation (and post-Rain Man, Frank would do a similiar dog voice, on Animaniacs as Runt.Ring a bell?:))

      Rain Man sorta became a replacement for Lennie in the 90’s when it came to dummy guy templates for comedy.

  • That short was kind of funny, and better than what Hanna-Barbera, Filmation, Nelvana, etc. were doing at that time. (Although I’m not really a Freleng fan.)

    • When we were doing these theatrical cartoons at DePatie-Freleng, they had to be done within a certain budget, so everything had to done very quickly and efficiently without any pencil tests, for example. Walter Lantz was spending a lot more money on his theatricals at the same time and they were not funny and pretty awful by comparison. More time and money for story and animation would have raised the quality of DFE’s cartoons, but it wasn’t available. These shorts were remarkably well done within their budgets, because Friz had a bunch of pros doing them.

  • IIRC, the series also ran afoul of some Italian-American groups who were already irked going back to “The Untouchables” in the early 60s about the image of Italian-Americans as criminals in films and on television. That may also have played a role in why the cartoons never showed up on TV as filler for The Pink Panther Show (NBC opted for the D-FE ‘Misterjaw’ cartoons instead, which were equally lackluster and based on a hot feature film subject of the moment).

    • Lackluster, my eye. I thought those were rather decent, It helps they had a good voice cast.

      As for the “Dogfather”, eh! I’m surprised they didn’t even steal the plot from something like the Academy Award winning “Bird Anonymous”. I have no idea how they would’ve done it though.

    • As for the “Dogfather”, eh! I’m surprised they didn’t even steal the plot from something like the Academy Award winning “Bird Anonymous”. I have no idea how they would’ve done it though.

      I’m sure they could have shoehorned it in somehow.

  • What series were left out of the circa 1980 Pink Panther syndication package? A little poking around online revealed that 226 cartoons were listed as being included in that group.

    • There were the 124 Pink Panther cartoons, the 34 Inspectors, and the 17 Ant and Aardvarks. That’s 175 cartoons, and the only ones I remember for certain being in that package. To hit 226, three other series of 17 would have been included, but I can’t remember which ones.

    • @ Martin

      Roland and Ratfink, Tijuana Toads, Hoot Kloot, and The Blue Racer all had the prerequisite seventeen shorts produced.

    • Also in the package were “Tijuana Toads” (17) and “Misterjaw” (34), bringing the total to 226

    • In the 80’s it seemed like the only DFE offers I was seeing regularly were PP,The Inspector, And & The Aardvark, Tijuana Toads and Misterjaw. It wasn’t until TNT was airing the cartoons when I saw Roland and Ratfink and Hoot Kloot.

  • The Dogfather shorts definitely made it to TV in some markets. They were in the Pink Panther package that ran on Los Angeles KCOP-13 around 1985. Later, some aired nationwide in TNT’s “Wild World of Shorts,” albeit infrequently.

    • Too bad I don’t recall them but that was where I had seen Hoot Kloot as well.

  • The DFE theatrical cartoons not belonging to the Pink Panther package were broadcasted internationally in the 80’s. I do recall watching for the first time in 1980 on Spain’s TVE a “Dogfather” cartoon, together with “Tijuana (not Texas!) Toads”, “The Blue Racer” and “Roland and Ratfink”. In fact, you can find cartoons from all those series on YouTube dubbed into various languages (including some “Dogfathers” dubbed into Brazilian Portuguese).

  • we resurrected the dogfather and his henchmen in that god awful talking pink panther series i worked on in the late 90’s….it was a living….

    • It was weird it happened at all. I suppose the only noteworthy thing was taking them out of the “Roaring Twenties” and setting them more contemporary to a 90’s atmosphere (Dogfather is a yuppie with a ponytail). Also one of the guys gets the Rain Man-style dialogue as that became the new “dummy guy” template much in the way Of Mice & Men’s Lennie inspired plenty of similar characters for decades.

    • 1993 is late 90s?

  • I remember seeing a Dogfather cartoon in the cinema. I think it was shown before Jaws. I don’t remember it being particularly funny. The only real reason it sticks in my mind is because it was the only short I had seen in a cinema since the sixties. I’m surprised to learn from this post that they actually made 17 of them!

  • They were an odd lot, the DFE cartoons. At least “Ant & the Aardvark” was distinguished by John Byner’s voice work, imitating Dean Martin for the Ant and Jackie Mason for the Aardvark, plus the Dixieland-style music scores.
    “Blue Racer” was an obvious Road Runner ripoff. “Hoot Kloot” was based on a redneck sheriff character that appeared in Dodge commercials of the period (whose catchphrase was “You in a heap o’ trouble, boy”).

    • “Hoot Kloot” was based on a redneck sheriff character that appeared in Dodge commercials of the period (whose catchphrase was “You in a heap o’ trouble, boy”).

      At least they tried something. They could’ve said “no” to more content for UA but couldn’t help themselves.

    • Blue Racer really isn’t a lot liek Road Runner at all. HB’s Blast-Off Buzzard, however was.

  • One blog mentions another Dogfather title that was available on YouTube, Bow & Errors, but I haven’t been able to find it. The blogger gives the plot outline: A Robin Hood takeoff, with the Dogfather having to emphasize to the dummies that “The poor is us, stupid!”. Sinatra and the Rat Pack tried a similar gangster/Robin Hood story in 1964 with the splashy “Robin & the Seven Hoods”, which, with all its faults, is well cast, tuneful and entertaining in spots. On paper, this might have been an avenue worth exploring. Most boys knew the Robin Hood mythology almost by osmosis. Add Maid Marion as a strong, resourceful woman (calling June Foray – well, they did get Daws Butler, so maybe the budget could support her if she did a “guy” voice on the same recording session) to appeal to girls. Some decent Godfather jokes could placate the adults-fun for the whole family, indeed. Alas, in the hands of those behind The Dogfather, though, none of these ideas were even thought of.

  • Noticed someone uploaded the first of the Dogfather shorts on YouTube. Too bad the audio is WAY TOO LOUD otherwise, but watching it again, I realized why I hated this one in particular since it wasn’t that funny (especially if you knew which Freleng cartoon it was cribbed from).

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