DePatie-Freleng Enterprises (or DFE Films) was an animation production company founded by Warner Bros Cartoons alumni Isadore 'Friz' Freleng and David H. DePatie in 1963. Animator Freleng had joined Walt Disney in 1927 and helped launch Harman-Ising Productions in 1930, initially making cartoons under producer Leon Schlesinger for Warner Bros. Pictures. Leon Schlesinger Productions took over Warners animations from 1933, being renamed Warner Bros. Cartoons in 1944, and Friz Freleng was a senior director and animator for almost its entire existence. David H. DePatie became executive head of the animation department in 1961, and after Warners quit the cartoon business in 1963 DePatie-Freleng was launched and continued to operate in the old Warners cartoon plant in Burbank, complete with equipment and supplies. Director Blake Edwards soon asked them to design a panther character for the animated titles for his new movie, The Pink Panther. When the movie was released, the title sequence garnered a tremendous amount of attention, and DFE went on to produce over 100 new cartoons featuring The Pink Panther and friends over a 10+ year period. Around the same time, Warner Bros. decided to make more WB cartoons, and many of the animators who had worked at Warners returned to the old studio working for DFE. The company won an Oscar in 1964 and another nomination in 1967 for The Pink Panther series. Other successes were theatrical cartoons The Inspector, The Ant and the Aardvark, Tijuana Toads and Roland and Rattfink, and TV shows The Super 6, Super President, Here Comes the Grump, The Barkleys (starring Henry Corden), The Houndcats, Bailey's Comets, The Oddball Couple, What's New, Mister Magoo?, Fantastic Four (with storyboards by original co-creator Jack Kirby) and Spider-Woman.
The Barkleys, The Houndcats and Bailey's Comets were co-created with Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, former writers at Hanna-Barbera Productions (and creators of Scooby-Doo), before they left to become story consultants for the short-lived live-action Planet of the Apes TV series in 1974. In 1975 DePatie-Freleng produced their own take on that franchise with the animated Return to the Planet of the Apes series, broadcast on NBC in late 1975 with supervising direction & associate production by Doug Wildey.
In 1981, Freleng and DePatie sold DFE Films to Marvel Comics; Freleng returned to Warner Bros. Studios to produce a series of feature films featuring the older Warner cartoons with new connecting footage, while DePatie made the transition to become the head of Marvel Productions (who continued to produce new Pink Panther titles). In the 90s, Marvel sold their animation back catalog to Saban Entertainment, and in 2001, Saban was sold to The Walt Disney Company. Thus, most DFE productions are now owned by Disney, except for licensed properties which belong to their respective owners; Return to the Planet of the Apes is owned by 20th Century Fox.
- DePatie-Freleng Enterprises article at Wikipedia
- DePatie-Freleng Enterprises profile at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
- Unofficial DePatie-Freleng website