In the first sense, the Pink Panther is a fictional diamond with a distinctive flaw which resembles a leaping panther; the diamond was a major plot device in a series of films which are collectively known as the "Pink Panther" movies. In addition, it is an animated character who appeared in the title sequences for these films. He became so popular that a series of animated shorts starring him were commissioned.
The "Pink Panther" films were a series of silly detective films starring Peter Sellers as the French policeman Jacques Clouseau. The films poked fun at the popular police and spy movie genres, with Clouseau being portrayed as a bumbling, idiotic character who somehow managed to get his man every time. The films were characterized by outrageous pratfalls and an assortment of memorable characters, including Clouseau's personal servant, Cato, and a parade of attractive leading ladies.
The plot of the first film, The Pink Panther (1963), centered around a fabulous pink diamond known for its distinctive panther-shaped occlusion. The diamond also appeared in The Return of the Pink Panther (1975). In a reference to the diamond, an animated character was created for the titles, and became a recurring character in the titles and credits of the future films. The Pink Panther often chases an animated version of Clouseau through the titles, devises complicated explosives, or pretends to be a policeman during the opening sequence.
Many film fans are familiar with the distinctive musical theme of the movies, which was composed by Henry Mancini. All films in the canon were also directed by Blake Edwards. Later films capitalized on the popularity of the franchise with an assortment of actors, in the hopes of wooing a new generation of fans for the series. The animated shorts continue to run on television, and they are also available in a complete boxed set, for fans who have a burning desire to collect them all.
For those who are curious, Peter Sellers starred in five of the films: The Pink Panther, A Shot in the Dark (1964), The Return of the Pink Panther, The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), and Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978). Blake Edwards went on to direct three more films with other actors: Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), and Son of the Pink Panther (1993). In 2006, a new film with an entirely new cast and crew was released, starring Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau.