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Pepé Le Pew (character)
- This article is about the character. For the future film of the same name, see Pepé Le Pew (film).
Pepe Le Pew is a fictional character in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies film-short series. An anthropomorphic, French skunk, Pepe is continuously in search of romance, but is inhibited from getting it by his smell, self-delusion, and his overly persistent manner. Pepe is stereotypically French, in the same way that Speedy Gonzales is stereotypically Mexican.
Pepe Le Pew cartoons typically feature the amorous polecat pursuing what he believes is a "female skunk." Usually, however, the supposed female skunk is actually a black cat (retroactively named "Penelope Pussycat") who has had a white stripe painted down her back, often by accident (such as by squeezing under a fence with white paint). Usually, Penelope runs away from Pepe because of either his putrid odor or overly assertive manner, but the skunk won't take "no" for an answer, and hops after her at a leisurely pace.
In a role-reversal, the Academy Award-winning short For Scent-imental Reasons ends with an accidentally painted (and, at this point, terrified) Pepe being amorously pursued by a love-struck Penelope (who has been dunked under dirty water, leaving her with a ratty guise as well as a developing head cold that has completely clogged up her nose). Penelope locks him up inside a perfume shop, hides the key down her chest, and proceeds to turn the tables on the now-imprisoned and effectively odorless Pepe.
In another short, Little Beau Pepé, Pepé, attempting to find the most arousing cologne with which to impress Penelope, sprays a combination of perfumes and colognes upon himself. This results in something close to a love-potion, leading Penelope to fall madly in love with Pepé. Pepé is revealed to be extremely frightened of overly-affectionate women, as Penelope quickly captures him and smothers him in more love than even he could imagine.
And yet again, in Really Scent, Pepé removes his odor by locking himself in a deodorant plant so Penelope (or "Fabrette," as she is called in this cartoon) would like him (this is also the only film-short in which Pepé is acutely aware of his own odor, having checked the word "P.U." in a dictionary). However, Penelope (who in this cartoon is actually trying to have a relationship with Pepé because all the male cats of New Orleans take her to be a skunk and run like blazes, but is appalled by his odor) has decided to make her own odor match her appearance and has locked herself in a Limburger cheese factory. Now more forceful and demanding, Penelope quickly corners the terrified Pepé, who, after smelling her new stench, wants nothing more than to escape the amorous female cat. Unfortunately, she will not take "no" for an answer and proceeds to chase Pepé off into the distance, with no intention of letting him escape. (Credited to Abe Levitow, this cartoon is the only film-short in the Pepé Le Pew series not directed by Chuck Jones, besides the disputable Odor of the Day).
Although Pepé usually mistakes Penelope for a female skunk, in Past Perfumance, he realizes that she is a cat when her stripe washes off. Undeterred, he proceeds to cover his white stripe with black paint, taking the appearance of a cat before resuming the chase.
For some unknown reason, Penelope is always mute (more precisely - does only natural cat sounds) in these stories; only the self-deluded Pepé speaks (several non-recurring human characters are given minimal dialogue, often nothing more than a repulsed, "Le pew!").
Sometimes this formula is subverted. In his debut appearance, Odor-able Kitty, Pepé (technically he is a different character because he is eventually revealed to be an American-accented family skunk named "Henry") unwittingly pursues a male cat who disguises himself as a skunk. Scent-imental Over You has Pepé pursuing a female dog who has donned a skunk pelt (mistaking it for a fur coat). In the end, she removed her pelt, revealing that she's a dog. Pepe then, 'revealed' himself as another dog and the two embrace. However, he later revealed to the viewers that he's indeed a skunk. In Wild Over You, Pepé attempts to woo a wildcat who has escaped from a zoo (during what is called "Le grande tour du Zoo" at the start of the 20th century exhibition), and painted itself to look like a skunk to escape its keepers. This cartoon is notable for not only diverging from the usual Pepé/Penelope dynamic, but also rather cheekily showing that Pepé likes to be beaten up, considering the wildcat thrashes him numerous times.
Chuck Jones, Pepé's creator, wrote that Pepé was based (loosely) on the personality of screenwriter Tedd Pierce, a self-styled "ladies' man" who reportedly always assumed that his infatuations were requited. Pepé's voice, provided by Mel Blanc, was based on Charles Boyer's Pépé Le Moko from Algiers, a remake of the 1937 French film Pépé Le Moko. Eddie Selzer, animation producer (and Chuck's bitterest foe) at Warner Bros. Animation then once profanely commented that no one would laugh at those cartoons. However, this did not keep Eddie from accepting an award for one of Pepé's pictures several years later. There have been theories that Pepé was based on Maurice Chevalier. However, in the short film, Chuck Jones: Memories Of Childhood, Chuck says Pepé was actually based on himself, but that he was very shy with girls, and Pepé obviously was not. A prototype Pepé appears in the 1947 cartoon Bugs Bunny Rides Again, but sounds similar to Porky Pig.
In the shorts, a kind of fake French is spoken and written primarily by adding "le" to English words (example: "le skunk de pew"), or by more creative mangling of French expressions with English ones, such as "Sacre Maroon!", "My sweet peanut of brittle", "Come to me, my little melon-baby collie!" or "Ah, my little darling, it is love at first sight, is it not, no?", and "It is love at sight first!" The screenwriter responsible for these malapropisms was Michael Maltese.
Some transcribed Maltese dialogue from the Oscar-winning 1949 short For Scent-imental Reasons:
- Pepé: "Affaire d'amour? Affaire de coeur? Je ne sais quoi ... je vive en espoir. *Sniff.* Mmmm m mm ... un smella vous finez ... *Hum.*"
- Gendarme: "Le kittee quel terrible odeur!!"
- Proprietor: "Allais Gendarme!! Allais!! Retournez-moi!! This instonce!! Oh, pauvre moi, I am ze bankrupt ... *Sob!*"
- Penelope: "Le mew, le purrrrrrr."
- Proprietor: "A-a-ahhh. Le pussy ferocious! Remove zot skunk! Zot cat-pole from ze premises!! Avec!!"
- Penelope: "*Sniff, sniff, sniff-sniff, sniff-sniff.*"
- Pepé: "Quel est? *Notices Penelope.* Ahh...le belle femme skunk fatale...*clicks tongue twice.*"
Mel Blanc's voice for the character resembles the one he used for Professor Le Blanc, the harried violin instructor on The Jack Benny Program.
Chuck Jones first introduced the character (originally named Stinky) in the 1945 short Odor-able Kitty. This differs from later entries in several areas: Pepé spends his time in (unknowing) pursuit of a male cat, who has deliberately disguised himself as a skunk (complete with a limburger scent) in order to scare off a bunch of characters mistreating him; and in the closing gag, Pepé is revealed to actually be a philandering American skunk named Henry (complete with wife and children!). For the remaining cartoons Jones directed, Pepé retained his accent, nationality, and bachelor status throughout, and the object of his pursuit was always (or nearly always) female.
A possible second cameo appearance is at the end of Fair and Worm-er (Chuck Jones, 1946). This skunk doesn't speak, but looks identical (or is a close relation) and shares the same mode of travel and a slight variation of Pepé's hopping music. His function here is to chase a string of characters who had all been chasing each other (à la "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly").
A skunk often identified as Pepé appears in the Art Davis-directed cartoon Odor of the Day (1948); in this entry, the theme of romantic pursuit is missing as the skunk (in a nonspeaking role, save for a shared "Gesundheit!" at the finish) vies with a male dog for lodging accommodations on a bitterly cold night. This should be noted as one of the two cartoons where the character, if this is indeed Pepé, used his scent-spray as a deliberate weapon: delivered from his tail in a machine gun-like fashion. The other one is Touché and Go, where he frees himself from the jaws of a shark.
Pepé himself made a more obvious cameo in Dog Pounded (1954), where he was attracted to Sylvester after the latter tried to get around a pack of guard dogs, in his latest attempt to capture and eat Tweety Bird, by painting a white stripe down his back (in his only appearance in a Freleng short).
Pepé possibly makes a small appearance as a baby skunk in Mouse-Placed Kitten (1959), where he is reluctantly adopted by a mouse couple at the cartoon end.
Pepé was going to have a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit but was later dropped for reasons unknown.
Pepé made several cameo appearances on the 1990 series Tiny Toon Adventures as a professor at Acme Looniversity and the mentor to the female skunk character Fifi La Fume. He appeared briefly in The Looney Beginning and had a more extended cameo in It's a Wonderful Tiny Toon Adventures Christmas Special. The segment Out Of Odor from the episode "Viewer Mail Day" saw character Elmyra disguise herself as Pepé in an attempt to lure Fifi into a trap, only to have Fifi begin aggressively wooing her.
In the 1995 animated short Carrotblanca, a parody/homage of the classic film Casablanca, both Pepé and Penelope appear: Pepé (voiced by Greg Burson) as Captain Renault and Penelope (voiced by Tress MacNeille) as "Kitty Ketty," modeled after Ingrid Bergman performance as Ilsa. Unlike the character's other appearances in cartoons, Penelope (as Kitty) has extensive speaking parts in Carrotblanca.
In The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, in the episode, Platinum Wheel of Fortune, when Sylvester gets a white stripe on his back, a skunk immediately falls in love with him. This is not Pepé, but a similar character identified as "Pitu Le Pew". However, he does say, "What can I say, Pepé Le Pew is my third cousin. It runs in the family". Pepé would later appear in the episode Paris is Stinking, where he pursues Sylvester who is unintentionally dressed in drag. Pepé would appear once more in Tweety's High-Flying Adventure, falling in love with both Sylvester and Penelope (Sylvester had gotten a white stripe on his back from Penelope as they fought over Tweety), actually showing a preference for Sylvester.
Pepé was, at one point, integral to the storyline for the movie Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Originally, once Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, DJ, and Kate arrived in Paris, Pepé was to give them a mission briefing inside a gift shop. Perhaps because of the group receiving their equipment in Area 52, Pepé's scene was cut, and in the final film, he plays only a bit part, dressed like a police officer, who tries to help DJ (played by Brendan Fraser) after Kate (played by Jenna Elfman) is kidnapped. However, some unused animation of him and Penelope appears during the end credits, thus giving viewers a rare glimpse at his cut scene, and his cut scene appears in the movie's print adaptations. Pepé also appears in Space Jam, where his voice has curiously been changed into an approximation of Maurice Chevalier, as opposed to more traditional vocalization.
In Loonatics Unleashed, a human based on Pepé Le Pew called Pierre Le Pew (voiced by Maurice LaMarche) has appeared as one of the villains of the second season of the show. Additionally, Pepé and Penelope Pussycat appear as cameos in a display of Otto the Odd, in the series. In the episode The World is My Circus, Lexi Bunny complains that "this Pepé Le Pew look is definitely not me" after being mutated into a skunk-like creature.
A 2009 Valentine's Day-themed AT&T commercial brings Pepé and Penelope's relationship up to date, depicting Penelope not as repulsed by Pepé, but madly in love with him. The commercial begins with Penelope deliberately painting a white stripe on her own back; when her cell phone rings and displays Pepé's picture, Penelope's lovestruck beating heart bulges beneath her chest in a classic cartoon image.
Pepe Le Pew has appeared in the The Looney Tunes Show episode Members Only voiced by René Auberjonois. He also made a short cameo appearance with Penelope Pussycat in the Merrie Melodies segment Cock of the Walk sung by Foghorn Leghorn. He appeared in his own music video Skunk Funk in the 16th episode "That's My Baby. He also appeared again in another Merrie Melodies segment You Like/I Like sung by Mac and Tosh. His first appearance in the second season was in the second episode, entitled, "You've Got Hate Mail", reading a hate-filled email accidentally sent by Daffy Duck.
Pepe Le Pew made a cameo in a MetLife commercial in 2012 titled, "Everyone." In it, he was shown hopping along in the forest and when he sees his love interest, Penelope uptop the back of Battle Cat, he immediately hops after her.
In October 2010, it was announced that Mike Myers will voice Pepe in a feature-length film based on the character.
Pepé Le Pew shorts
(Directed by Chuck Jones unless otherwise indicated)
- Odor-Able Kitty (1945)
- Scent-imental Over You (1947)
- Odor of the Day (1948, the only cartoon in which Pepé is not a "lovebird" nor does he have a French accent; directed by Arthur Davis)
- For Scent-imental Reasons (1949), Academy Award winner
- Scentimental Romeo (1951)
- Little Beau Pepé (1952)
- Wild Over You (1953)
- Dog Pounded (1954) (cameo in a Sylvester and Tweety cartoon, directed by Friz Freleng)
- The Cat's Bah (1954)
- Past Perfumance (1955)
- Two Scent's Worth (1955)
- Heaven Scent (1956)
- Touché and Go (1957)
- Really Scent (1959) (directed by Abe Levitow)
- Who Scent You? (1960)
- A Scent of the Matterhorn (1961)
- Louvre Come Back to Me! (1962)
- Mel Blanc: 1945 - 1989
- Billy West: some video games