The cartoon follows attempts of a blue aardvark named Aardvark (voiced by John Byner, impersonating comedian Jackie Mason), to catch and eat a red ant named Charlie (also voiced by John Byner, but impersonating Dean Martin), usually doing so by inhaling with a loud vacuum cleaner sound. The character is essentially unnamed; in the episode Rough Brunch, he claims his name is simply "Aardvark." Charlie Ant gives his nemesis a variety of names as sly terms of endearment (Ol' Sam, Ol' Ben, Ol' Blue, Claude, Pal, Buddy, Daddy-O). In several bumper sequences of The Pink Panther Show, he is called "Blue Aardvark."
The Ant and the Aardvark series was originally released by United Artists. Seventeen theatrical shorts were produced in the original series, and were subsequently featured in various television syndication packages, usually shown with DFE's other characters such as the Pink Panther and The Inspector. Most of the 17 entries appear in their television syndication form (complete with an audible laugh track added by NBC-TV) on the video on demand service Amazon Video.
When The Ant and the Aardvark first appeared on The Pink Panther Meets the Ant and the Aardvark in 1970, the series became wildly popular, so much in fact that the duo became a featured part of the NBC series. Even though the 17 entries remained popular throughout the broadcast run of The Pink Panther Show, no new entries were produced.
The series used several unique production techniques for the period. The aardvark's body was solid blue: his only clothes—a pair of blue shorts and matching T-shirt—were a matching blue. Similarly, Charlie Ant was solid red, and did not sport any clothing. As such, the character's solid colors allowed them to stand out clearly against the multi-colored backgrounds featured prominently in the series. Charlie also sported half-closed eyes, as a sign of a bon viveur.
Musical director Doug Goodwin was responsible for the jazzy music score. Goodwin assembled an established group of jazz session musicians to perform the series' theme music and musical cues. For the first time in animated cartoons, all six musicians—Ray Brown, Billy Byers, Pete Candoli, Shelly Manne, Jimmy Rowles and Tommy Tedesco—received on-screen credit.
Art Leonardi was responsible for the main title graphic for all DePatie-Freleng entries. For The Ant and the Aardvark series, Leonardi expanded on a technique first introduced for the first Pink Panther cartoon, The Pink Phink. This entailed tearing paper into the forms of objects and characters to form stylized images.
There were additional minor characters in the series. Among them were the following:Cousin Term the Termite (Rough Brunch)
Aunt Minerva, one of the Gi-Ants (The Ant From Uncle)
Tiny the Elephant, an ape, and a look-alike of Roland (from another DePatie-Freleng series, Roland and Rattfink) as Charlie Ant's lodge brothers (Mumbo Jumbo)
An unnamed green aardvark, similar to the blue aardvark except barrel-chested instead of potbellied (I've Got Ants In My Plans, Odd Ant Out)
Tiger, voiced by Marvin Miller (Scratch a Tiger)
A Boris Karloff-sounding scientist (Science Friction)
A nurse at an animal hospital, voiced by Athena Lorde (From Bed to Worse)
An anteater-eating shark (Isle of Caprice)
A nearsighted lifeguard who mistakes the Aardvark for a dog (Dune Bug)
A toastmaster ant based on George Jessel ("I've Got Ants in My Plans)
In German-dubbed versions of the cartoon, the male aardvark is transformed into a female anteater named Elise (Eliza). Charlie (voiced by Fred Maire) remains male; Elise is voiced by Marianne Wischmann. The cartoons are known under the title Die blaue Elise (Blue Eliza).
All voices provided by John Byner unless otherwise noted.Producers: David H. DePatie, Friz Freleng
Directors: Friz Freleng, Hawley Pratt, Gerry Chiniquy, Art Davis
Story: John W. Dunn, Irv Spector, Dave Detiege, Sid Marcus, Larz Bourne, Dale Hale
Animation: Warren Batchelder, Manny Gould, Manny Perez, Don Williams, Art Leonardi, Robert Taylor, Bob Goe, Tom Ray, Lloyd Vaughan, Bob Richardson, John Gibbs, Phil Roman, Robert Bentley, Ken Muse, Irv Spence
Graphic Designers: Corny Cole, Dick Ung, Al Wilson, Lin Larsen
Voices: John Byner, Marvin Miller, Athena Lorde
Color Designer: Tom O'Laughlin, Richard H. Thomas
Title Cards: Art Leonardi
Production Supervisor: Jim Foss
Coordinator: Harry Love
Camera: John Burton Jr.
Film Editor: Lee Gunther
Musical Director: Doug Goodwin
Ray Brown - bass
Billy Byers - trombone
Pete Candoli - trumpet
Jimmy Rowles - piano
Tommy Tedesco - guitar/banjo
Shelly Manne - drums
The first revival featured the characters as part on the 1993 incarnation of The Pink Panther. The characters remained unchanged, though unlike the original 1969-1971, they do not appear in their own segments but rather are included in segments featuring the Pink Panther (now voiced by Matt Frewer). John Byner returned to voice both Charlie Ant and the Aardvark.
The second revival occurred in 2010 as part of Pink Panther and Pals. In keeping with the younger theme (the panther is cast as a teenage version of himself), Charlie Ant (who is never referred to as such throughout the series) is a young, urban teenager voiced by Kel Mitchell best known for the TV series' Kenan & Kel and the movie Good Burger. The Aardvark ethnic humor is retained; he is voiced by Eddie Garvar in the style of Byner's Jackie Mason impersonation.
The complete series was digitally remastered and issued on its own single-disc DVD collection by MGM Home Entertainment/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in 2007 as Pink Panther and Friends, Volume 5: The Ant and the Aardvark.
The complete series reappeared in January 2009 as part of the DVD collection Pink Panther & Friends Classic Cartoon Collection by MGM Home Entertainment, a 9-disc DVD set containing all Pink Panther, Ant and the Aardvark, Inspector and (for the first time on DVD) Roland and Rattfink cartoons.
The Ant and the Aardvark was released onto Region 1/A Blu-ray and DVD on 27 April 2016.