Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. says it is returning to the production of animated programming for the first time since the 1950s with the launch of an animated television series, "The Pink Panther."

The series will be produced in-house by MGM with Mirisch-Geoffrey-DePatie Freleng, owners of the Pink Panther property, and is expected to be available in fall 1993. Claster Television will handle the U.S. distribution. MGM will handle all other distribution of the show.The show's launch is in anticipation of MGM's release next summer of the Blake Edwards film "Son of the Pink Panther."

In addition to casting the voice of the Pink Panther, MGM said it is assembling a team of animation experts to work with the original creators, Friz Feleng and David DePatie, who serve as consultants on the new series, and with executive producers Walter and Marvin Mirisch.