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The Perils of Penelope Pitstop

The Perils of Penelope Pitstop is an American animated television series produced by Hanna-Barbera (now known as Cartoon Network Studios) that premiered on CBS on September 13, 1969. The show lasted one full season, with a total of 17 half-hour episodes produced.

Background

The series was patterned on the silent movie era melodrama cliffhanger movie serial, The Perils of Pauline using the most successful characters of Wacky Races, namely Penelope Pitstop, the members of Anthill Mob and originally Dick Dastardly and Muttley though Dastardly and Muttley were later dropped in pre-production according to this series DVD release information. Those characters would be later reused in their own series.

Deciding to feature the characters in a different setting, studio heads decided to set the characters into an active adventure format strongly reminiscent of the 1920s. Adding to the cliffhanger serial feel, episodes typically started with a recap such as "Last time we left Penelope, she was in the clutches of the Hooded Claw". Contrary to later editing of the series in rebroadcasts, the original format of the series was to introduce the successive episodes at the end of the just finished broadcast for the successive week that would present and leave Penelope in the middle of a dangerous situation to overcome. For example the end of episode 14 "Bad Fortune In a Chinese Fortune Cookie" included an introduction for the following week's "Big Top Trap" where Sneakly is shown shooting a pea shooter into her horse that due to the sharp jab bucks up and throws Penelope into the human cannon where she is then shot out of, towards the wild animal cage. The cliffhanger would end as she travels toward the cage and the audience is left there with the indication "Tune in next week for danger in the 'Big Top Trap' ". The successive episode would include recapping the previous week's end scene introduction and continue onto Penelope's successful avoidance of the danger she encountered. Unfortunately in all rebroadcasts since the late 1970s to date, the cliffhanger ending introductions have been edited out of the episodes of the main adventure, possibly due to the fact that the series is not broadcast in the same exact sequence as originally shown. However, some of these end introductions are still shown in some of the foreign rebroadcasts of the series. The original DVD of the series also has eliminated these ending introduction of the successive episodes as well as changed the original introduction broadcast theme music. The current edit ending leaves the audience somewhat confused as the adventures still begins with the recap from the previous episode and now goes directly into the story en media res with no clear explanation of how the situation began (as the explanation was contained in the deleted ending), showing basically only the chase and rescue part of the story.

Also from the Wacky Races was the Ant Hill Mob, originally portrayed as a group of crooks but now in this incarnation are either reformed or recreated without their criminal background and completely new names from the original series (except for their leader Clyde, who was named "Big Clyde" in the Wacky Races and suggested to be Clyde Barrow by one episode where he says to the Mob members "maybe I should tell Bonnie on yoo's?" where everyone then immediately complies to Clyde's demand), who, with their largely self-aware car, Chugga-Boom, acted as the heroes and were constantly rushing to Penelope's rescue. But their attempts to save her were only half effective such as saving Penelope from a fish cannery by destroying the entire cannery or in spite of themselves as when they saved her from falling into the street from atop a flag pole by gliding her down to the street en masse rather than carefully getting her off the pole. The Mob's reason for being Penelope's friends and guardians is never explained.

The Hooded Claw, aided by his pair of near identical henchmen, the Bully Brothers (both voiced by Mel Blanc), concocted needlessly Goldbergian plots to kill Penelope (such as a device to drop her from an aircraft, cut her parachute, and then have her drop into a box of wildcats). While the Mob often rescued Penelope, as often as not she needed to rescue the Mob from the unintended effects of their attempts to rescue her. While Penelope was curiously helpless whenever The Hooded Claw grabbed her, once he left her tied up for his fiendish plans to take effect, she usually became resourceful and ingenious, sometimes coming up with spontaneous and creative methodologies to escape her peril.

Penelope was always in a different part of the globe for every peril. Mainly she was in America, but she did go to locations such as Egypt, England, the jungle, Baghdad and the North Pole. These settings were painted by background artist Walter Peregoy.

Just like in other spin-off series, like Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines, the Wacky Races series is never mentioned, not by Penelope, nor by the Ant Hill Mob. Plus the Compact Pussycat from Wacky Races is never seen in the series. Instead of that vehicle, Penelope usually drives a green sports car, or any other vehicle that she finds, or even Chugga-Boom.However, There is one episode where in response to Penleope's "It's my arch enemy, The Hooded Claw!", The Hooded Claw replies "You were expecting Dick Dastardly?"

The Hooded Claw

The Hooded Claw was the main villain and the alter ego of Sylvester Sneekly, Penelope Pitstop's guardian. In the event of her death, Sneekly stood to inherit Pitstop's fortune. He's a master of disguise. Aided by his henchmen, the Bully Brothers, he tried to kill Penelope so he could get her fortune for himself. She never suspected his intentions, however, because he performed his nefarious deeds only in his costumed persona, The Hooded Claw. Sneekley/Hooded Claw was voiced by an uncredited Paul Lynde.

Unique to the shows of the time, Sneekley/Hooded Claw would break the "fourth wall" where he would at times directly address the narrator as the narrator would reveal the crime to the audience defeating the surprise he was about to do. He would then belittle the narrator by calling the narrator "Buster", "busy-body", or "wise guy" for verbally interferring with his crimes. Despite knowing about the narrator and interacting with same, at no time does the Hooded Claw/Sneekley acknowledge that he and all the people of his world are merely characters in a scripted film.

The Hooded Claw is referenced in the 1984 Frankie Goes to Hollywood song "The Power of Love", which contains the line "I'll protect you from the Hooded Claw...".

The Ant Hill Mob

Penelope was often rescued from peril by the Ant Hill Mob, a group of seven diminutive gangsters with exaggerated personality traits, clearly owing quite a bit to the characters of the Seven Dwarfs in the Walt Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. They keep in storage cop costumes just in case, and each has a different colored stripe on his hat to help tell them apart (Clyde and Zippy both have a red stripe). They were:

  • Clyde - the leader, a caricature of Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar and the one in the gray suit; When he gives instructions to the others, they always respond: "Right, Clyde." He gets irritated when the mob screws up or when a certain member of the mob (especially Dum Dum) misinterprets his instructions. His catchphrases are "Oh brother" and "You Dum-Dum!". He was voiced by Paul Winchell.
  • Dum Dum - (Ring-A-Ding in Wacky Races) played stupid and is identified by a plum-colored stripe on his hat; his catch phrase is "Here we come, Penelope!". Like his Wacky Races counterpart, he was normally the cause of a plan's failure. Dum Dum also has trouble remembering his own name, and speaks like a clown. He was voiced by Don Messick.
  • Pockets - able to bring out useful objects to get the Mob out of trouble, even ones of ridiculous size. He has a green stripe on his hat, and pockets all over his suit (hence his name). He is also the only member with a full head of hair. He was voiced by Don Messick.
  • Snoozy - the dozy one, sleeping through moments of emergency; but despite sleeping on the job, he's always aware of what's going on at the present time and appears able to pilot Chugga-Boom (the mob's car) while asleep. He also sometimes confirms Softy's chime-ins. Snoozy has the blue stripe on his hat, and leans over when upright, with his head on Dum Dum's shoulder. He was voiced by Don Messick.
  • Softy - cries at any possible emotional or stressful moment; whether those moments were happy or sad was irrelevant; he often chimes in mother memories. Viewers can identify him by both his constant blubbering, and his hat's pink stripe. He was voiced by Paul Winchell.
  • Yak Yak - the talkative one, made a kind of 'yuk yuk' laugh, no matter how disastrous the news he was imparting. Yak Yak is identified by his hat's chartreuse stripe, and his blonde hair. He was voiced by Mel Blanc.
  • Zippy - a fast runner and a fast talker. If Pockets cannot provide what the mob needs, Clyde will send Zippy somewhere to get it (which is where he tends to mess up). Like Clyde, his hat has a red stripe on it. He was voiced by Don Messick.

The Ant Hill Mob had previously appeared in Wacky Races alongside Penelope Pitstop, although of all seven Mob members, only Clyde kept his Wacky Races name here. The Mob's original Wacky Races car, the Bulletproof Bomb was replaced by "Chugga-Boom" (voiced by Mel Blanc), which was mostly articulate and seemed to have a mind of its own though at times the Chugga-Boom seemed completely inanimate and was at those times drawn without it eyes on the lights fixtures.

Also, in the first sketches of the series, Penelope was supposed to have a younger brother named Johnny Pitstop, who would help the Ant Hill Mob saving her from the clutches of the Hooded Claw. In those same sketches, Dick Dastardly and Muttley were supposed to be Johnny Pitstop's personal bodyguards, using once again their car, The Mean Machine. This was all in the first sketches, and never make out in the final works.

Episodes

Voices

Other voice artists in the series included Don Messick as some of the Mob (except Clyde and Softy, who were voiced by Paul Winchell, and Yak-Yak, who was voiced by Mel Blanc) and assorted other voices, and Gary Owens as the narrator. Writers included Warner Brothers veteran Michael Maltese.

DVD release

On May 10, 2005, Warner Home Video released the complete series on DVD in R1.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date Additional Information
Perils of Penelope Pitstop- The Complete Series 17 May 10 2005
  • Commentary on various episodes
  • Featurette : The Players in "Perils" featurette on the great escapes of Penelope and other characters
  • Penelope Pitstop's Spin Outs retrospective

The Perils of Penelope Pitstop in other languages

External links

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