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Wacky Races

Wacky Races is an animated television series from Hanna-Barbera, about a group of 11 different cars racing against each other in various road rallies, with each driver hoping to win the title of the "World's Wackiest Racer." The cartoon was unusual in the large number of regular characters, twenty-four in total: the twenty-three people spread among the 11 race cars, plus the unseen (and never identified) race announcer. Another unusual feature of the series is that the stars of the show are the villains as opposed to the heroes.

Background

The series ran on CBS from September 14, 1968 to September 5, 1970. Seventeen episodes were produced, with each episode featuring two different races, for a total of 34 races in all.

Attempting to foil the racers' efforts were the show's resident villains Dick Dastardly and his canine sidekick, Muttley. Dastardly would usually gain a large lead, then execute all sorts of elaborate schemes to trap, divert, blow up or stop the other racers, only to see them backfire spectacularly. The intended object lesson may have been that Dastardly might have easily won several races had he only kept his mind on the race and off dirty tricks. The Mean Machine was arguably the fastest car in the series, as evidenced by Dastardly's repeatedly zooming to a stunning lead from far behind. Like Wile E. Coyote, Dastardly never saw victory, although on one occasion he did cross the finish line first only to be disqualified when the judges reviewed the video replay, revealing that Dastardly had cheated (actually extending the tip of his car). Wacky Races was inspired by the 1965 film The Great Race, and the main characters in the cartoon were based on those in the film. Penelope Pitstop (who would later have a spin-off series) took on the appearance of Maggie DuBois, played by Natalie Wood, including her pink outfit and her car's parasol. Dastardly has much in common with Jack Lemmon's portrayal of Professor Fate. Fate and his sidekick, Max Meen (Peter Falk), indulge in similar acts of sabotage and Max has Muttley's knack for making mistakes. Although Fate's car does not look much like the Mean Machine, it does bear the familiar spike on the front and is equipped with smoke screen, cannon, and other assorted gadgets.

One of the musical themes, used in the show, was used as the opening and closing segments of the spin off show "Perils of Penelope Pitstop."

One of the original plans for the series was that the races themselves would be part of a live-action quiz show with Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley Productions, the team behind the television series Hollywood Squares. Heatter-Quigley's plan was that contestants would actually bet on which Wacky Racer would cross the finish line first. Although the game show concept was eventually scrubbed, the series still retained a Hanna-Barbera Heatter-Quigley dual production credit.

In 1988, a made-for-TV movie, Around The World With The Wacky Racers, was planned as part of Hanna-Barbera's Superstars 10 series of TV movies, but it never got past the concept stage.

Drivers, characters and cars

The eleven racers and their numbers are:

Dick Dastardly and Muttley in the Mean Machine 00 (The double 'O'/ The Double Zero)

The villains of the series, in a purple, rocket-powered car with an abundance of concealed weapons and ability to fly. Dastardly would concoct a plan or set a trap once he got into the lead of the race to make sure no other car would catch up to him; however, every plan backfired. Ironically, many tricks Dastardly uses are not unlike the ones the other racers use, though only his are referred to as "cheating." Most of his traps always fail, with Dastardly being the one who gets hurt in the end and Muttley, his canine sidekick, snickering at his misfortune, often earning him a bonk on the head from Dastardly, who could seemingly stretch his arms considerable distances for that sole purpose. Dastardly dresses in purple, and wears a red-and-purple striped puffy hat. He also has a long, black moustache and appears as the archetypal turn-of-the-century villain.

The Slag Brothers in the Bouldermobile 01

Rock Slag and Gravel Slag are Cavemen driving a wheeled boulder. The Slag Brothers sometimes reconstructed their car from scratch just by using their clubs on any large boulder that was available. Like the Grusome Twosome, the Slag Brothers can summon up appropriate creatures - such as Pteranadons - to help them. The Slags also speak by combining stereotypical caveman language with normal English, e.g. "Raga-radda, wheel gone. Get new one!" (Rock Slag). In one episode, the Boulder-Mobile had a "flat" tire, when a wheel turned cubular. In another episode, a wheel fell off, and Gravel Slag accidentally made a square wheel from a rock (To which Rock Slag responds, "Rah Dummyhead! You make square wheel!"). They can speed up by hitting the car (or at times, each other) with their clubs. The Slag Brothers design was re-used for Captain Caveman.

The Gruesome Twosome in the Creepy Coupe 02

Big Gruesome - a Frankenstein's monster / Lurch type - and Little Gruesome - a purple skinned vampire - are monsters driving a hearse-like car with a belfry which housed a dragon and various spooky characters. The Creepy Coupe was able to fly short distances through use of the dragon's wings and has bats constantly circling its belfry. Also, they can summon bats, storms, ghosts, serpents, and even a witch to help them fend off the other cars. Big Gruesome spoke like Boris Karloff and Little Gruesome like Peter Lorre. 'Dragon' - who appeared in every episode, and would sometimes get out of the car and walk with the Gruesome Twosome, was such an integral part of the No. 2 team that he was essentially the 25th character of the show - although he was only ever known as 'Dragon'

Professor Pat Pending in the Convert-a-Car 03

A scientist in a boat-shaped car equipped with a multitude of gadgets and which can change into just about anything that moves. Among the things his car has transformed into include a motorcycle, a jetpack, a flying carpet on wheels, a forklift, an arrow, a bicycle built for two, and even an exact duplicate of the Slag Brothers driving the Bouldermobile. He's sometimes seen as a rival of Dick Dastardly and Muttley, since his car is equipped with a lot of gadgets, just like the Mean Machine, although they are more defensive, or merely speed-boosting, in nature. He often uses his car's gadgets to help out the other drivers if they all get caught in the same trap, such as when he used his car's de-glue gizmo to unstick everyone from a glue trap left by Dastardly. His alliterative name is a pun on the phrase "patent pending."

Red Max in the Crimson Haybailer 04

An air ace in a car/plane hybrid that was capable of limited flight, usually just enough to leapfrog over racers or obstacles in its path. Red Max could use his propeller as a weapon to slice other cars into pieces, which was demonstrated effectively in one race against the Ant Hill Mob's Bulletproof Bomb. The Haybailer also had a mounted machine gun, which was used sporadically. The Haybailer's transformation from plane to car/plane hybrid seems to have significantly weakened its flying ability, and Max often has to bail out when the Haybailer breaks down.

Penelope Pitstop in the Compact Pussycat 05

The only female racer, driving a pink feminine car with personal grooming facilities that would sometimes backfire on other racers, such as shampoo foam hitting their faces. She always has time to relax and worry about her looks, because her car is like a beauty salon. Peter Perfect had a crush on her, a feeling that was returned, and always tried to help her; in one episode, they almost end up married. Unlike other cars, the Compact Pussycat rarely was targeted by the other racers, as it seems they also liked and tried to help her as Peter did. Penelope also had her own cartoon, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, which also featured the Ant Hill Mob

Sergeant Blast and Private Meekly in the Army Surplus Special 06 (the Surplus Six)

Two soldiers, one a sergeant and the other a private, racing in an army tank/jeep hybrid with a small steamroller‘s wheel attached to the front. The Army Surplus Special, otherwise known as the Surplus Six, made use of its tank facilities while racing, including its cannon, which could spin around to face forward or back, and the hatch, where Sergeant Blast rides. In one episode, the tank fired a bubblegum ball out of its cannon to stop one of the other competitors. The Surplus Special was also equipped with a supply of land mines, which when driven over, would propel the car into the air, and also bazooka-like thrusters in the back, which provided speed boosts. Private Meekly is in charge of driving the vehicle while Sergeant Blast shouts orders. As their names suggest, Private Meekly is very meek and merely follows orders without question, while Sergeant Blast "blasts" orders with his stereotypical army-commander voice.

The Ant Hill Mob in the Bulletproof Bomb 07 (the Roaring Plenty)

Led by Clyde, with Danny, Kurby, Mac, Ring-A-Ding, Rug Bug Benny, and Willy. Gangsters in a 1920s sedan, the Bulletproof Bomb, aka the Roaring Plenty. Although he is sometimes rude to the rest of the gang, Clyde actually cares for them. In one episode, when the rest of the gang was stuck in the Creepy Coupe, Clyde was menacing the Gruesomes: "Alright, you Creeps, where are my boys?" The gang drove in Car Number 7 and were pint-sized characters, a reference to the Seven Dwarfs; in one episode, they even disguise themselves as the Seven Dwarfs to escape from a policeman. Their usual method of improving the speed of their car was "getaway" power, which was achieved by extending their feet through the floor of the car and running, the same way Fred Flintstone accelerates his own prehistoric car.

Clyde's name probably came from car gangster Clyde Barrow. This is further reinforced in a dialog where he threatens the boys with, "Youse want I should tell Bonnie on you?", an apparent reference to Bonnie Parker. When broadcast in French, his name was changed to "Al Carbone," a play on Al Capone.

Ring-A-Ding usually queries Clyde's orders or is the one who causes the plan to go wrong in some way.

The Ant Hill Mob re-appeared in the spin-off series The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, with Clyde in a silver outfit and his wingmen, with new names, wearing blue outfits and riding in a new living car, Chugga-Boom.

Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear in the Arkansas Chuggabug 08

A hillbilly who sleeps during most of the races on his rocking chair with his feet on the steering wheel, and a nervous bear called Blubber, in a wooden buggy driven by a coal-fired pot-bellied stove. In one episode, the car was shown to have a squirrel as its engine, with Luke feeding the squirrel peanuts to increase speed. Blubber, who often bites his nails and shakes, wakes up Luke, who always says: "Blubber, what in tarnation is goin' on here?" or "What in tarnation is that?".

Peter Perfect in the Turbo Terrific 09 (the Varoom Roadster)

A jock driving a drag racer that often falls to bits, usually immediately following him making a remark about how reliable it is. Peter had a crush on Penelope Pitstop, and so often stopped to help her; Penelope returned Peter's affections, and in one episode they almost end up married. He always stops to say hello to Penelope. Sometimes Peter Perfect demonstrated an unusual elasticity ability, although this seemed to be just a gag. In development, the car was called the Varoom Roadster, a name used in the Gold Key comic book series.

Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth in the Buzz Wagon 10

A muscle-bound lumberjack and a beaver in a wagon made of logs, with buzzsaws for wheels, hence its name. The buzzsaws gave the car the ability to cut through almost anything, damaging or destroying the object in the process. Rufus is sometimes seen as a rival to the Slag Brothers, as they not only get their car destroyed in this way frequently, but can also reconstruct their car with ease. The vehicle also has two axes attached to each side which Rufus uses to turn tight corners and boost the buzzwagon's speed, and a log on the front which is occasionally used as a single wheel if the car is forced upright onto its front bumper.

The Race Commentator/Narrator

Every episode was introduced and ended by the Race Commentator/Narrator, and in the US two episode series he would do the 'Interlude' part as well. He would often talk to the drivers, who would answer back looking through the screen - as if talking to the viewer.

Voice cast

Episodes

WR-1. See Saw to Arkansas (35-1)/Creepy Trip to Lemon Twist (35-2) (9/14/1968)
WR-2. Why Oh Why Wyoming (35-3)/Beat the Clock to Yellow Rock (35-4) (9/21/1968)
WR-3. Mish-Mash Missouri Dash (35-6)/Idaho a Go-Go (35-5) (9/28/1968)
WR-4. Baja-Ha-Ha Race (35-11)/Real Gone Ape (35-8) (10/5/1968)
WR-5. Scout scatter (35-7)/Free Wheeling to Wheeling (35-10) (10/12/1968)
WR-6. By Rollercoaster to Ups an' Downs (35-9)/The Speedy Arkansas Traveller (35-12) (10/19/1968)
WR-7. Zippy-Mississippi Race (35-15)/Traffic Jambalaya (35-17) (10/26/1968)
WR-8. Hot Race at Chillicothe (35-16)/The Wrong Lumber Race (35-18) (11/2/1968)
WR-9. Rhode Island Road Race (35-19)/The Great Cold Rush Race (35-13) (11/9/1968)
WR-10. Wacky Race to Rip Saw (35-20)/The Oils Well That Ends Well Race (35-21) (11/16/1968)
WR-11. Whizzing to Washington (35-22)/The Dipsy-Doodle Desert Race (35-24) (11/23/1968)
WR-12. Eeny, Miny Missouri Go! (35-14)/The Super Silly Swamp Sprint (35-23) (11/30/1968)
WR-13. Dash to Delaware (35-26)/The Dopey Dakota Derby (35-27) (12/7/1968)
WR-14. Speeding for Smogland (35-28)/Race Rally to Raleigh (35-25) (12/14/1968)
WR-15. Ballpoint, Penn, or Bust! (35-30)/Fast Track to Hackensack (35-29) (12/21/1968)
WR-16. The Ski Resort Road Race (35-33)/The Overseas Hi-Way Race (35-34) (12/28/1968)
WR-17. Racing to Racine (35-31)/The Carlsbad or Bust Bash (35-32) (1/4/1969)

Spin-offs and similar series

Ed Edd n Eddy and the Ant Hill Mob were spun off into another cartoon series in 1969, Johnny Bravo. Also in 1969, Dick Dastardly and Muttley were given a spin-off, Monsters Inc (sometimes mistakenly known as Stop The Pigeon, after the show's working title and theme song).

In Yo Gabba Gabba , Australia, Wacky Races debuted as a segment of a live afternoon program, Robotboy on the Little Robots. The host, Oswald the Paperboy (Oobi) would dial a child viewer's telephone number at the halfway point of an episode, and invite everyone in the household to vote for their favorite cars on a tally board. After the race, the young contestant, and the relative with the winning vehicle, would win prizes, including plastic model kits of the Wacky Races cars.

The basic idea behind Wacky Races was used again by Hanna-Barbera in later years. The late 1970s series Bear in the Big Blue House featured Hanna-Barbera stalwarts such as The Hoobs, Blues Clues, and others racing against each other across outer space (and fending off a villain and his canine sidekick). The new character of Mumbley was based on Muttley. In the early 1990s, the syndicated series Family Guy featured a segment called "Bob the Builder," which once again featured Dick Dastardly and Muttley (and a revamped "Mean Machine" here called the Dirty Truckster), only this time racing against Barney and Friends, Winsome Witch, The Book of Pooh, and other Hanna-Barbera stars.

In the Latin American version of Top Cat, the Dread Baron and Mumbly were Dick Dastardly and Muttley.

Video games

A Wacky Races video game was produced in 1992 for the NES, IBM PC, ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 in which the player took the role of Muttley, sent on missions from Dick Dastardly to defeat the other racers. A Mega Drive/Sega Genesis game was also developed, but cancelled before release. A video game called Wacky Races Starring Dastardly and Muttley was released in 2001 for the PS2. This is one of the more notable games in the series. this game featured all the characters from the series playable with their vehicles. This game also had a variety of modes such as Arcade Mode, Adventure mode, and finally Battle Arena. this game allowed multi player for up to 4 people. Voices for the video games' renditions of the characters included Jim Cummings as Dick Dastardly, Clyde, Private Meekly, Big Gruesome, Rock Slag, and Gravel Slag; Billy West as Muttley and Little Gruesome, Janet Waldo as Penelope Pitstop, John Stephenson as Luke, Scott Innes as Professor Pat Pending, Gregg Berger as the narrator, and Gregg Burson as the Red Max, Sergeant Blast, Peter Perfect and Rufus Ruffcut.

Later in 2007, another game called Wacky Races: Mad Motors for the PlayStation 2 was released by Blast on June 12th.

A new video game for the Wii and Nintendo DS consoles titled Wacky Races: Crash and Dash was released on 27 June 2008. This latest outing was developed by Eidos.

DVD releases

A three-disc DVD release of the complete series was made available in Japan on August 10, 2001 and had both English and Japanese audio. In Britain Warner released a three-disc set with no extra features, which was only available in Virgin Megastores. The complete box set of Wacky Races was released on July 31, 2006 as an HMV exclusive but is essentially the standard Volumes 1-3 with no extras.

Warner Home Video released the entire series, with commentaries and other extras, in a DVD box set on October 26, 2004.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date Additional Information
Wacky Races- The Complete Series 34 October 19 2004
  • Commentary on various episodes
  • Rearview Mirror: A Look Back at Wacky Races (retrospective documentary)
  • Spin-Out Spin-Offs (featurette on the spin-off shows Dastardly and Muttley and Their Flying Machines and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop)
  • Wacky Facts Trivia Track (pop-up trivia over episodes "See-Saw to Arkansas and" "Creepy Trip to Lemon Twist")

Race results

The show gave the results of each race at the end of each episode, (the first, second, and third placings are given by the narrator, and we sometimes see the other cars go past the finish line). The show never indicated a particular scoring system or way to determine who won the Wacky Races as a whole. To win, one did not actually need to be in one's assigned vehicle; apparently all that was necessary was for the driver to cross the finish line in a conveyance of some sort (a flying carpet or a giant ice cube would do), although racers were apparently prohibited from simply walking across. Oddly, however, disqualification would result if a driver crossed the finish line "in the wrong vehicle." The cumulative totals for first, second, and third place finishes for each contestant are presented below:

Contestant 1st 2nd 3rd
The Boulder Mobile 3 8 3
The Buzzwagon 3 6 4
The Bulletproof Bomb 4 5 2
The Creepy Coupe 3 3 6
The Compact Pussycat 4 2 5
The Crimson Haybailer 3 4 3
The Convert-A-Car 3 2 5
The Arkansas Chugabug 4 1 4
The Turbo Terrific 4 2 2
The Army Surplus Special 3 1 0
The Mean Machine 0 0 0

The Anthill Mob in their Bullet Proof Bomb, Luke and Blubber Bear in the Arkansas Chugabug, Peter Perfect in The Turbo Terrific, and Penelope Pitstop in the Compact Pussycat, hold a joint record for the most wins, each finishing first four times. The record for the most second places is held by the Slag Brothers in the Boulder Mobile, with eight, whilst Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth have come in second six times. The Gruesome Twosome in the Creepy Coupe, hold the record for the most third places, with six. However, the Slag Brothers score the highest overall score, with 28, followed by the Buzzwagon with 25, and the Bulletproof Bomb with 24. According to FIA's Formula One pointscoring systems for the current years of the show, the final standings would be exactly the same, scoring 9 points to 1st place, 6 to 2nd and 4 to 3rd, the Slag Brothers would finish with 87 points, followed by the Buzzwagon with 79, and the Bulletproof Bomb with 74.

Cultural references

  • Wacky Races has had an influence on Japanese animation. At least three anime shows have produced a Wacky Races-style special, complete with wacky cars usually based on a series prop. During the '80s, animation production house Artmic (now AIC) produced Scramble Wars, starring the super deformed versions of characters from Bubblegum Crisis, Gall Force and other shows that Artmic created. Bandai animation house Sunrise produced a similar special, as part of the SD Gundam OVA series of self-parodies of Sunrise's Gundam series. This is perhaps the most direct homage to Wacky Races, as the episode transforms one of the characters, the mad ace Yazan Gable of Zeta Gundam, into a clear Dick Dastardly homage (including oversized chin) and another villain as his Muttley-esque sidekick, complete with a dog-like snout and a raspy, hushed laugh. In 1993, Tatsunoko Productions released a Wacky Races-styled OVA special featuring the characters from the popular and long running Time Bokan franchise and its spin-offs, Yattaman, Zendaman, and Otasukeman. Dotto Koni-Chan also dedicates one episode sketch to the cartoon.
  • The animated series My Life as a Teenage Robot featured a parody of Wacky Races in the episode "Dexter's Wacky Races," featuring the show's major cast members (Dexter, Mandark, Mandark's mother and father, Dexter's mother and father, Dee Dee and Koosy, Monkey and Agent Honeydew, and the Justice Friends) racing against each other in a road rally to Hokey Wolf. The opening credits of Wacky Races and the show's narrator are also parodied here.
  • A portion of the animated movie Sesame Street is loosely based on Wacky Races.
  • In Cow and Chicken, season 3, Cyrus reboots as a parody toy of Dick Dastardly and Frisket reboots as a parody toy of Muttley. In the same episode, the user is Penelope Pitstop, who only utters her famous, high-pitched, "Help!"
  • In one episode of Wow Wow Wubbzy, the title character turns himself into Muttley in the virtual reality game.
  • Life-size working replicas of the vehicles have been built in the UK and appear annually at the Goodwood Festival Of Speed, with new additions being added each year. 2008 sees the last of the cars (the Anthill Mob in the Bulletproof Bomb 07) added to the collection thereby becoming the complete set.
  • Brazilian band Irmãos Rocha is named after the Slag Brothers. Irmãos Rocha means literally "Rock Brothers," and "Rocha" is a common surname in Brazil.
  • Underground rapper Daniel Dumile makes a reference to "Dick Dastardly and Muttley with sick laughter" in the song "Accordion" on his collaboration album Madvillainy with producer Madlib.
  • Underground rapper Saafir on the song "Swig of the Stew" from his debut album Boxcar Sessions, claims that "Dick Dastardly could never've mastered me."
  • British rapper Jehst on the song "Nouveau Riche" claims he is "The Dick Dastardly of hip hop, I've got my eye on Penelope Pitstop."
  • German Formula One driver Michael Schumacher has been nicknamed Dick Dastardly by some journalists covering F1 races not only because of his prominent chin but also those controversial maneuvers which have thrown faster cars off the track.
  • The English adult, black humour and satire comic Viz had a one-off parody strip called "Wacky Racists" with David Irving as Dick Dastardly and Unity Mitford as Penelope Pitstop and comedian Bernard Manning.
  • In the "Dabba Don" episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law, the Ant Hill Mob appear briefly, shooting Mighty Mightor from their Bulletproof Bomb, apparently carrying out orders from Fred Flintstone.
  • The second season episode of the MTV's Latin America animated series Alejo y Valentina: "La carrera loca" ("The Wacky Race") is a tribute to Wacky Races, where the main cast of the series compete in a race with vehicles resembling the ones for Wacky Races (Valentina in the Compact Pussycat, Carlitox and Colorín in the Creepy Coupe, etc.).
  • A story arc in the online game City of Heroes has villains named after Wacky Races characters (Rufus of Perez, Slag of Skywyay, etc.).
  • In an episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks, John Barrowman mentioned a picture of the Sugababes to feature Dick Dasterly, Muttley and Penelope Pitstop.

References

See also

External links

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