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-three in total.

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. Dastardly's rocket car was arguably the fastest car in the series, as evinced by Dastardly's repeatedly zooming to a stunning lead from far behind. Like Wile E Coyote, Dastardly never saw victory. Many of Dastardly's plots look similar to those used in Road Runner cartoons, which may be because Mike Maltese was a scriptwriter on both series.

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 took on the appearance of Maggie DuBois, played by Natalie Wood, including her pink outfit and the 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 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.

The eleven racers and their numbers are:

The villains of the series, in a rocket-powered car with an abundance of concealed weapons. 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. Every plan of his backfired, however. 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, and Dick Dastardly and Muttley are the ones who get hurt in the end.

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. On one occasion the car was shown to be using an unseen, living creature as its engine.They can speed up by hitting the car with their clubs. The Slag Brothers design was re-used for Captain Caveman.

Big Gruesome and Little Gruesome are monsters driving a 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 the bellfry. Also,they can summon bats and storms to help them fend off the other cars. Big Gruesome spoke like Boris Karloff and Little Gruesome like Peter Lorre.

A scientist in a car that can change into just about anything that moves. This ability often helps him gain first place. 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. His name is a pun on the phrase "patent pending".

An air ace (loosely based on WWI German aviator, Max Immelmann) in a car/plane hybrid that was capable of limited flight, usually just enough to leapfrog over racers or obstacles in its path. The Haybailer also had a machine gun mounted, which was sporadically used. 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.

A female racer driving a pink feminine car with personal grooming facilities which would sometimes backfire on the other racers, shampoo foam hitting the faces of the other racers, in one example. She always has time to relax and worry about her looks, because her car is like a beauty salon.

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. In one episode the tank fired a bubblegum ball out of its cannon to stop one of the other competitors. Private Meekly is in charge of driving the vehicle whilst Sergeant Blast shouts orders.

Led by Clyde, with Danny, Kurby, Mac, Ring-A-Ding, Rug Bug Benny, and Willy. Gangsters in a 1920s saloon car the Bulletproof Bomb, aka the Roaring Plenty. They re-appeared with the wingmen wearing blue outfits (silver for Clyde) and had name changes and a new living car, Chugga-Boom, in the spinoff series The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. 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. Their usual method of improving the speed of their car involved adding their leg-power to it.

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 range. 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?".

A jock (he had a crush on Penelope, so often stopped to help) driving a drag racer that often falls to bits. He always stops to say hello to Penelope. His car is likely the least resistant in the races, usually breaking down right after he makes a remark on its reliability. In development, the car was called the Varoom Roadster, a name used in the Gold Key comic book series.

A lumberjack and a beaver in a wagon with buzzsaws for wheels, which gave it 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. Rufus and Sawtooth's vehicle appears rickety and precariously constructed, made solely from planks of wood. The vehicle also has two axes attached to each side and a log on the front.

Voice cast

* Daws Butler - Peter Perfect, Sergeant Blast, Big Gruesome, Rock Slag, Rufus Ruffcut, Red Max
* Don Messick - Muttley, Little Gruesome, Gravel Slag, Professor Pat Pending, Sawtooth, Ring-a-Ding
* John Stephenson - Luke and Blubber Bear
* Janet Waldo - Penelope Pitstop
* Paul Winchell - Dick Dastardly, Clyde, Private Meekly
* Dave Willock - Narrator

Penelope Pitstop and the Ant Hill Mob were spun off into another cartoon series in 1969, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. Also in 1969, Dick Dastardly and Muttley were given a spinoff, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines (sometimes mistakenly known as Stop the Pigeon, after the show's working title and theme song).

In Sydney, Australia, Wacky Races debuted as a segment of a live afternoon program, Skeeter's Cartoon Corner on the Nine Network. The host, Skeeter the Paperboy (James Kemsley) 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 Yogi's Space Race featured Hanna-Barbera stalwarts such as Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, 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 Wake, Rattle and Roll featured a segment called "Fender Bender 500," which once again featured Dick Dastardly and Muttley (and a revamped "Mean Machine"), only this time racing against Yogi Bear, Winsome Witch, Quick Draw McGraw and other Hanna-Barbera stars.

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 intended to be released, but it was canned in development. In 2000, more video games based on the cartoon were produced for the PC, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Game Boy Color and Sega Dreamcast systems. These were racing games. 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. A new game called Wacky Races: Mad Motors for the PS2 was released by Blast on June 12th.

A 3-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 3-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.

The show gave the results of each race at the end of each episode, but 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."

* 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 spinoffs, Yattaman, Zendaman, and Otasukeman.
* The animated series Dexter's Laboratory 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 Burbank, California. The opening credits of Wacky Races and the show's narrator are also parodied here.
* A portion of the animated movie Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf is loosely based on Wacky Races.
* In ReBoot, season 3, Cyrus reboots as a parody toy of Dick Dastardly and Frisket reboots as a parody toy of Muttley.
* In one episode of Duck Dodgers, Captain Duck Dodgers is 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. Replicas currently exist of The Mean Machine (00), The Boulder Mobile (1), The Creepy Coupe (2), Convert-A-Car (3), The Crimson Haybailer (4), The Compact Pussycat (5), The Army Surplus Special (6), The Arkansas Chug-a-lug (8) and The Turbo Terrific (9).
* 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.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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