Wacky Races

Wacky Races is an American animated television series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and Heatter-Quigley Productions.[1] The series was possibly inspired by the 1965 slapstick comedy The Great Race, with each driver hoping to win the title of the "World's Wackiest Racer". The cartoon had a large number of regular characters, with 23 people and animals spread among the 11 race cars. The show ran on CBS from September 14, 1968, to January 4, 1969. 17 episodes were produced, with each episode featuring two different races.

One of the unused plans for the series was that the races would be part of a live-action quiz show made by Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley Productions in which contestants would bet on which Wacky Racer would cross the finish line first. Although the game show concept was eventually scrapped, the series still retained a Hanna-Barbera/Heatter-Quigley dual production credit. Like Orion's back catalog from the 1978–1982 joint venture period and some post-1982 films, it is one of the few Heatter-Quigley series not currently owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's subsidiary Orion Pictures Corporation since September 11, 2014. In 1988, a made-for-television movie, Around the World with the Wacky Racers, was planned as part of the Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10 series of telefilms, but it never got past the concept stage.

Dick Dastardly and Muttley in the Mean Machine #00 (The Double Zero)[edit]
The villains (and also the stars) of the series, in a purple, rocket-powered car with an abundance of concealed weapons and the ability to fly. Dastardly (voiced by Paul Winchell, in a manner that Winchell would use several years later to portray the Smurfs' nemesis Gargamel) is an archetypal mustache-twirling villain; Muttley (voiced by Don Messick) is his trademark wheezily snickering, anthropomorphic dog henchman.

Dastardly's usual race strategy revolves around using the Mean Machine's great speed to get ahead of the other racers, and then setting a trap to stop them and maintain the lead, but most of his plans backfire, causing him to fall back into last place. Sometimes he would be so far ahead that if he carried on without trying to cheat or stop the other racers, he would have surely won that particular race.

Dastardly's rocket car was arguably the fastest car in the series, as evidenced by Dastardly's repeatedly zooming to a stunning lead from far behind. Dastardly never saw victory, but came close at least three times: once when he crossed the line first, and is seen to do so in the original and official footage, but a tampered replay viewed by the judges showed him cheating, and another time when he was battling with three other cars to finish first, but he stopped to pose for the photo finish. He also came close to winning another race, but he stopped again, this time to sign an autograph for Muttley.

Dastardly never even officially finished in the top three. In fact, he only crossed the line five times: twice in last place, once in fifth place (beating the Army Surplus Special), once in fourth place. In the fourth-place finish, he appeared to win but a tampered instant replay video-tape shows the Double Zero car seemingly using a device to stretch out the nose of the vehicle, resulting in Penelope Pitstop being declared the winner by the race Judges. This is odd, however, as in another race, Rufus Ruffcut used a similar tactic and was considered to be a winner, although the distinction might be that Rufus actually extended his own neck to a ridiculous degree, while Dastardly extended his vehicle.

Regardless, it is often considered to be either a mistake of the series, or that the judges purposefully ruled against Dastardly to ensure that he did not obtain a victory. In modern times, it is now possible to pause the original footage and see that the nose cone was not originally extended. However, in the "instant replay" it shows the nose cone extending,[2] leading some fans of the series to believe that the Judges colluded to create a fix.

He is sometimes foiled by the finishing line itself, where he makes a sprint at the end to gain the lead, but while sneering and looking behind him at the other competitors, fails to notice that parts protruding from the Mean Machine (often sails or rockets) are too big to get under the finish banner and he subsequently crashes into it. Often it appears that if Dastardly had not bothered to cheat, then he might have won fairly. Upon tasting defeat, Dastardly would utter his catchphrases, "Drat!!! Drat!!! And Double Drat!!!", "Triple Drat!" and even "Curses, foiled again!" This is often followed by Muttley's snickering. His other main catchphrase was "Muttley, do something!"

The Slag Brothers in the Boulder Mobile #1[edit]
Rock and Gravel Slag (voiced by Daws Butler and Don Messick) are cavemen driving a wheeled boulder. They are almost completely covered in wild and unkempt hair and communicate mostly in grunts and broken mumbled phrases. If their car is ever destroyed, the Slag Brothers will usually reconstruct it from scratch simply by using their clubs on any large boulder they can find. The Slag Brothers can also summon up a Pteranodon to help them. They accelerate by hitting the car (or at times, each other) with their clubs. They will sometimes directly attack other drivers with their clubs or by launching rocks at them. The Slag Brothers' character design was re-used for Captain Caveman.[citation needed]

The Gruesome Twosome in the Creepy Coupe #2[edit]
Big Gruesome (a lurching, huge humanoid character voiced by Daws Butler imitating Boris Karloff) and Little Gruesome (a purple-skinned vampire voiced by Don Messick imitating Peter Lorre) are monsters driving a hearse-like car with a Victorian mansard-roofed belfry, which houses a dragon, ghosts, serpents, witches, and other horror-themed characters as well as storm clouds. The Gruesomes can summon these creatures to either help them along in the race or fend off other drivers; especially the dragon, which is practically a third member of the team. The Gruesome Twosome are quite prone to foul play and use their range of creatures to scare off or sabotage other competitors, with Little Gruesome acting as the brains of the duo while Big Gruesome acts as the muscle. However, they aren't without a sense of decency, as they once used their sea serpent power to help the other racers cross a stretch of water after Dastardly destroyed the bridge.

Professor Pat Pending in the Convert-a-Car #3[edit]
A scientist (voiced by Don Messick) in a boat-shaped airplane-like car which can change into just about anything that moves, from mundane vehicles (such as a motorcycle or helicopter) to outlandish ones (such as a giant bowling ball or a massive coiled spring). He often uses his car's multitude of gadgets to help out the other drivers if they all get caught in the same trap. His alliterative name is a pun on the phrase "patent pending". Most of his gadgets seem to be defensive as opposed to Dastardly's offensive devices; indeed it can be argued that he is Dastardly's nemesis.

The Red Max in the Crimson Haybaler #4[edit]
An air ace (voiced by Daws Butler) whose name is a combination of the Red Baron and the Blue Max, in a car/plane hybrid that is capable of limited flight, usually just enough to leapfrog over racers or obstacles in its path. The Haybaler has a mounted machine gun which is used sporadically. The machine gun can fire bullets, pepper, and other substances. The Haybaler's transformations from plane to car seems to have significantly weakened its flying ability, and Max often has to bail out when the Haybaler breaks down. The character and name of his vehicle are partially derived from the barnstorming stuntmen of the 1920s.

Penelope Pitstop in the Compact Pussycat #5[edit]
Penelope Pitstop (voiced by Janet Waldo) is the only female among the Wacky Racers. She is a stereotypical Southern belle dressed in a 1930s racing costume. The Compact Pussycat is a fancy pink convertible coupe sportscar fitted out with all manner of girlie beauty supplies—effectively, a beauty parlor on wheels. Penelope often takes time during the race to maintain her appearance, which causes the other racers to lose ground when her gadgets malfunction. The male racers are very chivalrous towards her, and rarely attack her car, sometimes even allowing her to pass them. Turbo Terrific driver Peter Perfect is particularly fond of her, frequently calling her "Pretty Penny". Penelope also had her own cartoon spin-off, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, which also featured the Ant Hill Mob.

Sergeant Blast and Private Meekly in the Army Surplus Special #6[edit]
Two soldiers, one a sergeant (voiced by Daws Butler) and the other a private (voiced by Paul Winchell), racing in an Army tank/jeep hybrid with a small steamroller's wheel attached to the front. The Army Surplus Special makes use of its tank facilities while racing, including its cannon, which can spin around to face forward or back, and the hatch, where Sergeant Blast rides. The Surplus Special is equipped with a supply of land mines and back-mounted thrusters. The Surplus Special is capable of firing its gun backwards to propel itself forwards for extra speed. As their names suggest, Private Meekly is very meek and merely follows orders without question, while Sergeant Blast "blasts" orders in a stereotypical drill-sergeant voice.

The Ant Hill Mob in the Bulletproof Bomb #7[edit]
The Bulletproof Bomb (occasionally referred to as the "Roaring Plenty") is a 1920s limousine style sedan, driven by "The Ant Hill Mob" - a group of seven pint-sized mobsters all of whom sit in the front seat: leader Clyde (voiced by Paul Winchell), Ring-A-Ding (voiced by Don Messick), Danny, Rug Bug Benny, Mac, Kirby and Willy. The entire mob wears hats, double-breasted coats, and each sports a five-o'clock shadow. Clyde is a pastiche of Edward G. Robinson's character in the film Little Caesar and the male half of real-life criminals Bonnie and Clyde. Indeed, on more than one occasion when his mob seem about to rebel, he quells it at once by merely threatening "to tell Bonnie" on them; yet he does seem to care about them, as shown when he confronts the Gruesome Twosome when he thinks they have kidnapped "his boys". Their typical method of improving the speed of their car is "Getaway Power", which is achieved by extending their feet through the floor of the car and running, much like Fred Flintstone's method of propelling his "cave car" in his own series. On occasion, the Ant Hill Mob would use their tommy guns against the other racers. Their mob name is a play on both their diminutive size and the title of the 1951 film, The Lavender Hill Mob.

The Ant Hill Mob also appeared in the spin-off series The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, with Clyde in a silver outfit and a tall bowler hat with a red hat band and his wingmen, now named Yak Yak, Softy, Pockets, Zippy, Snoozy and Dum-Dum; wearing blue outfits and different brown hats each with a different colored hat band and riding in a living car, called "Chugga-Boom". The Mob were the protagonists in this series, along with Penelope herself, and were constantly rushing to her rescue.

Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear in the Arkansas Chuggabug #8[edit]
Luke (voiced by John Stephenson) is a hillbilly who tends to drive steering with his feet while half-asleep, in one episode he refers to himself as Dog-Nosed Luke; Blubber (also voiced by Stephenson) is his timid pet grizzly bear, clad in a scarf and early aviator's helmet with goggles. The Chuggabug is a 1920s hot rod jalopy constructed of wood, including rocking chair seats, and is powered by a coal-fired pot-bellied stove in the rear of the vehicle. The stove can be prone to exploding, usually if another competitor blocks the exhaust. Luke tends to use old-fashioned means of improving the performance of his car, such as pouring various liquors into the stove for a quick speed boost (but the stove would often explode afterward). He has also been shown using various balloons and gum-type traps.

Peter Perfect in the Turbo Terrific #9[edit]
A gentleman driver (voiced by Daws Butler) driving a dragster. The Turbo Terrific, despite its name and Peter's adulation, is highly unreliable; it often falls to pieces in the middle of a race, usually after Peter praises it for how well it is doing. Nevertheless, Peter did manage to win the Wacky Races no fewer than four times throughout the show's run, tying with Lazy Luke, the Ant Hill Mob, and Penelope Pitstop for the most wins in the series. Peter Perfect has a crush on Penelope Pitstop (whom he calls "Pretty Penny"), who often returns his affections. The Turbo Terrific seems to be able to sprout an additional four rear wheels, giving eight wheels in total, for extra speed.

Rufus Ruffcut & Sawtooth in the Buzzwagon #10[edit]
Rufus Ruffcut (voiced by Daws Butler) is a tough, muscle-bound lumberjack, while Sawtooth (voiced by Don Messick) is his anthropomorphic pet beaver. The Buzzwagon is a wagon made of logs, with buzzsaws used for wheels, hence its name. The buzzsaws gives the car the ability to cut through almost anything, destroying the object in the process. For instance, in one race through a densely wooded area with a route full of long curves, Ruffcut is able to temporarily take the lead by carving straight line shortcuts through the foliage. Unfortunately, the buzzsaws have a tendency to detach from the vehicle and cut through the other racers, in one case cutting two wheels off the Ant Hill Mob's car.

The Narrator
Every episode is introduced and commented on by an unseen Narrator (voice by Dave Willock), who often communicates with the racers as they drive. The racers respond by speaking to the audience, breaking the fourth wall. Dick Dastardly occasionally addresses the Narrator as "Boopsie".

The other characters seem to get along with each other, they are often seen (especially Pat Pending and usually Peter Perfect and Penelope Pitstop) helping each other out of traps set by Dastardly. They also at times use "dirty tricks" on each other (Army Surplus shooting other cars or Gruesome Twosome using their Dragon). Some of these tricks are as bad as Dastardly's, but they seem to get away with them.