Wacky Races is an animated television series from Hanna-Barbera about a group of eleven 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 characters spread among the eleven race cars, plus the unseen race announcer. Another unusual feature of the series is that the stars of the show are the villains as opposed to the heroes.
The series first aired from 14 September 1968 to 4 January 1969 on CBS. 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 by extending the tip of his car. Many of Dastardly's plots look similar to those used in Road Runner cartoons, perhaps 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, who would later have a spinoff 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 The 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 and Cars
The eleven racers and their numbers are:
- Dick Dastardly and Muttley in 00 The Mean Machine
- The Slag Brothers in 01 The Bouldermobile
- The Gruesome Twosome in 02 The Creepy Coupe
- Professor Pat Pending in 03 The Convert-a-Car
- Red Max in 04 The Crimson Haybaler
- Penelope Pitstop in 05 The Compact Pussycat
- Sergeant Blast and Private Meekley in 06 The Army Surplus Special
- The Ant Hill Mob in 07 The Bulletproof Bomb
- Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear in 08 The Arkansas Chug-a-Bug
- Peter Perfect in 09 The Turbo Terrific
- Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth in 10 The Buzzwagon
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.
- Daws Butler - Peter Perfect, Sergeant Blast, Big Gruesome, Rock Slag, Rufus Ruffcut, Red Max
- Don Messick - Muttley, Little Gruesome, Gravel Slag, Professor Pat Pending, Ring-a-Ding
- John Stephenson - Luke and Blubber Bear
- Janet Waldo - Penelope Pitstop
- Paul Winchell - Dick Dastardly, Clyde, Private Meekly, Sawtooth
- Dave Willock - Narrator
Each episode consists of two Races:
- Episode 1: See-Saw to Arkansas race winner: The Red Max (35-1)/Creepy Trip to Lemon Twist race winner: Penelope Pitstop (35-2) (9/14/1968)
- Episode 2: Why Oh Why Wyoming race winner: The Gruesome Twosome (35-3)/Beat the Clock to Yellow Rock: Luke & Blubber Bear (35-4) (9/21/1968)
- Episode 3: Mish Mash Missouri Dash race winner: Professor Pat Pending (35-6)/Idaho a Go Go race winner: The Slag Brothers (35-5) (9/28/1968)
- Episode 4: The Baja-Ha-Ha Race race winner: The Slag Brothers (35-11)/Real Gone Ape race winner: Sergeant Blast & Private Meekly (35-8) (10/5/1968)
- Episode 5: Scout Scatter race winner: Rufus Ruffcut & Sawtooth (35-7)/Free Wheeling to Wheeling race winner: The Ant Hill Mob (35-10) (10/12/1968)
- Episode 6: By Rollercoaster to Upsan Downs race winner: The Red Max (35-9)/The Speedy Arkansas Traveller race winner: The Slag Brothers (35-12) (10/19/1968)
- Episode 7: The Zippy Mississippi Race race winner: Peter Perfect (35-15)/Traffic Jambalaya race winner: Penelope Pitstop (35-17) (10/26/1968)
- Episode 8: Hot Race at Chillicothe race winner: Sergeant Blast & Private Meekly (35-16)/The Wrong Lumber Race race winner: Rufus Ruffcut & Sawtooth (35-18) (11/2/1968)
- Episode 9: Rhode Island Road Race race winner: The Gruesome Twosome (35-19)/The Great Cold Rush Race race winner: The Red Max (35-13) (11/9/1968)
- Episode 10: Wacky Race to Rip Saw race winner: Rufus Ruffcut & Sawtooth (35-20)/Oils Well That Ends Well race winner: Professor Pat Pending (35-21) (11/16/1968)
- Episode 11: Whizzin' to Washington race winner: Peter Perfect (35-22)/The Dipsy Doodle Desert Derby race winner: Peter Perfect (35-24) (11/23/1968)
- Episode 12: Eeny, Miny Missouri Go! race winner: Professor Pat Pending (35-14)/The Super Silly Swamp Sprint race winner: Luke & Blubber Bear (35-23) (11/30/1968)
- Episode 13: The Dopey Dakota Derby race winner: The Ant Hill Mob (35-27)/Dash to Delaware race winner: Luke & Blubber Bear (35-26) (12/7/1968)
- Episode 14: Speeding for Smogland race winner: Luke & Blubber Bear (35-28)/Race Rally to Raleigh race winner: The Ant Hill Mob (35-25) (12/14/1968)
- Episode 15: Ballpoint, Penn. or Bust! race winner: Penelope Pitstop (35-30)/Fast Track to Hackensack, race winner: The Ant Hill Mob (35-29) (12/21/1968)
- Episode 16: The Ski Resort Road Race race winner: Sergeant Blast & Private Meekly (35-33)/The Overseas Hi-Way Race race winner: Peter Perfect (35-34) (12/28/1968)
- Episode 17: Race to Racine race winner: The Gruesome Twosome (35-31)/The Carlsbad or Bust Bash race winner: Penelope Pitstop (35-32) (1/4/1969)
Spinoffs and Similar Series
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 & Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
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 through outer space and fending off a villain and his pet sidekick. In the early 1990s, the syndicated series Wake Rattle & Roll featured a segment called "Fender Bender 500", which once again featured Dick Dastardly and Muttley and a revamped "Mean Machine" here called the Dirty Truckster, this time racing against Yogi Bear, Winsome Witch, Quick Draw McGraw, and other Hanna-Barbera stars.
In the Latin American version of Laff-A-Lympics, the Dread Baron and Mumbly were Dick Dastardly and Muttley.
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. 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 (voice actor) 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 12 June.
A video game called Wacky Races Starring Dastardly and Muttley (PS2 Game) was released in 2001 for the PS2. this is one of the more notable games in the series. this game featured all the charecters 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 four people.
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.
A three-disc DVD release of the complete series was made available 10 August 2001 in Japan 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 31 July 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 26 October 2004.
|DVD Name||Release Date||Additional Information|
|Wacky Races- The Complete Series||19 October 2004||
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 sometimes the other cars are shown passing 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:
|The Boulder Mobile||3||8||3|
|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 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 Bulletproof Bomb, Luke and Blubber Bear in the Arkansas Chug-a-Bug, 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 while The Army Surplus Special never came in Third place. However, the Slag Brothers score the highest overall score, with 28, followed by the Buzzwagon with 25, and the Bulletproof Bomb with 24.
- Wacky Races has had an influence on Japan. At least four anime franchises have produced a Wacky Races-style special, complete with wacky cars usually based on a series prop.
- During the '80s, animation production house Artmic produced Scramble Wars, starring super deformed versions of characters from Bubblegum Crisis, Gall Force, and other shows that Artmic created. One episode features a vehicle resembling the one Dick Dastardly uses.
- Bandai also produced a similar special, as part of their SD Gundam OVA series of self-parodies towards Sunrise's Gundam franchise. This is perhaps the most direct homage to Wacky Races, as the episode transforms one of the characters, the mad ace Yazan Gable from 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 raspy, hushed laugh.
- In 1993, Tatsunoko Productions released a Wacky Races-styled OVA special featuring characters from their popular and long-running Time Bokan series and its spinoffs (Yattaman, Zendaman, and Otasukeman).
- Dotto Koni-Chan also dedicates one episode sketch to this cartoon.
- 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 for Wacky Races and the show's narrator are also parodied.
- 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 the same episode, the user is Penelope Pitstop, who only utters her famous, high-pitched, "Help!"
- In one episode of Duck Dodgers, 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.).