Wacky Races is an American animated television series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions. The series features 11 different cars racing against each other in various road rallies throughout North America, 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. Wacky Races ran on CBS from September 14, 1968, to January 4, 1969, and in syndication from 1976 to 1982. 17 episodes were produced, with each episode featuring two different races.
The villain of the series drives The Mean Machine (00), a purple, rocket-powered car with an abundance of concealed weapons and the ability to fly. Dick Dastardly is an archetypal mustache-twirling villain; Muttley is his wheezily snickering 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. Dastardly never sees victory.
The other racers include
- The Slag Brothers, Rock and Gravel, in a cavemen-themed racer called The Boulder Mobile (1);
- The Gruesome Twosome, Big Gruesome and Little Gruesome, who are monsters, in The Creepy Coupe (2);
- Professor Pat Pending, a scientist, in The Convert-a-Car (3);
- Red Max in a car/plane hybrid called The Crimson Haybailer (4);
- Penelope Pitstop, the lone female, in a 1930s racing costume in The Compact Pussycat (5);
- Sergeant Blast and Private Meekly in an tank/jeep hybrid with a small steamroller wheel attached to the front called The Army Surplus Special (6);
- The Ant Hill Mob, seven dwarf gangsters, in The Bulletproof Bomb (7);
- Lazy Luke, a hillbilly, and Blubber Bear, in The Arkansas Chugabug (8);
- Peter Perfect, a gentlemanly racer, in The Turbo Terrific (9);
- Rufus Ruffcut, a lumberjack, and his companion Sawtooth, a beaver, in The Buzz Wagon (10).
One of the unused plans for the series was that the races would be part of a live-action game show produced by Heatter-Quigley Productions (known for The Hollywood Squares), in which contestants would bet on which Wacky Racer would cross the finish line first. Although the game show concept was scrapped, the series was still produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, in association with Heatter-Quigley Productions.
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 never got past the concept stage.
- Paul Winchell – Dick Dastardly, Private Meekly, Clyde
- Don Messick – Muttley, Professor Pat Pending, Gravel Slag, Little Gruesome, Ring-a-Ding, Sawtooth
- Daws Butler – Rock Slag, Big Gruesome, Red Max, Sergeant Blast, Peter Perfect, Rufus Ruffcut
- John Stephenson – Luke, Blubber Bear
- Janet Waldo – Penelope Pitstop
- Dave Willock – Commentator/Narrator
Penelope Pitstop and the Ant Hill Mob were spun off into another cartoon series in 1969 titled The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. In the same year, Dick Dastardly and Muttley were given a spin-off series titled Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines. The series is sometimes mistakenly known as Stop the Pigeon, after the show’s working title and theme song. Both series ran for a season each.
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. The Australian release of Volume 1 and 2 was made available in 2005 and Volume 3 released in 2007.