Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Wacky Races is an animated cartoon series from Hanna-Barbera Productions, about a group of almost a dozen 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 series was apparently inspired by the movies Monte Carlo or Bust (aka Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies) and The Great Race. The series debuted on CBS in 1968 and ran until 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 was the show's resident stereotyped villain Dick Dastardly and his sidekick, Muttley the dog. Like Wile E. Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons, Dastardly would concoct all sorts of elaborate schemes to trap, divert, blow up or stop the other racers, only to see them backfire spectacularly. In fact many of Dastardly's plots look suspiciously similar to those used in Road Runner episodes, which might be explained by the fact that Mike Maltese was a scriptwriter on both series.
The eleven racers and their numbers were:
- Number 00: The Mean Machine, driven by Dick Dastardly & Muttley - the villains in a rocket-powered car with lots of concealed weapons
- Number 1: The Bouldermobile, driven by The Slag Brothers (Rock Slag & Gravel Slag) - cavemen (covered with hair like Cousin Itt from The Addams Family; their design was recycled for Captain Caveman) driving a wheeled boulder
- Number 2: The Creepy Coupe, driven by The Gruesome Twosome (Big Gruesome & Little Gruesome) - monsters (Big spoke like Boris Karloff and Little like Peter Lorre), driving a car with a belfry; the belfry housed a dragon and various ghosts and ghouls
- Number 3: The Convert-a-Car, driven by Professor Pat Pending - a mad scientist in a car that can change into just about anything that moves
- Number 4: The Crimson Haybailer, driven by Red Max - (an air ace) in a car/plane hybrid
- Number 5: The Compact Pussycat, driven by Penelope Pitstop - a woman racer driving a pink feminine car with personal grooming facilities
- Number 6: The Army Surplus Special, driven by Sergeant Blast & Private Meekly - two soldiers racing an army tank/jeep hybrid
- Number 7: The Bulletproof Bomb (aka The Roaring Twenty), driven by The Ant Hill Mob (led by Clyde) - gangsters in a 1920s saloon car
- Number 8: The Arkansas Chuggabug, driven by Luke & Blubber Bear - hillbillies in a wooden buggy driven by a coal-fired range
- Number 9: The Turbo Terrific, driven by Peter Perfect - a jock (he had a crush on Penelope so often stopped to help) driving a drag racer that often falls to bits
- Number 10: The Buzz Wagon, driven by Rufus Ruffcut & Sawtooth - a lumberjack and a beaver in a wagon with buzzsaws for wheels
Spinoffs and similar series
The Penelope Pitstop character was spun off into an other cartoon series, The Perils Of Penelope Pitstop, while at the same time Dick Dastardly and Muttley appeared in Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines.
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 stalwards such as Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, and others racing againts each other across outer space (and fending off a villain and his canine sidekick). 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 their "Mean Machine"), only this time racing against Yogi Bear, Winsome Witch, and other Hanna-Barbera stars.
References to other media
Certain characters in the cartoon are clearly based on characters in Blake Edwards' The Great Race (1965). Penelope Pitstop took on the appearance of Maggie DuBois , played by Natalie Wood, down to the exact shade of pink on one of her outfits and the parasol. Dastardly has much in common with Jack Lemmon's portrayal of Professor Fate - though he has a non-canine sidekick in the form of Max Meen (Peter Falk). The pair 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.
The physical similarities, particularly between DuBois and Pitstop, can be seen from the cover of the movie's video cassette.
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