Western Animation: Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines

Nab him! Jab him! Tab him! Grab him! Stop that pigeon, now!

One of two Spin Offs from Wacky Races, this series is best remembered for its bizarre aircraft designs. Dick Dastardly led the Vulture Squadron in pursuit of the courier Yankee Doodle Pigeon. The squadron's other members were Muttley, the snickering dog who was always begging for a medal; Klunk, the aircraft mechanic who spoke mainly in vocal sound effects, and Zilly, the nervous coward whose only redeeming virtue was his ability to translate Klunk's speech for Dastardly. The Mean Machine, Dastardly's car from the Wacky Races, could be seen frequently in this series as well.

Although this cartoon was set during World War I, Dastardly always had access to a telephone, even in flight, over which the general communicated with him. Just as Dastardly never won a Wacky Race, he never caught the pigeon. A supporting segment, Magnificent Muttley, concerned Muttley's flights of heroic fantasy.

The series' entire voice cast consisted of Don Messick and Paul Winchell. Messick even provided the falsetto voices of Muttley's girlfriends in the Magnificent Muttley segments.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: The Swedish farm maiden who takes a shining to Zilly in "Barnstormers."
  • Ageless Birthday Episode: Two of them. One involves Muttley's birthday, and in the other, Dick Dastardly thinks it's the general who is having a birthday.
  • Alliterative Name: Dick Dastardly. In the comic adaptation of the episode "Camouflage Hoparoo" (Gold Key, Hanna-Barbera Fun-In #2 as "It's Flop And Go-Go"), The General is identified as General Gibberish.
  • Angrish: Muttley's "sanafrazzin rasafrassin." Dastardly has done this a couple of times as well as a lampshade.
  • Animated Series
  • Anti-Sneeze Finger: One episode featured the Anti-Sneeze missile, which would hit anyone who sneezes. A misfired pepper shot forced the Vulture Squadron members to use the Anti-Sneeze Finger technique to avoid being targeted. It ended as well as expected in that cartoon.
  • Badass Mustache: Dick Dastardly
  • Birthday Episode: Two.
    • One episode was where they celebrated Muttley's birthday.
    • The other was where they tried to celebrate the general's birthday but found out that it was actually Dick's birthday.
  • Blinding Bangs: Klunk.
  • Blinding Camera Flash: Muttley does this to Dastardly in "Lens a Hand".
  • Bungling Inventor: Klunk.
  • Catch That Pigeon: the Trope Namer.
  • Catch Phrase: Dastardly's "Drat and double drat!" Also:
    Dastardly: (plummeting to the ground) "MUTTLEY! DO SOMETHING!"
  • Comic Book Adaptation: Dastardly and Muttley appeared in nine issues of Gold Key Comics' Hanna-Barbera Fun-In (first series, February 1970 - January 1972) and two issues of Golden Comics Digest (Hanna-Barbera TV Fun Favorites issues #7 and #10). In many stories not distilled from TV episodes, gunfire is used quite a bit. Also, the General—always heard but never seen on the show—is shown in two stories but in different designs, by Mike Arens ("Heroic Dum-Dums", issue #4) and Jack Manning ("Bug Brained", issue #7).
  • Cool Planes
  • Crash Course Landing: Four more inept pilots you will never find.
    • Although in "Sky-Hi I.Q.," it's shown that Dick Dastardly is the only pilot with some semblance of competency.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Dick Dastardly, the first Trope Namer.
  • Dirty Coward: Zilly
  • Ditzy Genius: Dastardly
  • The Drag-Along: Zilly
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The General
  • Evil Debt Collector: In a "Magnificent Muttley" segment episode, Muttley found a treasure chest and Dick Dastardly disguised himself as a tax collector to "seize" the treasure as payment for back taxes. The joke was on him as the chest contained nothing but dog biscuits.
  • Expy: Muttley is an expy of two Hanna-Barbera dogs—Mugger from the movie Hey, There...It's Yogi Bear, and Precious Pupp from The Atom Ant Show. When he was developed for Wacky Races, his initial model sheets gave his name as "Sniffer." His wheezing snicker was first used by a smart-aleck dog that gave Huckleberry Hound a hard time some 10 years prior.
  • The Faceless: The General. Given his nature of contact with Dick Dastardly in the show, it's no surprise.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: A given for Dick Dastardly's antics.
  • Five-Bad Band:
  • Forgot I Could Fly: Normally, Muttley uses his tail as a propellor to keep him airborne after the Squadron crashes their planes out. In "Sky-Hi I.Q.", Muttley is assigned as Squadron leader, and after he loses his plane to a botched operation, he plummets to the ground (but is rescued by Dastardly and then sent groundward after Muttley gives him a dinky medal).
  • Forgotten Birthday: One episode has the Vulture Squadron thinking they forgot the General's birthday and trying to surprise him. It turned out it was actually Dick's birthday and he forgot.
  • Genre Blind: Everybody in Vulture Squadron, except for Zilly.
  • Genre Savvy: Yankee Doodle Pigeon, obviously. Also, Zilly may be an abject coward, but he alone of the squad has a remotely realistic view of their chances (see Failure Is the Only Option) and often tries to get out.
    • Ironically, hauling him back to the squadron is the one area where the team isn't a failure.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: All five principal characters wear flying hemlets with goggles, but at no time are the goggles seen covering their eyes.
  • Got Volunteered: In "Too Many Kooks", Dick Dastardly is tired of Klunk's failed plans to capture Yankee-Doodle Pigeon and "volunteers" Zilly then Muttley to come up with their next plan. When those fail, Dastardly comes up with his own.
  • Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "Home Sweet Homing Pigeon," Dastardly's mouth gets stuck in a rope ladder and when he tries to talk, Klunk says, "Talk about me. You're the one who sounds funny!"
  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue: The Magnificent Muttley segments.
  • Instant Ice, Just Add Cold: An example from "Vacation Trip Trap" provides the page image.
  • Just Shoot the Pigeon
    • Played straight in several Gold Key comics stories, where artillery is used against Yankee Doodle quite often.
    • Klunk 'invented' quite a few gunships. Guess how that turned out.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: In "Zilly's a Dilly", Dick Dastardly hires a hypnotist to make Zilly brave. Unfortunately, Zilly becomes too reckless to follow plans and Dastardly decides to turn Zilly back into a coward.
  • Leitmotif: Several, but a piece using a rink-tink piano during climactic action scenes would be used on Hanna-Barbera shows up to 1980. On The New Scooby-Doo Movies, the episode "The Ghost of the Red Baron" uses it four times.
  • Literal-Minded: In "Camouflage Hoparoo," Dastardly's desk-plane plummets to the ground, then Muttley emerges from a drawer. Dastardly tells him to do something and he does—he spins his tail as a propellor and floats away from the impending crash.
    Dastardly: I meant do something for all of us, you...you deserter!!
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: They were a key component of the show, of course.
  • Meaningful Name: General Gibberish.
  • Motionless Chin
  • Mythology Gag: Dastardly's Wacky Races car, the Mean Machine, can be seen in several installments of the Magnificent Muttley segment.
    • The name Vulture Squadron is possibly derived from the Jonny Quest episode "Shadow of the Condor," where the Quest party meet a reclusive German WWI ace in the Andes mountains, who was a member of a flying group called the Condor Squadron.
    • The name Klunk was first possessed by the lab assistant in the Magilla Gorilla cartoon "Mad Scientist."
  • The Neidermeyer: Dick Dastardly, obviously. The General might also count.
  • Nervous Wreck: Zilly.
  • No Fourth Wall: In "Ceiling Zero Zero", after Don Messick as the narrator plays the "umpteenth time" card over and over:
    Dastardly: (to narrator) Oh, dry up! Who's keeping score?
  • Non-Fatal Explosions
  • Only Sane Man: Zilly in Vulture Squadron.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Near the end of episode "Medal Muddle", Dick Dastardly was falling and had no medal to offer Muttley so, in order to convince the dog to save him, Dastardly invoked the trope and promised to help Muttley find his lost medals. Dastardly kept good on his promise.
  • Offscreen Crash
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Klunk and Zilly.
    • Zilly is actually a male proper name.
  • Packed Villain: In one episode, Dick Dastardly gets caught in Klunk's pigeon-packing machine and ends up stuffed in a can labeled "sauerkraut".
  • Pepper Sneeze/Sneeze of Doom
  • Plagiarism In Fiction: Magnificent Muttley episode "Leonardo Da Muttley" featured a King offering a reward to whoever invented a flying machine. Dastardly stole two of Muttley's designs, but both resulted in Dastardly believing he should suggest Leonardo to invent the parachute.
  • Politically Correct History: It's never said what country the Vulture Squadron is working for.
    • Given that we can conclude that Yankee Doodle Pigeon is American, it is almost certain that Vulture Squadron fight for Imperial Germany. Of course, the fact that we can only come to this conclusion via indirect deduction (as Vulture Squadron has very little that would mark them as being German) should tell you something.
      • However, in "Fur Out Furlough", when the General offered a 30-day furlough to whoever caught Yankee Doodle Pigeon, Zilly planned to spend it in Miami and Klunk planned to spend it in Hawaii.
  • The Political Officer: Muttley fits into this role, as much of his job includes being tasked to stop desertion attempts (usually by Zilly).
    • In "Sky-Hi IQ", Muttley temporarily became the squadron's leader and Dastardly was the one tasked to stop Zilly's desertion attempt.
    • In "Who's Who?", when Dick Dastardly lost his memory and nobody else was officially assigned to take over, it was revealed that Muttley won't act the role without being ordered by someone of higher rank than his or offered a medal. Klunk once entered the trope's territory by forcing Zilly (and Muttley) into the plane.
  • Road Runner vs. Coyote: Appropriately enough, since one of the writers, Mike Maltese, had previously worked under Chuck Jones on various Looney Tunes shorts...including, yes, the Road Runner and Coyote.
  • Scooby Snacks: Medals act like this for Muttley.
  • Speech-Impaired Animal: Muttley
  • Status Quo Is God
  • Suddenly Voiced: Yankee Doodle Pigeon in the comic books. Also Muttley, whose speech impediment is cleared up in a few comics stories.
  • Super Cell Reception: The candlestick phone Dick Dastardly used to communicate with the General had to be cellular. It appeared in the air sans landline and even as far away as Arabia.
  • Team Rocket Wins: Dastardly actually wins one. In "Home Sweet Homing Pigeon", he tricks Muttley, Zilly and Klunk, whose discharges are imminent, into re-enlisting. It ends with Dastardly doing a Muttley snicker.
    • Subverted in "Stop Which Pigeon?": Dastardly nabs the pigeon after diving into an aerial swimming pool created by Klunk. He then releases the pigeon when he [Dastardly] remembers that he can't swim.
    • Subverted: The comic book story "Truce or Consequences" (Gold Key, Fun-In #10, January 1972) has Dick and Muttley luring Yankee Doodle Pigeon over to their side during a 24-hour truce, hypnotizing him and making him pose for photos depicting him as a traitor. With 30 seconds left in the truce and finding himself AWOL, Yankee Doodle consigns himself to the ultimate journey. But his final words—"ABOUT FACE!!"—cause Muttley to turn the cannon aimed at him towards Dastardly.
    • They do catch Yankee Doodle Pigeon in "Heroic Dum-Dums" (Fun-In #4, November 1970) by salting his tail (an old wives' tale). Dastardly and Muttley's assignment was to obtain Yankee Doodle's message satchel, which they do and then they turn him loose, figuring that he'll be humiliated for not completing his mission. The satchel was bogus—it contained a jigsaw puzzle which simply read "Sucker!" while Yankee Doodle kept his real satchel under his flying helmet. Cue the General relieving Dastardly of his medals.
    • In Magnificent Muttley, Dastardly manages to make Muttley's dream a nightmare in Movie Stuntman.
  • Three Shorts: Plus the "Wing Dings" blackouts.
  • The Unintelligible: Klunk, although you can hear him say words between his babbling that clues you in on what he means to say.
    • Subverted with the General, as if you listen closely, you can tell he's just talking very fast.
  • Title Confusion: Due to its Ear Worm theme song, the series is often called Stop That Pigeon or Stop the Pigeon.
    • Lampshaded in a 1986 episode of Yogi's Treasure Hunt. Dick and Muttley capture Snooper and Blabber and tortures them by making them watch episodes of Dastardly & Muttley.
    Snooper: Oh, no...not "Stop That Pigeon"-type cartoons!
    • Stop That Pigeon was the show's original name. The premise initially had Klunk and Zilly with a jolly, jelly-bellied Red Baron-type figure and an orange dachshund in pilot's goggles. Dick and Muttley were originally slated to be good guys (!) in The Perils of Penelope Pitstop but wound up in this series.
  • Villain Protagonist: Dick Dastardly
  • The Voice: The General
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In Gold Key Comics' Fun-In issues #7 and 10 and the two Golden Comics Digest stories, Klunk and Zilly are conspicuously absent. (Zilly does turn up in the last panel of the issue #7 story.)
  • World War I: In Name Only, though. The basic look is roughly that, but it doesn't exactly bring up much of anything else. Made completely anachronistic in the Magnificent Muttley short "The Masked Muttley", which starts off showing Dastardly watching a television set.
    • TV Guide's synopsis of the show upon its debut from the Sept. 13-19, 1969, issue: "Animated aerial adventures circa World War I."
  • Wrong Turn at Albuquerque: The ending of "Ceiling Zero Zero".

Alternative Title(s):

Dastardly And Muttley In Their Flying Machines, Stop That Pigeon