Headlined by one of the most fetching females in animation, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop was one of two animated series spun off from Wacky Races. Implied to be set between 1911 and 1930, the series was strongly influenced by The Perils of Pauline, a silent movie serial.The heiress Penelope, a classic Damsel in Distress, was the ward of Sylvester Sneekly. Unknown to her, once an episode Sneekly assumed the identity of the Hooded Claw. With the aid of his identical twin henchmen, the Bully Brothers, the Hooded Claw caught Penelope in one Death Trap after another, in hope of taking over her inheritance. Invariably, the Hooded Claw would explain his trap in detail to Penelope.Although she often escaped the Hooded Claw's traps on her own, Penelope had friends in the Ant Hill Mob, a group of seven little men whose car, Chugaboom, may have been a prototype for Speed Buggy. The Interactive Narrator was also on her side, providing advice and encouragement. Frequently, after the Mob rescued Penelope, she had to rescue them from an unintended consequence of their heroics.The show's voice talent included Janet Waldo as Penelope, Paul Lynde (uncredited) as the Hooded Claw, Gary Owens as the Narrator and Mel Blanc.
This series provides examples of:
Action Girl: Penelope Pitstop might have been na´ve and prone to danger, but she was actually far more capable than she looked and often saved the day.
Affectionate Parody: Penelope and the Ant Hill Mob may have been gentle caricatures of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
It was actually lampshaded back in the first episode of Wacky Races, "See-Saw to Arkansas", where the mob dressed up as the seven dwarves to give people false directions. Penelope was the first one they misdirected.
Clyde: If she follows my directions, she'll end up in the middle of the LaBrea Tarpits!
Alternate Company Equivalent: In 1970, Gold Key Comics had a short-lived comic series called The Close Shaves of Pauline Peril. Despite resembling Penelope, Pauline Peril was a newspaper reporter whose editor wanted to kill her.
Comic Book Adaptation: Penelope appeared in four issues of Gold Key Comics' Hanna-Barbera Fun-In and two issues of Golden Comics Digest. The digest stories had Sylvester Sneekly as Penelope's neighbor (she owned a ranch in those stories) instead of her guardian.
Cowboy Bebop at His Computer: Animation historian Jerry Beck claimed in his book The Hanna-Barbera Treasury that this series "featured the Ant Hill Mob as [Penelope's] chief rival". Probably never seen an episode before in his life (or watched Wacky Races instead).
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Both Penelope and the Ant Hill Mob. Both examples were rather haphazard and prone to getting into danger easily but were resilient and resourceful in saving the other when they were in peril (which happened a lot).
False Reassurance: At the end of "Big Bagdad Danger", Sneekly told Penelope that, wherever the Hooded Claw was, he'd also be.
Fanservice: Penelope provides it abundantly, despite being fully clothed.
Faux Affably Evil: The Hooded Claw in spades! As Sylvester Sneekly he puts on the facade of a kind and caring guardian, even as the Hooded Claw he remains calm and composed as he gloats about how he's gonna kill Penelope in great detail, clearly enjoying himself while doing so. And just to rub it in her face, every so often as Sneekly he drops subtle hints to her that he really is the Hooded Claw, and she's none the wiser!
Genre Savvy: In "Carnival Calamity", the Hooded Claw actually realizes that his henchmen are stupid and that he needs more effective goons. Considering he usually is the typical Genre Blind villain most of the time, this would be a momentary subversion.
Hammerspace: Pockets was known for this. (Well, how do you think he got his name?)
Heel-Face Turn: The Bully Brothers in the series finale, "London Town Treachery". The Claw intends to fire them after the Ant Hill Mob — turned into miniature Mr. Hydes from a spiked tea — put Penelope in a peril, leaving the Brothers with no alternative but to try to rescue Penelope.
The Ant Hill Mob themselves were originally rival racers in Wacky Races that shot at other racers with Tommy guns a few times, so they probably count.
Jekyll & Hyde: The Hooded Claw once rented a house from Jekyll & Hyde as part of a plan to capture Penelope. After realizing there was no tea there, he improvised with some random ingredients. He planned to have the Bully Brothers capture Penelope while he distracted the Ant Hill Mob with the tea. However, the tea turned them into seven "Mr. Hydes" and they captured Penelope. To get their Sentient Vehicle to cooperate, they gave it some of the "tea" and it also became a "Mr. Hyde".
Large Ham: Sylvester Sneekly as the Hooded Claw, and Penelope Pitstop herself.
Lazy Artist: In many episodes in certain scenes, the straps of Penelope's helmet are colored the same as her hair.
Karma Houdini: Though he was a luckless villain who often fell victim to his own devices, the Hooded Claw was naturally never caught or discovered and ended nearly every episode, making a Villain Exit Stage Left.
No Kill Like Overkill: The Hooded Claw's traps always consisted of some kind of crazy Rube Goldberg-esque setup that would eventually lead to Penelope's death. More often than not, the Claw would always spend nearly a minute explaining how the trap works, and Penelope often takes advantage of the time it takes for the trap to go into action to save herself.
His cape and hat is hooding his identity and claw because he always grabs Penelope.
Obviously Evil: The Hooded Claw in spades! He's got a giant nose, flabby chin, and a lanky body with a walk to match! As Sylvester Sneekly he has devil horn hair, which indicates his true colors. Frankly, I'm surprised nobody ever commented on this before.
Solar Powered Magnifying Glass: In "Hair-Raising Harness Race", while Penelope is trapped in a shed filled with explosives, the Hooded Claw has the Ant Hill Mob bound with a rope and hanging from a tree limb. A magnifying glass is set so that the sun's rays will burn the rope and send the mob plummeting into a deep chasm.
To Be Continued: On the original CBS run, a teaser for the next episode was presented at the conclusion of the just-aired story followed by a "To be continued next week" announcement and title card. It was retained when the show went into syndication in the late 1970s; it was edited out from Cartoon Network and Boomerang runs as well as from the DVD set. At least two, for "Jungle Jeopardy" and "Big Top Trap", can be found on YouTube.
Walk the Plank: The Hooded Claw attempts to force Penelope to walk the plank in "Arabian Desert Danger". And, yes, the incongruity of forcing someone to walk the plank in the desert was lampshaded by Penelope. The cannonballs were an interesting addition, though.
We Will Meet Again: Done at the end of almost every episode, if not every one, with the Hooded Claw vowing to get Penelope "next time".
What Could Have Been: An early sketch for the series featured Penelope's younger brother, Johnny Pitstop, and had Dastardly and Muttley as his bodyguards.
Wide-Eyed Idealist: Penelope would never believe that her guardian, Sneekly, was the Hooded Claw, even after she pointed out many times that they look just alike. In "Big Top Trap", Sneekly actually revealed to her that he was the Hooded Claw and she still didn't believe it!
Upon seeing the episode again, one can see that Sneekly saved his butt by assuming his normal identity and volunteering his time at the circus as a quick-change artist. His getting up as the Claw was just him showing a sample to Penelope, again to cover himself. Penelope idealistically doesn't believe Sneekly would stoop to that level. Little does she know.
Just to show how much of an idealist she is, she knows the Hooded Claw is "also" a quick-change artist, meaning she believes Sneekly and the Claw are two of that kind of artist instead of only one.