Western Animation: The Perils of Penelope Pitstop
"I'll get you, Penelope Pitstop!"
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 comprised Janet Waldo as Penelope, Paul Lynde (uncredited) as the Hooded Claw, Gary Owens as the Narrator
, Don Messick
, Paul Winchell
and Mel Blanc
This series provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Penelope Pitstop might have been naïve and prone to danger, but she was actually far more capable than she looked and often saved the day.
- Added Alliterative Appeal
- Affectionate Parody: Penelope and the Ant Hill Mob may have been gentle caricatures of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- Alliterative Name: Penelope Pitstop and Sylvester Sneekly.
- Alternate Company Equivalent: In 1970, Gold Key Comics had a four-issue comic series called The Close Shaves of Pauline Peril. Despite resembling Penelope, Pauline Peril was a newspaper reporter whose editor wanted to kill her.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese dub has this for its theme song.
- Anachronism Stew: Although the timeframe is never mentioned in the show, it is implied to be set between 1911 and 1930 a.k.a the silent film era as mentioned in the main summary, though a few things stand out referencing the current time it was made in. For example, in "Wild West Peril", the Narrator makes a pun on Rock 'n Roll which didn't exist until the late 1940s or early 1950s. Also, in "Tall Timber Treachery", Penelope is heard dancing to typical "groovy" 1960s music you'd hear in Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!.
- Animated Series
- Anti-Sneeze Finger: Penelope does it to herself in episode "Tall Timber Treachery".
- Balloonacy: In "The Boardwalk Booby Trap", the Hooded Claw gets rid of the Ant Hill Mob by giving them helium balloons that cause them to float away.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: Seriously, only actual Bond villains show this more than Sneekly does. It's clearly the biggest reason why his plans never work.
- Bound and Gagged: It happens to Penelope Once an Episode, if not more often.
- By the Lights of Their Eyes: Main titles only.
- By Wall That Is Holey: "They would forget to close the window!"
- Chained to a Railway: It's even in the credits.
- Characterization Marches On: May be a little odd for Wacky Races fans seeing Penelope and the Ant Hill Mob as devoted allies (especially the aforementioned instance where the Mob try to use dirty tactics on Penelope).
- Coat, Hat, Mask: The Hooded Claw
- 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.
- Conveyor Belt of Doom
- Cool Car: Chugaboom
- Crazy-Prepared: Pockets seems to have a gadget for every occasion.
- 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).
- Dark Is Not Evil: The Anthill Mob look like a bunch of no-good crooks, but they're simply a pack of eccentric good guys, fairly more heroic than their amoral Wacky Races incarnation.
- Damsel in Distress: Both parodied and played straight with Penelope. (About half the time, she ends up having to rescue the Ant Hill Mob after they get in trouble trying to rescue her.)
- Dastardly Whiplash: The Hooded Claw.
- Deadpan Snarker: Clyde and the Hooded Claw.
- Death Trap: At least one per episode.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: The Hooded Claw in "Wild West Peril" after Penelope makes off with his hot air balloon.
Claw: Help! Police!! [covers his mouth]...oop...what am I saying?!
- The Dividual: The Bully Brothers. Even if they were named, it wouldn't matter since they both act and dress exactly the same.
- Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help: In one episode, Penelope returned a fallen baby eagle to its nest.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: In "North Pole Peril". Only this trope excuses that.
- Evil Laugh: The Hooded Claw, in spades. His voice actor, Paul Lynde, was clearly into this specific part of the character, and delivered those evil laughs with great gusto.
- Evil Plan: Practically non-existent for the heroes. They just know that the Claw wants to kill Penelope for some weird reason.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: This show is about Penelope Pitstop. She is in peril. Many times.
- Falling Chandelier of Doom: "The Treacherous Movie Lot Plot" has one.
- False Reassurance: At the end of "Big Bagdad Danger", Sneekly told Penelope that, wherever the Hooded Claw was, he'd also be. He also does this at the end of "Cross Country Double Cross."
- 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 in great detail about how he's gonna kill Penelope, 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 Blindness
- 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.
- Horned Hairdo: Sylvester Sneekly
- The Hyena: Yak-Yak of the Ant Hill Mob.
- Impossibly Cool Clothes
- Improvised Parachute: In "Jungle Jeopardy", Penelope used her scarf as a parachute after jumping from a plane.
- Interactive Narrator: One who completely favors Penelope, at that.
- Illegal Guardian
- It's Raining Men: Or in this case a woman, as noted in Improvised Parachute above.
- Jekyll & Hyde: The Hooded Claw once rented a house from Jekyll and 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".
- Just Between You and Me: Happens Once an Episode, at least. Sneekly seems obsessed with this.
- 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.
- Mascot Villain: Penelope's nemesis, the Hooded Claw drives the plot in every case, and he's a Large Ham to boot, which is magnified by having Paul Lynde as his voice actor. Only the Ant Hill Mob gets as much screen time as the Claw, but their overall competency ranges from barely adequate to horribly hopeless.
- Master of Disguise: Somewhat subverted, The Hooded Claw can quickly change into any costume needed to lure Penelope into another trap or to blend into the suroounding, 9/10 of the time he doesn't even bother covering his face or disguising his voice, nevertheless nobody sees through any of his disguises
- Meaningful Name: Six members of the Ant Hill Mob. It quickly becomes clear what Dum-Dum, Pockets, Snoozy, Softy, Yak-Yak and Zippy do.
- Sylvester G. Sneekly. Makes one wonder how no one (certainly not Penelope) connected the dots.
- Penelope's surname, she being an auto race driver and all.
- Missing Mom/Disappeared Dad: We never find out what happened to Penelope's parents, or why they were crazy enough to entrust her guardianship to Sneekly.
- The Mobsters Who Don't Do Anything: The Ant Hill Mob doesn't do very much mob-type stuff.
- Granted, as they're the heroes of the show, there isn't a lot mob-like they can get away with anymore, they did a bit more in Wacky Races where they were more antagonistic.
- Ms. Fanservice: Penelope, despite being fully clothed.
- The closest she really gets to a Fanservice moment is in "Cross Country Double Cross", when she temporarily removes her boots, revealing her bare feet.
- Mummy Wrap: The Hooded Claw naturally mummified Penelope for one of his schemes in the Egyptian-themed episode, "Arabian Desert Danger".
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Who'd want a guardian/lawyer called Sylvester Sneekly?
- Never Say "Die": Averted in the Mexican dub.
- No Fourth Wall: Simiarly to how so in Wacky Races, The Hooded Claw and the narrator will often address one another.
- Plus points in this case it's Paul Lynde and Gary Owens having fourth-wall–breaking comedy
- 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.
- No Name Given: The Bully Brothers.
- Nonindicative Name: The Hooded Claw. No hood, no claw. I guess he just thought the name sounded cool.
- His cape and hat are hooding his identity, and claw because he always grabs Penelope.
- Not Named in Closing Credits: In the "Voices" section of the end credits, Paul Lynde is nowhere to be seen.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Dum-Dum, despite his name, has helped Penelope in big ways twice. Once when he threw a feather into the mouth of a man-eating plant so it would gag and spit her out, and when he snagged the Hooded Claw's cape and hat so Penelope could win a scavenger hunt. Both times he was rewarded with a kiss from Penelope.
- Obviously Evil: The Hooded Claw in spades! He's got a giant nose, a 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.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Six of the mobsters.
- Only One Name: Clyde of the Ant Hill Mob.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: The Hooded Claw did this a lot, and sometimes would wear his purple ribbon mask with them, too.
- Parasol Parachute: In the first episode, "Jungle Jeopardy", a single small umbrella is enough to lower the entire Ant Hill Mob and Chuggaboom safely to the ground.
- Packed Hero: In "London Town Treachery", the armored Ant Hill Mobsters are canned, with their faces on the labels.
- Pink Means Feminine
- Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Penelope looooves pink; all the mobsters except Clyde wear blue suits.
- Softy has a pink hat-band, however. In fact, each member of the mob has a different colour hat-band.
- Powder Trail: The Hooded Claw lights one in "Jungle Jeopardy".
- Pretty in Mink: In "North Pole Peril", Penelope wears a fur-trimmed coat.
- Psycho Electric Eel: Two of them are used to power a Death Trap in "The Treacherous Movie Lot Plot".
- Puny Parachute: Penelope's Improvised Parachute above.
- Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts: The Hooded Claw could be the poster boy for this trope.
- Shout-Out: From the debut episode, "Jungle Jeopardy":
Penelope: My arch enemy, the Hooded Claw!
- Skintone Sclerae: Unlike the Penelope of Wacky Races, it's averted here. She is given whites in her eyes, and the DVD package interior art appears to have given her blue irises.
- The Snark Knight: The Hooded Claw can Snark with the best of 'em, since he is played by Paul Lynde, and none of this should come as a surprise.
- 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.
- Southern Belle: Penelope, natch.
- Speed Blitz: Why do you think they call him Zippy?
- Spin-Off: Of Wacky Races.
- Statuesque Stunner: Penelope is tall, blond and gorgeous.
- But then, The Ant Hill Mobsters are very short.
- Stealth Insult: The narrator throws in a doozy after the Claw has a fit over a plan gone wrong:
Claw: Hey! I protest!
Narrator: Why not? Everyone else is.
- Stern Chase
- Stylish Protection Gear: When Penelope needs protection, it will be fashionable.
- 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.
- Too Dumb to Live: Why do you think they call him Dum-Dum? What an Idiot!
- He certainly was the luckiest of the mob. Penelope kissed him twice.
- Tunnel King: One of Zippy's many talents.
- Villainous Crossdresser: In "Cross Country Double Cross", the Hooded Claw dresses as an old woman to trick Penelope into giving him a ride on her motor scooter. In "Hair Raising Harness Race" and "Big Top Trap", he impersonates Penelope herself.
- Walking the Earth
- 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".
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: The Hooded Claw's time-activated death traps for Penelope. You'd swear he made it a requirement that Penelope die in only this manner.
- 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.