Western Animation: Wacky Races
Derived from the live-action comedy film The Great Race
, Wacky Races
is a Hanna-Barbera
cartoon production where 11 outlandish vehicles compete in absurd cross-country races. Hilarious hijinks ensue
, partly due to whatever area they are racing through, but mostly due to the absurd lengths to which one racer (Dick Dastardly) goes to cheat and sabotage the race, even though these attempts backfire in the end and cause him to always finish in last place (if he even finishes at all).Hanna-Barbera
gave co-credit for it to Heatter-Quigley (the producers of The Hollywood Squares
) on CBS Saturday morning
in 1968, where Wacky Races
marked the end of H-B's Super Hero
adventure cycle and a return to slapstick comedy. Heatter-Quigley was to have provided a live game show segment in which children won prizes for predicting the outcome of the races; CBS nixed the plan, but Hanna-Barbera kept Heatter-Quigley in the end credits (even though the end copyright still reads "© 1968 by Hanna-Barbera Productions"). Subsequently, Peggy Charren
, head of the organization Action for Children's Television, blackballed the show, charging that it enticed kids to make monetary wagers on the races' outcomes.
Many of the visual gags look suspiciously similar to those in Road Runner
cartoons, including the use of painted scenery that people can enter, and fake railroad tracks that suddenly have trains running over them (and Dick Dastardly)
. Michael Maltese, who wrote just about all of the Chuck Jones
Road Runner cartoons, was a writer for Wacky Races
The six voice actors were Daws Butler
, Don Messick
, Paul Winchell
, Janet Waldo, John Stephenson and Dave Willock as the Narrator
. In 1969, Wacky Races
was rerun on CBS, along with its two spin-off series: Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines
and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop
. (All three shows were widely syndicated in the 1970s and '80s.) In 1990, the cartoon was revived
as Fender Bender 500
, a part of the anthology
show Wake, Rattle, and Roll
. In this incarnation, only Dastardly and Muttley returned (this time with a Mean Machine expy
called the "Dirty Truckster") — the roster was otherwise made up of classic Hanna-Barbera all-star characters
like Yogi Bear
and Huckleberry Hound. More information: http://www.hotink.com/wacky/
The Wacky Races
video game adaptation for the Dreamcast
is notable for being one of the first games to use Cel Shading
Frequent Wacky Races Tropes:
- Dick Dastardly setting a trap for the other racers, and inevitably getting caught in it.
- Muttley snickering when Dastardly's plans backfire.
- The dragon in the belfry of the Creepy Coupe.
- Professor Pat Pending changing the shape of his Convert-a-Car.
- The Red Max flying over the other racers.
- Penelope Pitstop's beauty gadgets, built into her Compact Pussycat.
- She's also been shown cooking rotisserie chicken and popcorn under the car's hood (using heat from the engine).
- The Ant Hill Mob's getaway power: six pairs of legs protruding from the underside of the Bulletproof Bomb.
- Peter Perfect's Turbo Terrific falling apart, usually after him making a remark on how good, reliable and resilient it is.
- The Slag Brothers hitting each other over the head with clubs which apparently makes the car run faster somehow.
- Radar displays during the race.
This series provides examples of:
- Abandoned Mine: The Arkansas Chugabug's driver entered a subway and mistook the tunnel for an abandoned mine.
- The Ace: Peter Perfect.
- Well, he tries to be, anyway. Considering how often the Turbo Terrific gets wrecked, he could qualify as a Parody Stu.
- Ace Pilot: The Red Max.
- Affectionate Parody: By Dexter's Laboratory, in the episode "Dexter's Wacky Races". They even use Hoyt Curtin's background music from Wacky Races as well as Ted Nichols' music from Motormouse and Autocat and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.
- One segment of The Powerpuff Girls Rule also counts.
- Theres also one episode of the old Gundam OVA series.
- South Park even gets in the act in the episode "Handicar." The racers are mainly comprised of some of the episode's characters, but they even throw in Dick Dastardly and Muttley as well (both looking long in the tooth after 45-plus years).
- The Alleged Car: Ironically, Peter Perfect's Turbo Terrific is possibly the most fragile of the racecars, seeing as it falls in a heap at the slightest provocation.
- Alliterative Name: Almost everyone and everything either alliterates or rhymes. Penelope Pitstop, Peter Perfect, Dick Dastardly, the Creepy Coupe...
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version had this.
- Animated Series
- Badass Mustache: Dick Dastardly.
- Bamboo Technology: Bouldermobile, Arkansas Chugabug, and Buzzwagon.
- The Big Race
- Berserker Tears: Dick Dastardly at the end of "Race Rally to Raleigh":
Dastardly: (pissed after losing another race) Oh, who wanted to win this old race, anyway? (bursts into teary tantrum) I DID!!! I WANTED TO WIN THE RACE!!! I NEVER GET TO WIN A RACE!!!
- Blinding Camera Flash: In one episode, Muttley photographs Penelope Pitstop during the race. Penelope is blinded so severely by the flash that she has to stop driving momentarily.
- Bribe Backfire: In "Fast Track to Hackensack", Dick Dastardly changed a speed limit sign from 35 mph to 85 mph. When the Sheriff had the Ant Hill Mob stop, Ring-A-Ding tried to bribe him with a cigar, prompting the Sheriff to say Ring-A-Ding worsened the Mob's case for that.
- Broken Aesop: The ending of "Creepy Trip to Lemon Twist" has this. Dick Dastardly just won a race! And by legitimate means, too! How could...oh, it's been recalled and the trophy taken away because...the nose-cone of his car extended on an accordion-thing and crossed the finish line first? How is that gimmick any more deserving of disqualification than everything else on the show?
- To add insult to injury, Peter Perfect wins a race in another episode by doing exactly that, and no one complains. Though admittedly, Peter's rear wheels were in front of the competitor behind him when he crossed the finish line, so an extension wouldn't really matter.
- The worst part? If you go back and watch the actual footage of the racers crossing the finish line (not the replay) you can clearly see that Dick's car crossed the finish line legitimately. The replay tape is a fake! An in-universe example of Executive Meddling, perhaps?
- Probably because Status Quo Is God. Dick Dastardly must always lose, no matter what the other racers do.
- Catch Phrase: "Drat and double drat!" for Dick Dastardly; "And the wacky beat goes on" for the Narrator
- The Latin American Spanish dub has "¡Caracoles!", which was commonly heard in Latin American Spanish dubs of a number of Hanna-Barbera shows at least in the 1960s and 1970s.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Muttley, most notably in "Race to Racine", where he's supposed to sabotage the Ant Hill Mob from within, but ends up sabotaging Dastardly.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: Partly subverted. Almost everyone on the show cheats to some extent. However, Dastardly, who is outright malicious about it and deliberately tries to sabotage the other racers, does not prosper.
- Comic Book Adaptation: Seven issues by Gold Key Comics, plus an appearance in Golden Comics Digest #2 and Hanna-Barbera Fun-In #5. Also two issues by Archie Comics and a few by DC Comics.
- In the Gold Key issues, the cars are shown running from left to right, whereas they go right to left on the TV show. Also, a running gag on some stories loosely adapted from TV episodes has Penelope Pitstop managing to eliminate Peter Perfect and Red Max by getting them to fight over her. Peter's car in the Gold Key series was called the Varoom Roadster (its working name) and the Ant Hill Mob's car was the Roaring Plenty (identified in the show as such once).
- Contemporary Caveman: The Slag Brothers.
- Their design was recycled for Captain Caveman (except there was only one of him).
- Cool Car: Eleven of them, in fact.
- Damsel in Distress: Penelope Pitstop, quite often - a woman whose catchphrase is "Hay-elp! ''HAY-elp!''"
- Dastardly Whiplash: Dick Dastardly is, of course,one of the Trope Namers.
- Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: The Trope Namer. In many cases, Dick Dastardly might actually win a race if he wasn't so insistent on setting traps to sabotage the other racers (which always end up backfiring on him).
- In most episodes it could be argued that he got that all-important lead not by having the fastest car or sabotaging the other racers, but by taking a short cut on the non-linear route. He'd technically still be in last place, but could place his traps ahead of all the other cars. When they were out of the race, he could return via his shortcut and drive the route properly. But there are also several races that are straight marathons, where it wouldn't work, AND HE STILL CHEATS!
- Averted by the Ant Hill Mob in "Free Wheeling to Wheeling":
Clyde: We'll never win at this rate unless we—
Ring-A-Ding: Cheat! Right, boss?
Clyde: Wrong!! Unless we lighten the load, you dum-dum!
Ring-A-Ding: (as the Mob tosses out stolen money, machine guns, etc.) Who says it pays to win? There goes our ill-gotten gains!
- To be sure, they do win it.
- Lampshaded in the Wacky Races comic book story "Follow Through to Yoo-Hoo" (Gold Key #4, August 1971). All the racers use a book called "How to Win a Race by Hook or Crook," written by Dick Dastardly himself.
- The unaired pilot for the revival Wacky Races Forever makes it a certainty. Dastardly (presumably the son of the original) is instructed by a figure in the employ of Peter Perfect (whose son Parker is racing) to just win the race, and he's a yard shy of the finish line, which Muttley points out. Dastardly bonks him on the head and firmly states, "No, Muttley, we can't win fairly. We are villains... ergo we ''have'' to cheat!!"
- Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help: Peter Perfect in almost every episode. This cost him the race at least once as he screeched to a halt just before the finish line to avoid running over a cat that had wandered onto the track. Did earn him a new cat, though. Also, Professor Pat Pending frequently stops and uses his car's inventions to help others.
- Dope Slap: Dick to Muttley.
- Drives Like Crazy: They're called wacky racers for a reason. Luke sleeping behind the wheel and Penelope doing her make-up or even showering while racing are some of the milder stunts they pull.
- Even Evil Has Standards: In "Scout Scatter", the Ant Hill Mob didn't hesitate before risking themselves to save a boy scout from a waterfall even if it meant increasing the chances the sheriff would catch up with them. (they escaped)
- Expy: Dick Dastardly is based on the character of Professor Fate from the film The Great Race, although his visual appearance is based on the British comedic villain actor Terry-Thomas.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Dick Dastardly's car is much, much faster than the other racers, and would win if he followed the rules. Yet, he cheats and fails every time at it, and loses, often coming to a stop right before the finish line to watch everyone else pass it.
- The Fool: If you drove a car by reclining, sleeping and steering with your feet, you would drive about a hundred yards or so before crashing into something. Luke, however, does not need to worry about that.
- Although Blubber Bear does plenty of worrying for him.
- Fragile Speedster: While Dastardly's Mean Machine is the fastest of the racers, it balances this out with its apparently poor structural integrity. Expect it to get wrecked at least Once per Episode.
- Frying Pan of Doom: Penelope wields one in "Idaho a Go Go".
- Gadgeteer Genius: Pat Pending.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Take a good, hard look at the shape of Peter Perfect's car and then try to say that it wasn't intentional on the part of the designers. (Though it may simply be a mashup of a vintage F1 and an old school dragster.)
- Generation Xerox: In the Wacky Races Forever pilot, Peter and Penelope's children, Parker and Piper, are racing in vehicles strongly resembling those of their parents.
- Goggles Do Nothing: Peter Perfect, Penelope Pitstop, Sawtooth, and Dick Dastardly all have headgear with goggles that never cover their eyes. Red Max occasionally will have his goggles over his eyes.
- Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: In "Beat the Clock to Yellow Rock", a group of bear cubs do this to the Ant Hill Mob.
- Greek Chorus: The race announcer acted as one of these.
- Hammered into the Ground: In "Real Gone Ape", the circus ape does this to Peter Perfect.
- Harmless Villain: Dick Dastardly.
- Have a Gay Old Time: In "Speeding for Smogland", it's revealed that Penelope's car has a vibrating seat. At the time (and in the implication of the dialogue) it was a crank health thing, but nowadays it has differently funny implications when you see a young woman flick a switch on her dashboard marked "VIBRATOR".
- His Own Worst Enemy: Dick Dastardly would easily win all the races if he just stopped cheating. While his cheats always backfire of he actually stopped cheating the episode would end in one minute at most.
- Honour Before Reason: Peter Perfect tends to help out anyone who's been sabotaged. Especially Penelope.
- He even helps Dastardly in "The Super Silly Swamp Sprint," albeit after pulling him and Muttley out of the alligator-filled swamp, Peter throws them and their car in the back of the pack (after which they are catapulted from a tree into the front).
- Hopping Machine: One of the Convert-A-Car's alternate forms uses 'Pogo Power'.
- Idiot Ball — Everyone, whenever it would get a laugh.
- Insult Misfire: From this exchange at the start of "Rhode Island Road Race":
Narrator: Leading the pack is Dick Dastardly, the Dracula of the drag strip.
Dick: I resent that remark.
Narrator: But do you deny it?
Dick: No, I just resent it!
- Interactive Narrator: Quite so, one of the Ur Examples in Western Animation.
- I Would Say If I Could Say: Done by one of the ghosts in "Creepy Trip to Lemon Twist": "I'd be bored out of my skull … if I had a skull."
- Lantern Jaw of Justice: Peter Perfect.
- Leitmotif: Dick Dastardly had a very prominent theme, which played in pretty much every episode whenever he pulled a trick on the other racers. Penelope Pitstop also had a far less played motif as well.
- Limited Wardrobe
- Literal-Minded: Numerous examples (in the interest of wordplay), at least one of which cost a racer first place; in "By Rollercoaster to Upsan Downs", when Sgt. Blast told Pvt. Meekley to "head for that finish line, and step on it", Meekley hurried to the finish line on foot and planted his foot firmly on the line. He then had to watch as Red Max, the Slag Brothers, and Lazy Luke and Blubber crossed the line in their cars and took the top three spots.
- Muttley was also prone to this from time to time; when Dick Dastardly is trapped on the spray from a whale's blowhole in "Eeny Miney, Missouri Go!", he tells Muttley, "Do something! Anything!" Whereupon Muttley does a tap dance... which does qualify as doing something, just not something relevant.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Mad Scientist: Professor Pat Pending is a relatively mild version of this.
- From what little we see of him, his Expy (son?) in the remake seems to be a more classic example.
- The Mafia: The Ant Hill Mob.
- Market-Based Title: In Latin America (and Spain), the show is known as "Los Autos Locos" (lit.: The Crazy Cars); in Japan it's called "Chiki Chiki Mou Race"; in France, the show's name is "Les Fous du Volant" ("The Crazy Drivers").
- Moral Dissonance: Dick Dastardly set a lot of traps, yeah, but if the other contestants used their cars' special abilities (one was a tank, one had buzzsaws for wheels, one had a dragon in it, one was an airplane, one could turn into any type of vehicle its driver could imagine, etc.) to gain an advantage or even disable or destroy the other vehicles, nobody even batted an eye. Only Dick was considered to be cheating.
- Motionless Chin
- Nervous Wreck: Blubber Bear.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Dick Dastardly was based on Terry-Thomas; Clyde, on Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar, and Red Max, on the World War I pilot Max Immelmann.
- "Free Wheeling to Wheeling" may indicate that Clyde was based on Clyde Barrow of Bonnie & Clyde fame:
Clyde: All right, you mugs...everybody out and push!
Ring-A-Ding: Aw, gee Clyde. Do we gotta?
Clyde: Maybe you'd rather I should tell Bonnie on you?
- No Fourth Wall: Zig-zagged throughout the series as many of the drivers look to the camera and converse with the show's announcer. Most notably in "The Wrong Lumber Race" when Dastardly tries to take over:
Dastardly: And now the Double Zero takes the lead, it's gaining on one, and—
Announcer: Hold it, hold it, I'll do the talking here, Dastardly. You do the driving!
- The Notable Numeral: The Gruesome Twosome.
- Non-Fatal Explosions
- Non-Human Sidekick: Rufus Ruffcut has Sawtooth (a beaver), Luke has Blubber Bear, and Dick Dastardly has Muttley (a dog).
- Offscreen Crash
- Oil Slick
- Opening Narration: A very lengthy one introducing all the racers and their vehicles.
- Painted Tunnel, Real Train: In one episode, Dick Dastardly tries this trick to waylay an approaching Peter Perfect. Not only does Peter drive into the picture without ill effect, but a bus then drives out of it and runs over the apoplectic Dastardly.
- Percussive Maintenance: The Bouldermobile.
- At one point the car pulls out its own club and hits back just before completely falling apart.
- Panty Shot: An episode has Penelope Pitstop with her laundry wind-drying from her car as she drives, and on the line we see a slip and a pair of panties.
- Punny Name: The destination cities of some of the races include Ballpoint, Penn.; Deepinaharta, Texas; and Wotwill, Delaware.
- Revival: A made-for-TV movie, Around the World With the Wacky Racers, was planned for 1988 (as part of the Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10 line of TV cartoon movies) but it was never carried out. The 1990 segment Fender Bender 500 (part of the series Wake, Rattle and Roll) is considered a revival of Wacky Races merely because it has Dastardly and Muttley in it. Also, Wacky Races Forever, an unsold pilot for Cartoon Network featuring the son and daughter of Peter and Penelope (who got married), as well as Pat Pending (who, it seems, went gleefully insane, and who now seems willing to use attack abilities), and a cute vampire girl and her companion subbing for the Gruesome Twosome.
- Rhymes on a Dime: Some episode titles fall into this: "See Saw to Arkansas," "Beat the Clock to Yellow Rock," "Idaho A-Go-Go," and "Mish Mash Missouri Dash."
- Road Runner vs. Coyote
- Road Sign Reversal
- Sergeant Rock: Sergeant Blast.
- Signature Team Transport: Every vehicle is one for its respective owner(s). They're all extremely representative of their pilots' personality.
- Silly Spook: "Creepy Trip to Lemon Twist" has two of them in the abandoned saloon.
- The Smurfette Principle: Penelope Pitstop is the only woman among the racers. Iwao Takamoto said in a bonus feature on the Wacky Races DVD set that Penelope's creation was an afterthought, when he and Jerry Eisenberg noticed that all the racers to that point were male.
- Sneeze of Doom: In "Wacky Race to Ripsaw", Peter Perfect's car fell apart because of his sneeze. Then again, his car falls apart Once an Episode.
- South of the Border: "The Baja-Ha-Ha Race".
- Speech-Impaired Animal: Muttley and Blubber Bear
- Stealth Insult: This exchange from the comic book adaptation of "Mish Mash Missouri Dash": (Gold Key #2, Feb. 1971):
Narrator: Let's face it, Dick. You're just a born loser. You've got nothing.
Muttley: Snaffacrassin Frassin...(translated: "What do you mean 'nothing'? He's got me, hasn't he?")
Dick: That's exactly what the man meant!
- Stock Footage: Some drivers' dashboards.
- Team Rocket Wins: Although Dastardly and Muttley never won a race in the original series (not even on a technicality), a few episodes of the Fender Bender 500 had them win for once. Even they were surprised.
- In the Dreamcast version, going through the rigamarole of tasks necessary to unlock Dastardly is worth it just to win a race as him and listen to the narrator's either disgusted or bewildered reaction.
- In the comic books, Dick won twice ("The Scavenger Scramble," Gold Key #7; "Trek to Tanzania," Archie Comics #1), but in each case there was a catch to the victory.
- Lampshaded and subverted in "Whizzin' to Washington," in which Dastardly passes everyone en route to finish first without cheating only to suddenly stop:
Announcer: The Double Zero has yet to cross the finish line. What happened, Dick?
Dastardly: I stopped to give somebody my autograph.
Announcer: You're kidding. Who would want your autograph?
Dastardly: (pointing to Muttley, who holds a note pad with Dastardly's autograph) Him!!!
- "See-Saw to Arkansas" had a similar lampshading/subversion; on the home stretch, Dick Dastardly is dead level with Red Max, the Gruesome Twosome, and Rufus Ruffcut, and the announcer declares that they will need a photo finish - a declaration which gets Dastardly's attention. When the photograph is taken, Red Max, the Gruesome Twosome and Rufus Ruffcut are shown to have taken first, second and third, respectively... while the Mean Machine has stopped just short of the finish line, and Dick Dastardly and Muttley are posing next to it. The announcer declares Dastardly a big ham, to which Dastardly and Muttley chuckle.
- Dick and Muttley are about to cross the finish line first in "Speeding For Smogland", but it wouldn't count—due to a multi-car collision that catapults three other drivers from the vehicles, they wind up in the Arkansas Chuggabug. The narrator tells Dick and Muttley that crossing the finish line in the wrong car constitutes a disqualification.
- Thememobile: All of the cars are themed on their drivers. The lumberjack drives a car with buzzsaw wheels, The Mafia drive a 1920s sedan, etc.
- Those Magnificent Flying Machines: Most notably Red Max and his Crimson Haybailer, also Professor Pat Pending and his Convert-a-Car and the Gruesome Twosome's Creepy Coupe. On occasion, the other cars will take flight as well.
- Transforming Mecha: the Convert-a-Car.
- Trickster Archetype: Dick Dastardly. Sure, he can win the race by playing fair, but he insists playing the race his way. Of course he loses, but he keeps coming back for more.
- "The Super Silly Swamp Sprint" has Dastardly saying the other racers forced him to be a bad guy. So, unless it's Crocodile Tears, perhaps it wasn't his idea to be a villain to start with.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Dick Dastardly's plans to hinder the other racers only worked out (temporarily) on the very rare occasions when he didn't explain them out loud beforehand.
- Vehicular Sabotage: This is a standard Dick Dastardly tactic in the Wacky Races, to try to get a leg up on the competition.
- Wacky Racing: This show is the Trope Namer.
- Weaponized Car: Most of the male racers have some kind of combat capability (a cannon, buzzsaws, a dragon...)
- Wiper Start: In one episode, Sergeant Blast ends up in the Compact Pussycat [Penelope Pitstop's car]. Trying to stop it, he activates the controls that apply face powder and lipstick. Granted, these are not standard controls in a car, but it does raise the question of why he thought the brakes would be activated by a button on the dashboard. Meanwhile, over in the Army Surplus Special, Penelope winds up firing the cannon.
- He doesn't drive; Meekly does. And given that all controls he deals with are by hand (firing stuff)...
- You Didn't Ask: In "Baja-Ha-Ha Race", the Mean Machine gets stuck on mud until a donkey pulls it out. To make sure his rivals won't be as lucky, Dick Dastardly buys the donkey. When Penelope Pitstop gets stuck, the seller calls another donkey to pull her car. Dastardly protests that the seller didn't say he had another donkey and the seller replies that Dastardly didn't ask and he has several donkeys.