Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, an interestingly named cartoon show produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and originally aired from September 13, 1969, to January 3, 1970. Unlike most cartoon shows in the 1970s that focused on new characters, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines already have well-established characters as the protagonists, or in its story’s case, antagonists, since it is a spin-off of a popular cartoon in the late 1960s. To know more about why it is considered a spin-off, here is an introduction to Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
Conceptualization and Production
The cartoon show was developed as a spin-off of the iconic Hanna-Barbera series Wacky Races, which originally aired from September 14, 1958, to January 4, 1969. Wacky Races was conceptualized at first as a segment for a live-action game show that will be produced by Heatter-Quigley Productions, a company that was launched by television writers Bob Quigley and Merrill Heatter, and is most notable for creating popular game shows in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Hot Seat, Hollywood Squares, and Gambit.
In the proposed Wacky Races game show, real-life contestants will bet on which Wacky Racer character will win the race at the end. Unfortunately, the game show idea was scrapped as it proved to be too simple to be exciting for contestants and audiences, as well as being too complicated to animate. However, the idea for Wacky Racers was revived as a cartoon show in 1968.
There are more than ten characters that appeared in Wacky Races, although there are only 11 vehicles that were featured. One of the infamous running gags on the show was the different ways of how the villain, Dick Dastardly, would lose or get disqualified in the race. Interestingly, Dick Dastardly didn’t win a single race for all 17 episodes, while the other characters have won either three or four.
Because of the popularity of Dick Dastardly and his partner-in-crime, the always snickering dog Muttley, despite being villains in the show, they were given their own show a couple of months after Wacky Races ended its production. Hanna-Barbera Productions decided to name the show “Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines,” which is supposed to be a reference to the title of “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machine,” a comedy film that premiered on June 16, 1965, and produced by Twentieth Century-Fox.
The original title for the show was “Stop That Pigeon,” referencing the premise, but Hanna-Barbera changed it to make its title unique and interesting. The former title was actually not scrapped entirely, as it was used as the title for the show’s theme song. In the UK and Ireland, the show was just simply called “Dastardly and Muttley” to make it easier for children to remember its title.
As previously mentioned, the show stars Dick Dastardly and Muttley, but their goals are quite different in the spin-off compared to Wacky Races. In Wacky Races, Dick Dastardly is driving the Mean Machine, a purple vehicle that is powered by a rocket and has several hidden features, including deadly weapons and wings. Because his vehicle is rocket-powered, Dastardly always gets ahead of the other races at first since he is the fastest. But since he is the villain, he wouldn’t be satisfied with only getting the lead, so he uses hidden weapons to stop the other races from getting ahead of him. All of these nefarious schemes would backfire and cause him to always be at the last place at the end of the race, or just get disqualified for not racing fairly.
In the spin-off show, there aren’t any races, as Dastardly and Muttley are only aiming to catch a carrier pigeon by the name of Yankee Doodle Pigeon. In addition, the two villains are now members of the Vulture Squadron, a group of pilots dedicated to stopping Yankee Doodle Pigeon from delivering secret messages to the other side of the land.
Besides Yankee Doodle Pigeon, there are also two new characters that were introduced in the spin-off. These characters are Klunk, the Vulture Squadron’s chief mechanic who installs sinister contraptions in their planes to capture Yankee Doodle, and Zilly, a member of the squadron who hates flying planes.
Dick Dastardly is voiced by Paul Winchell, a popular ventriloquist who hosted The Paul Winchell Show in the early 1950s and eventually became a voice actor for Hanna-Barbera. Muttley is voiced by renowned voice actor Don Messick, who also voices Klunk and Zilly. Since Yankee Doodle Pigeon is a silent or mute character, he has no voice actor.
Broadcast and Home Video Release
Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines premiered at CBS on September 13, 1969, which approximately one year since the premiere of Wacky Races. Each episode is 22 minutes long and contained more than four segments. The two main segments are the Vulture Squadron stories, while the shorter ones are Magnificent Muttley, wherein Muttley daydreams of grand events, and Wing Dings, which is supposed to be brief gags that serve as breaks for the main segments. The show finished its production on January 3, 1970, although reruns would continue to be aired on CBS and other local stations from 1976 to 1982.
The show was eventually released for home video in VHS format in the 1980s, and the release was distributed by Worldvision Enterprises. A DVD collection for Dastardly and Muttley was then released in May 2005.
Although it is not as popular as Wacky Races, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines still proved to be a favorite not only among Dick Dastardly fans but Wacky Races diehards as well because of its interesting take on the nefarious villain and his canine companion.