Wacky Races is an animated TV series, aired in 1968 to 1970 on CBS. The series was possibly inspired by the 1965 slapstick comedy The Great Race, as it consists of 11 drivers racing across North America to win the title of "World's Wackiest Racer". The cartoon has a large number of regular characters, with 23 people and animals spread among 11 race cars. After its release, the show yielded two spin-offs the following years: Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. Many of the characters of the series also make some appearances and cameos in other different Hanna-Barbera shows and in other media.
One of the unused plans for the series was that the races would be part of a live-action quiz show made by Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley Productions in which contestants would bet on which Wacky Racer would cross the finish line first. Although the game show concept was eventually scrapped, the series still retained a Hanna-Barbera/Heatter-Quigley dual production credit. Like Orion's back catalog from the 1978–1982 joint venture period and some post-1982 films, it is one of the few Heatter-Quigley series not currently owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's subsidiary Orion Pictures Corporation since September 11, 2014. In 1988, a made-for-television movie, Around the World with the Wacky Racers, was planned as part of the Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10 series of telefilms, but it never got past the concept stage.
The vehicles and their drivers were:
- 00, the Mean Machine (Dick Dastardly and Muttley)
- 1, the Boulder Mobile (Rock Slag and Gravel Slag)
- 2, the Creepy Coupe (Big Gruesome and Little Gruesome)
- 3, the Convert-a-Car (Professor Pat Pending)
- 4, the Crimson Haybaler (the Red Max)
- 5, the Compact Pussycat (Penelope Pitstop)
- 6, the Army Surplus Special (Private Meekley and Sergeant Blast (Wacky Races))
- 7, the Bulletproof Bomb (the Ant Hill Mob, identified on model sheets as Clyde, Ring-a-Ding, Mac, Rug-Bug Benny, Danny, Willy and Kurby)
- 8, the Arkansas Chugabug (Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear)
- 9, the Turbo Terrific (Peter Perfect)
- 10, the Buzzwagon (Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth Beaver)
- Daws Butler-Peter Perfect, Sergeant Blast, Big Gruesome, Rock Slag, Rufus Ruffcut and Red Max
- Don Messick-Muttley, Little Gruesome, Gravel Slag, Professor Pat Pending, Sawtooth Beaver and Ring-a-Ding
- John Stephenson-Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear
- Janet Waldo-Penelope Pitstop
- Paul Winchell-Dick Dastardly, Clyde and Private Meekley
- Dave Willock-the narrator/announcer
Spin-Offs and similar series
The basic ideas behind Wacky Races and some of the characters were reused by Hanna-Barbera in later years:
- Penelope Pitstop and the Ant Hill Mob were spun off into another cartoon series in 1969 titled The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. In the same year, Dick Dastardly and Muttley were given a spin-off series titled Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines. The series is sometimes mistakenly known as Stop the Pigeon, after the show's working title and theme song. Both series ran for two seasons.
- Sawtooth appeared on the characters cast of Yogi's Ark Lark 1972 movie.
- The new character of Mumbly (star of the 1976 The Mumbly Cartoon Show) bears a strong resemblance to Muttley.
- The new character of Captain Caveman (star of the 1977 Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels series) bears a strong resemblance to the Slag Brothers.
- In 1977, Mumbly (who, in contrast to his role as a detective on his solo series, is now depicted as a villain) and Dread Baron (who strongly resembles Dick Dastardly) became the leaders of the Really Rottens team on the Laff-A-Lympics cartoon, which featured three teams of Hanna-Barbera characters (including Mumbly's villainous "Really Rottens" team, Yogi Bear's "Yogi Yahooeys" team that consisted of many of his friends from Yogi's Gang, and Scooby-Doo's "Scooby Doobies" team that included many of the crime-solving characters from that era, including Captain Caveman) competing in races and competitions around the world. However, in the Latin American version of Laff-A-Lympics, Mumbly was credited as Muttley.
- The 1978 series Yogi's Space Race featured Hanna-Barbera stalwarts such as Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, and others racing against each other throughout outer space while fending off a tall, thin villain (Phantom Phink) and his snickering dog (Sinister Sludge).
- Dick Dastardly and Muttley returned in the 1985 series Yogi's Treasure Hunt as they competed in a treasure hunt against Yogi Bear and many of his prior "Yogi Yahooeys" teammates. Instead of driving the Mean Machine, Dastardly piloted a submarine called The SS Dirty Tricks and a World War I biplane in this series.
- Dread Baron and Mumbly (once again replacing Dick Dastardly and Muttley) return to antagonize Yogi and many of his "Yogi Yahooeys" teammates in the 1987 film Yogi Bear and the Magical Flight of the Spruce Goose.
- Blubber Bear appeared in The New Yogi Bear Show in 1988.
- The 1990 syndicated series Wake, Rattle and Roll featured a segment called Fender Bender 500 starring Dick Dastardly and Muttley driving a revamped "Mean Machine" that is renamed the "Dirty Truckster". They raced against Yogi Bear, Winsome Witch, Quick Draw McGraw, and other Hanna-Barbera stars. Although Dastardly continued to rely heavily on traps and schemes, he and Muttley did manage to win one of these races.
- In 1991, teenage versions of Dick Dastardly and Muttley appeared on the Yo Yogi! series with Yogi Bear, Boo-Boo Bear, Cindy Bear, Snagglepuss, and Huckleberry Hound.
- In 2006, the pilot for a spin-off series titled Wacky Races Forever was produced for Cartoon Network. The series depicted a roster of both new and returning racers competing against each other. Penelope Pitstop and Peter Perfect had married and created Perfect Industries, the corporate sponsor of the new Wacky Races, whereas their children Parker and Piper competed in the race. Other characters included the Slag Brothers, Professor Pat Pending, a teenage version of the Gruesome Twosome, and Dick Dastardly and Muttley (working for a new villain named Mr. Viceroy, who sought to steal Perfect Industries). This series wasn't picked up by Cartoon Network.
- In 2015, a Cartoon Network promo for 2016 revealed a logo for a new Wacky Races series. The series will air on Cartoon Network.
- In 2016, DC Comics launched a comic series called Wacky Raceland. It is a dark and gritty re-imagining of the series set after the apocalypse in a similar vein to the Mad Max franchise. The comic ran for six issues from May to December 2016.
In other media
- Life-size working replicas of the vehicles have been built in the UK and appear annually at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, with new additions each year. 2008 saw the last of the cars (the Ant Hill Mob in the Bulletproof Bomb 07) added to the collection, making a complete set.
- In 1992, the Japanese studio Artmic released an OVA with the title Tsuppashire! Genom Trophy Rally (internationally: Scramble Wars) as a comedic take on Wacky Races, featuring characters from the anime series Gall Force, Bubblegum Crisis, Genesis Survivor Gaiarth and other characters from miscellaneous Artmic productions.
- In 2003, Dexter's Laboratory parodied Wacky Races in an episode where several characters of the show participate in a cross country race.
- In 2006, the car manufacturer Vauxhall launched a TV commercial for the British market, parodying Wacky Races with a similar setup featuring Corsa cars. The commercial made several references to the cartoon as well as utilizing the show's theme music and Muttley's iconic laugh.
- The English adult comic Viz had a one-off parody strip called "Wacky Racists" with David Irving as Dick Dastardly, Unity Mitford as Penelope Pitstop and comedian Bernard Manning as Muttley.
- A story arc in the online game City of Heroes has villains named after Wacky Races characters (Rufus of Perez, Slag of Skywyay, etc.).
- In 2013, the car manufacturer Peugeot launched a TV commercial for the Brazilian market, featuring the cartoon characters in a real-life universe. The video became an instant hit in YouTube, with more than 2 million views.
- In 2014, South Park referenced Wacky Races as something that had to be banned by international convention in the episode Handicar and in which a Wacky Race was broadcast live on CNN.
- The couch gag to The Simpsons episode "Gone Abie Gone" is an obvious parody of the series.
- Dick Dastardly and Muttley make a cameo appearance in the Uncle Grandpa episode "Uncle Grandpa Retires".