Dastardly, Muttley and Yankee Doodle Pigeon.


Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Hanna-Barbera
First Appeared: 1968
Creators: Jerry Eisenberg and Iwao Takamoto (designers)
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The Hanna-Barbera studio, which dominated TV animation in the U.S. during the 1960s, was famous for swiping its series premises from other sources. They swiped from …

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… TV shows (e.g., Top Cat, which was Sgt. Bilko set in a New York alley), comic strips (The Jetsons' family and work situation was a ringer for Blondie's), other studios' cartoons (Yogi Bear was based on Disney's Humphrey Bear) and even themselves (Augie Doggie & Doggie Daddy were a re-tooled version of Spike & Tyke, which they'd done when they were working for MGM).

Apparently, this didn't even embarrass them. It seems unlikely they'd have called a show Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines if they wanted to hide the fact that it owed a lot to a movie called Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, which had come out four years earlier. Both were set in the early days of aviation, when people were experimenting with all sorts of flying contraptions; and both involved lots of chasing around and slapstick sabotage.

Dick Dastardly and his dog, Muttley, were first seen in 1968, as part of the ensemble cast of Wacky Races (swiped from the movie The Great Race), where they were the villains. That show didn't take off, but it did spawn two spin-offs, the other being The Perils of Penelope Pitstop (swiped from silent movie serials, the most famous example being The Perils of Pauline). Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines, where the bad guys didn't have to share the limelight with all those others, debuted September 13, 1969 on CBS.

In this show, Dastardly traded in his racing car, The Mean Machine, for a bunch of airplanes of about World War I vintage. That was presumably the war in which he and his cohorts, The Vulture Squadron, operated, but this was never specifically stated — nor was it ever mentioned which side they worked for, tho it was no-doubt the "wrong" one. They took orders over the phone from someone identified only as "The General", and those orders were invariably to keep the only non-villainous recurring character, Yankee Doodle Pigeon, from delivering a message. The mission to "Stop That Pigeon" was so prominent (the phrase was repeated more than a dozen times in the theme song), many young viewers thought that was the name of the show.

Dastardly's voice, and that of The General, were done by Paul Winchell, whose other roles include Winnie the Pooh's friend Tigger, Zummi Gummi and Marmaduke. Don Messick, Hanna-Barbera's go-to man for non-anthropomorphic animal voices (he did Josie's cat Sebastian, Shazzan's flying camel Kaboobie, and Scooby-Doo), did Muttley, borrowing the voice from his own earlier character, Precious Pupp. Messick also provided voices for the other members of The Vulture Squadron, Klunk Klunk and Zilly. Yankee Doodle Pigeon didn't speak.

The half-hour show consisted of two Dastardly/Muttley adventures, a brief segment in which Muttley daydreamed about adventures of his own, and a few quick, unrelated gags. Seventeen were made, and shown repeatedly over a two-year period. It hasn't been a tremendous success in syndicated reruns, but didn't drop completely off the map either.

A few years later, when Hanna-Barbera opted to respond to NBC's success with Columbo the same way they'd responded to King Features' success with Blondie, they cloned Muttley to play the lead character, but renamed him Mumbly.

Dastardly and Muttley never had their own comic, but were frequently seen in Gold Key's Fun-in, an anthology that also featured The Cattanooga Cats; Inch High, Private Eye; Speed Buggy and other Hanna-Barbera properties. They were licensed as toys, lunch boxes etc., but didn't appear in other story media, such as Little Golden Books.

In 1978, they again became a part of an ensemble cast when they, along with Quick Draw McGraw, Jabberjaw, Snagglepuss and several other Hanna-Barbera characters from defunct series became regulars on Yogi's Treasure Hunt. But they haven't been seen very much in more recent years.


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Text ©2003-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hanna-Barbera.