This is the twenty-sixth in a series of examinations of legends about television and the people involved in TV and whether they are true or false.
Click here to view an archive of the previous TV urban legends.
Today is a special theme installment! All Wacky Races related legends!
TV LEGEND: Wacky Races was originally going to be a game show.
As mentioned in the previous installment of TV Legends Revealed, Hanna-Barbera had a short-lived animated series in the late 1960s called Wacky Races, which featured a group of colorful personalities all racing against each other.
The main villain on the show was Dick Dastardly and his sidekick, Muttley (who had a distinctive laugh/snicker)…
An interesting aspect about Wacky Race is to look at the producers behind the program.
If you look at Hanna-Barbera’s TV series, you will not find very many joint productions. They basically handled their properties on their own.
On the same token, Heatter-Quigley Productions (a company formed by TV writers Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley) also tended to handle their properties on their own.
Not only that, but their programs were entirely different genres.
Hanna-Barbera did cartoons, while Heatter-Quigley produced game shows.
Their most famous game show was Hollywood Squares…
So why, then, did Hanna-Barbera and Heatter-Quigley co-produce Wacky Races?
It was because Wacky Races was ORIGINALLY intended to be a game show!
As the show fell through, it is a bit unclear exactly what the show would have entailed, but it seems like it would have worked around animated sequences where contestants would bet on the results of the races (presumably more involved than that, as that alone is a pretty sorry excuse for a game show).
Eventually it was determined that the property would work better as a straight animated series, and that’s the way they went, but Heatter-Quigley maintained a co-ownership of the Wacky Races characters, something that likely factored into the next legend.
By the way, Wacky Races has come out with more than one video game version of the show, so I suppose a game show isn’t that far afield!
TV LEGEND: Mumbly was invented to replace Muttley in the Laff-A-lympics.
STATUS: False Enough for a False
In a similar vein to the Wacky Races, in the late 1970s, Hanna-Barbera released another short-lived television series called Laff-A-Lympics.
In it, three teams of Hanna-Barbera characters competed against each other in a series of Olympic-style events from all over the world.
There were the Yogi Yahooeys (consisting of talking animal characters), the Scooby Doobies (consisting mostly of cartoon shows that starred human characters) and the Really Rottens (consisting of the bad guys from cartoons)…
The Really Rottens were led by Mumbly, a dog with a distinctive laugh/snicker and his co-hort the Dread Baron.
Here they are with their team…
and by themselves…
So, quite naturally, it was thought that the two characters were meant to be stand-ins for Dick Dastardly and Muttley…
And THAT is almost certainly true.
The reason is most likely the fact that, as mentioned above, Hanna-Barbera did not own the two characters outright, so they substituted look-alike characters.
However, people think that Mumbly and the Dread Baron are just re-named Muttley and Dick Dastardly, and that is not so, at least not in the case of Mumbly (Dread Baron was created just for the Laff-a-lympics).
Mumbly might have BECOME a stand-in for Muttley, but Mumbly was, at a time, his own character!
You see, Mumbly starred in his own show a year or so before the Laff-a-lympics began.
The Mumbly Show was basically a take-off of Peter Falk’s Columbo, with Mumbly being a mumbling detective…
So Mumbly was actually retroactively turned into a villain (without an explanation) for the sake of Laff-a-lympics!!
Since the show, Muttley has tended to be the longer lasting character between the two.
Do note that besides their slightly different appearances, they also had slightly different characterizations – Muttley was the sidekick to Dick Dastardly, while Mumbly was in charge of the Really Rottens.
TV LEGEND: Muttley and Dick Dastardly were removed whole cloth from one show and added to another.
While Wacky Races was not a big hit, Hanna-Barbera were fans of the Penelope Pitstop character and the Dick Dastardly and Muttley characters, so as soon as the show ended, they developed a new show for the three characters in 1969.
It was to be called the Perils of Penelope Pitstop, and Dick and Muttley were to serve as the bodyguards for Penelope’s brother, who would always be trying to save Penelope from various perilous situations.
Before the show began production, though, it was determined that Dick and Muttley were too good of a pair of characters to “waste” as supporting characters in another series.
Meanwhile, Hanna-Barbera was working on a series called “Stop that Pigeon!” where some World War I pilots would be constantly trying to chase a messenger pigeon.
It was vaguely based on the hit 1965 British comedy Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines…
The rivals for the pigeon were to be a pilot like the Red Baron and his sidekick, a dachshund with goggles.
However, these characters never made it past development. Instead, Hanna-Barbera just took the characters of Dick and Muttley from Penelope Pitstop’s show, and plopped them in, whole sale, into this other show.
And thus, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines was born!
This show was more successful than both Wacky Races AND Perils of Penelope Pitstop, running for two seasons (which was pretty decent for a cartoon at the time – the show had more episodes, for instance, than Jonny Quest and only one less episode than the Yogi Bear Show!).
It’s pretty amusing, Muttley and Dick have seemed to prove pretty much adaptable to any premise! That’s generally a sign of a good character right there!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com