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Cult Cartoon Essentials: Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines

Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines was a cartoon produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions for CBS. Originally the series was broadcast as a Saturday morning cartoon, airing from September 13, 1969 to January 3, 1970.

The show focuses on the efforts of Dick Dastardly and his canine sidekick Muttley to catch Yankee Doodle Pigeon, a carrier pigeon who carries secret messages (hence the name of the show’s theme song “Stop the Pigeon”).

The show is widely known as Stop that Pigeon based on the show’s original working title and the show’s theme song, written by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (and based on the jazz standard “Tiger Rag”) which repeats that phrase so often that it is frequently mistaken as the show’s actual title. In the UK, the series remains best known by the shorter name Dastardly and Muttley.

The show had only two voice actors: Paul Winchell as Dick Dastardly and the indistinctly heard General, and Don Messick as everybody else. Each 22-minute show was broadcast over half an hour on the network, including network breaks, and contained: two Dastardly & Muttley stories, one Magnificent Muttley story (Muttley’s Walter Mitty-style daydreams), and two or three short Wing Dings (brief gags to break up the longer stories).

The Vulture Squadron

  • Dick Dastardly (voiced by Paul Winchell) is the leader of the Vulture Squadron, an ex-Wacky Racer turned aviator. He is still the accident-prone villain he had been in the Wacky Races and still owns the Mean Machine. He is referred to as “DD” or “Chief” by Zilly and Klunk, and as “Rick Rasterly” by Muttley (especially when he is muttering). Although he’s sometimes mean to Muttley, Zilly and Klunk, he is a nice guy (he says that to himself often, to calm his nerves). When he gets angry, he usually uses his catchphrase “drat, drat and double drat”, just before crashing hard into the ground. Although he does not show it very often, Dastardly actually likes Muttley and sometimes treats Muttley with a lot more respect than the rest of the squadron (Zilly and Klunk). His plane is a red biplane with sharped wings and tail.
  • Muttley (voiced by Don Messick) is Dick Dastardly’s bungling canine sidekick. He rarely speaks, and when he does it usually takes the form of either (1) just cursing to himself indistinctly, usually following some misfortune that has befallen him, or (2) an excited “yeah-yeah-yeah…” at the offer of something appealing or in response to a command/request from Dastardly. There are times when distinct single words can be discerned amid his mutterings (e.g., “Sassafrassarassa Chicken Zilly”).[citation needed] He does, however, have a distinctive wheezing laugh which he employs whenever something bad happens to Dastardly, or whenever Dastardly is describing his latest “foolproof” plot. Since leaving the Wacky Races, Muttley has learned to fly by spinning his tail like a helicopter rotor. This enables him to save Dastardly from falling (which frequently happens, usually accompanied by a cry from Dastardly of: “MUTTLEY!! DO SOMETHING!!”), although Muttley usually demands a medal for doing so. He also alludes to a medal collection on his shelf. During Wacky Races, Muttley’s popularity had grown, so when Dastardly and Muttley began production, he got his own segment (Magnificent Muttley) in which he daydreams that he is a different hero each week, usually with Dastardly as the villain. Each episode ended with Muttley’s snickering before or during the ending of the music that led to the conclusion of the episode. His plane is a small purple biplane with the propeller placed behind him.
  • Zilly (voiced by Don Messick) is a pilot in the Vulture squadron. He is a cringing coward, forever running away and having to be fetched by Muttley on Dick Dastardly’s order of “Muttley! Fetch!” Each new plan fills him with dread, and he usually utters his catchphrase, “Oh dear! Oh my!”, before retracting his head into his coat collar. Dastardly puts up with his cowardice because he is (1) a reasonably competent pilot who is needed to fly planes, and (especially) (2) the only squadron member able to interpret Klunk’s gibberish (though on one occasion, he actually repeated Klunk’s gibberish when he was asked, “Would you repeat that, Zilly?”). In one episode, he is temporarily turned into a reckless hero by hypnotherapy, but his new heroism turns out to be even more damaging to the squadron than his usual cowardice, leaving no choice to Dick Dastardly but to change him back to normal (causing both Dastardly and Zilly to become a duo of cowards in the process). His plane is a green monoplane with a squared gap tail.
  • Klunk (voiced by Don Messick) is the Vulture Squadron’s stout and steady chief designer and pilot. Each episode sees him developing aircraft or weapons (often missiles which home on some bizarre trait, such as a person sneezing) with odd features and attachments designed to catch Yankee Doodle Pigeon. His attempts to explain his inventions are complicated by the fact that he apparently suffers from Tourette syndrome. His speech is punctuated by howls, clicks, whistles, and growls, accompanied by bizarre facial contortions. Only Zilly can understand him. His eyes are never seen because of his bangs and goggles pulled over them. Klunk often assumes command in Dick Dastardly’s absence, e.g. when he went on holiday (only to have his fun ruined by the squadron’s further attempts to capture the pigeon), or when he suffered from memory loss. Klunk is probably the most consistent character; he is steadfastly committed, beyond all other aspects of his life, to stopping the pigeon. His plane is a blue biplane and like Muttley, the propeller is built behind him.

The Vulture Squadron use many planes with various attachments built by Klunk, including an anvil, a racket, a jack-in-a-box, robots, missiles etc…

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