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Cult Cartoon Essentials: The Perils of Penelope Pitstop

The Perils of Penelope Pitstop was an animated television series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions that premiered on September 13th 1969. It ran for one season (17 episodes). It is a spin-off of the Wacky Races cartoon featuring the characters of Penelope Pitstop and The Anthill Mob who in this incarnation are now either reformed or never had the criminal background of their earlier Wacky Races incarnations.

Also the Anthill Mob had completely new names compared to Wacky Races series (except for their leader Clyde, who was named “Big Clyde” in the Wacky Races) who, with their largely self-aware car, Chugga-Boom, acted as the heroes and were constantly rushing to Penelope’s rescue. The Mob’s reason for being Penelope’s friends and guardians is never explained, although the narrator mentions that they were “benefactors.”

The villain of the show was The Hooded Claw (voiced by Paul Lynde) who was aided by a pair of near identical henchmen who always speak in unison, the Bully Brothers (both voiced by Mel Blanc). The Hooded Claw always had a kidnap plot for Penelope. Unknown to Penelope, The Hooded Claw is Sylvester Sneakly, her Uncle and guardian who knows she is to gain an inheritance, which leads him to try to kill her so he can get the estate. 

The only other suggestion to the Wacky Races version is shown when the Ant Hill Mob members are all standing behind period convict stripped suit cut-outs in the episode “Carnival Calamity” hackening back to their original criminal versions, opposite to this heroic incarnation. It should be noted this is the only time that the character of Dum Dum is shown in this series with an angry face, same as his Wacky Races version Ring-A-Ding.

Also, in the first sketches of the series, Penelope was supposed to have a younger brother named Johnny Pitstop, who would help the Ant Hill Mob save her from the clutches of the Hooded Claw. In those same sketches, Dick Dastardly and Muttley were supposed to be Johnny Pitstop’s personal bodyguards, using once again their car, The Mean Machine. This was all in the first sketches, and never make out in the final works. Unlike other cartoon shows of the era, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop lacks a laugh track.

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