The Great Saturday Morning Experience

Show Spotlight: Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines

There is war in the Hanna-Barbera universe. We never actually know who is fighting who and for what reason but this was as good as any backdrop to throw in Dick Dastardly and Muttley as a spin-off of the popular “Wacky Races“. Originally meant to be a show with all original characters, the popularity of “Wacky Races” led to a change in the lineup. “Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines” was probably the more popular of the two Wacky Races spin-offs based on all the merchandising tie-ins and amount of reruns.

“Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines”, like its sister spin-off, “The Perils of Penelope Pitstop” premiered on CBS on September 13, 1969. The show ran until Jan 3, 1970 with syndicated reruns on some local channels between 1976 and 1982. There were 17 original episodes made. Each episode had a Magnificent Muttley segment wherein Muttley imagines himself as some great character à la Walter Mitty, usually fighting Dastardly as the villain.

The premise had Dastardly and his men, known as the Vulture Squadron, flying around in WWI era planes with their goal each episode to stop Yankee Doodle Pigeon from delivering his secret messages to the other side, whoever they were. The pigeon of course escapes every episode. Besides Muttley, Dick’s crew included two new characters; Klunk and Zilly. Klunk invents crazy contraptions to try and help them catch the pigeon and they never work and usually backfire on the team. Klunk’s speech is punctuated by howls, clicks, whistles, and growls, accompanied by bizarre facial contortions, a Don Messick specialty. You might recognize some of those noises from Scooby-Doo villains and numerous other characters voiced by Don Messick. Zilly is the coward of the group with a scared shaky voice and is always getting forced to fly by Muttley. Zilly’s main role is to translate Klunk’s gibberish.

Inevitably someone messes up and there are crashes and explosions with Dastardly offering Muttley medals in order to get him to render assistance. There’s an off screen general that calls Dastardly to get updates and he often will stick his arm through the phone to throttle Dastardly as he never offers any convincing news to show progress in their quest to stop that pigeon.

Speaking of stopping the pigeon, that’s basically the entirety of their theme song which went a little something like this:

Muttley, you snickering, floppy-eared hound
When courage is needed, you’re never around
Those medals you wear on your moth-eaten chest
Should be there for bungling, at which you are best
So stop the pigeon
Stop the pigeon! Stop the pigeon! Stop the pigeon!
Stop the pigeon! Stop the pigeon! Stop the pigeon now!
Nab him, jab him, tab him, grab him
Stop that pigeon now
You, Zilly, stop sneaking, it’s not worth the chance
For you’ll be returned by the seat of your pants
And, Klunk, you invent me a thingamabob
That catches that pigeon, or I lose my job
So stop the pigeon
Stop the pigeon! Stop the pigeon! Stop the pigeon!
Stop the pigeon! Stop the pigeon! Stop the pigeon now!
Nab him, jab him, tab him, grab him
Stop that pigeon now

If its parent show “Wacky Races” only needed 6 actors to portray two dozen characters, Dastardly and Muttley was able to get by with only two actors to play the four main characters (Yankee Doodle Pigeon never spoke but blew a bugle whenever he showed up). Paul Winchell played Dick Dastardly while Don Messick played Muttley, Klunk, Zilly, and various other characters.

Don Messick / Paul Winchell

Paul Winchell was a famous ventriloquist, comedian, actor, voice artist, humanitarian, and inventor. His voice acting is considerable enough for its own blog entry but besides Dick Dastardly, a few of the voices most people will remember him for are Fleegle from the Banana Splits, Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, and Gargamel from the Smurfs.

To say Don Messick‘s voice over career was considerable would be a vast understatement. His blog entry will be very long indeed but just to scratch the surface of his highlights you might recognize his voice from such characters as Scooby-Doo, Yogi’s sidekick Boo Boo Bear, Ranger Smith, Dr. Benton Quest and Bandit from Jonny Quest, Dixie’s pal Pixie, and Mr. Twiddle from Wally Gator.

“Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines” is available on DVD so you can relive, rediscover, or introduce this classic to younger generations who missed out on those great Saturday morning experiences so many of us enjoyed.

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