The Perils of Penelope Pitstop is the other spin-off from Wacky Races besides Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines. As the latter was based on a movie, this one was based on the cliffhanger movie serial The Perils of Pauline. Dastardly and Muttley were actually planned to be in this series but that idea was dropped and they replaced preliminary characters in the Flying Machines show. That idea would seem to have made a lot of sense since Dick Dastardly himself looked as if he was based on the old melodrama villain with the twirling mustache. The Perils of Penelope Pitstop was set in the first decade of the 1900s which hearkens back to that silent era.
The premise in this series had Penelope Pitstop constantly being attacked by the Hooded Claw and his henchmen the Bully Brothers. The Claw was the secret villainous identity of Sylvester Sneekly, Penelope’s guardian, who wished to take Penelope’s inheritance upon her demise. The Claw used all kinds of extravagant traps to get rid of Penelope who usually got out of them on her own or with the inept aid of The Ant Hill Mob.
In this show the Ant Hill Mob looked mostly similar to their Wacky Races versions but with obviously different clothing and name changes as well. Instead of the Bulletproof Bomb they rode in a very similar looking Chug-a-Boom who could be considered a prototype for the sentient Speed Buggy. Clyde was still the leader and his name and position didn’t change. Ring-a-Ding was now called Dum Dum. Willy was now called Zippy and was always going fast. Mac was now Pockets, so named because of where he kept all kinds of amazing tools. Rug Bug Benny was now called Snoozey and was either always half or completely asleep. Kurby was now called Softy and was constantly crying over every little thing. Danny was now known as Yak Yak and was always having a laugh over everything. Obviously there was inspiration here from Snow White and Seven Dwarfs.
Like Dastardly and Muttley, the show premiered on CBS on September 13, 1969 and had 17 half-hour episodes. Reruns aired until September 4, 1971 and it was also part of a syndicated package called Fun World of Hanna-Barbera which ran from 1976 to 1982. Cartoon Network and Boomerang also reran the series. Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, the masterminds behind Scooby-Doo, and later their own shows like Fangface and Thundarr the Barbarian, were the head writers for the show.
Janet Waldo, well known as the voice of Judy Jetson, reprised her role as Penelope Pitstop. The man of a thousand voices, Mel Blanc, was brought in to perform Chug-a-Boom, The Bully Brothers, and Yak Yak. Hanna-Barbera veteran Don Messick voiced Dum Dum, Snoozy, Pockets, and Zippy. Paul Winchell reprised his role as Clyde and also performed Softy. Gary Owens of Laugh-In fame, not to mention Hanna-Barbera’s Space Ghost, was the narrator. Last and certainly not least, Paul Lynde, aka the center square himself, took on the double role of Sylvester Sneekly and the Hooded Claw.
Although not as popular as Dastardly and Muttley, at least in the minds of those who marketed the shows, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop did get its share of merchandising. They took advantage of a female leading character to market toy jewelry to girls. Some items, like comic books, had Penelope taking a back seat to Dastardly and Muttley.
The show did get a DVD release both in the US and the UK. The Perils of Penelope Pitstop has remained popular enough to include in a lot of modern toys and figures in recent years as well. These figures have come a long way since the original days of the shows. Now you can sit back and pop in the DVD or stream some episodes from Boomerang and bring back some of that great Saturday morning experience!