April 25, 2020


(CBS, September 13, 1969-January 3, 1970)

Hanna-Barbera Productions

Paul Winchell – Dick Dastardly, General
Don Messick – Muttley, Klunk, Zilly, various

            Inspired by the hit film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying MachinesHanna-Barbera began work on a series utilizing airplanes. Originally, the program was going to be populated by an all-new assortment of characters led by a German Baron and his dog and called Stop the Pigeon (which many believe remained the show’s name due to its repeated utterance in the show’s theme song)However, Wacky Races happened and changed those plans.

Original concepts for The Vulture Squadron (top) and Yankee Doodle Pigeon (bottom).

            With the villainous Dick Dastardly (Paul Winchell) and his dog sidekick, the ever-snickering and grumbling Muttley (Don Messick), being the most popular characters of the program, it was decided to spin them off into their own starring vehicle. Initially, they were planned as the villains of the other Wacky Races spin-off, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, but it was decided to inject them into their Stop the Pigeon show as the primary leads. Dastardly was taken off of the racetrack and put into the skies as the leader of the Vulture Squadron, whose primary mission was to stop Yankee Doodle Pigeon from carrying out his secret mission. It was never explicitly stated for which side Dastardly was working for, but it was a safe assumption it was the wrong side.

Muttley, Zilly, Klunk, Dastardly and Yankee Doodle.

Along with Muttley, who was always seeking to be rewarded with a medal, Dastardly was joined by the cowardly Zilly, who would frequently pull his head into his coat to “disappear”, and the inventive Klunk (both Messick), who invented most of the wild aircraft and gadgetry used to go after Yankee Doodle. Zilly and Klunk were equally dim-witted, and the things they did often backfired. Klunk also spoke constantly in a series of sound effects mixed in with actual words, which often resulted in Zilly having to translate what he was saying to Dastardly. The entire squadron was under the command of an unseen General (Winchell), who would often call and yell at Dastardly for their failures.

One of the wacky plane concepts seen during the show.

            Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines debuted on CBS on September 13, 1969. The characters and wild aircraft were designed by Jerry Eisenberg, who used World War I planes as his base inspiration because of how funky they looked to begin with. Each show was broken up into multiple segments. Two were the primary story segments of the Squadron’s misadventures in trying to apprehend Yankee Doodle. There were short 30-second gag segments called “Wing Dings”, which usually played up a pun of some kind for a visual gag. The last segment was “Magnificent Muttley”, where Muttley would daydream about himself in various occupations or adventures and usually being the hero to Dastardly’s villain. The series was written by Larz Bourne, Dalton Sandifer and Mike Maltese with story direction by Alex Lovy and Bill Perez. Ted Nichols composed the music, and the show’s theme was performed by Winchell in character as Dastardly.

Anvil power!

            The series only ran for one season before entering syndicated reruns on local stations between 1976 and 1982, and hitting Cartoon Network in 1995 and sister channel Boomerang in 2000. That short run didn’t stop it from receiving a wide variety of merchandise, however. Milton Bradley produced a board game and puzzles; Whitman published a coloring book and a tray puzzle; Kellogg’s ran several promotions, including allowing kids to “join” the Squadron, erasers in the shape of the characters, and a plastic plane with Muttley piloting; and Hestair made two puzzles as part of their Puzzler 100 line. After the series ended, London Brown Watson Ltd. published Dastardly & Muttley and Friends in 1973, and in 1975 Rico released die-cast toy planes featuring the characters at least on the cards in Spain.

Spring power!

            Although never receiving its own comic, Dastardly & Muttley was a feature in Gold Key ComicsHanna-Barbera Fun-In for at least half of the series’ run. They were less prominent in Gold Key/Whitman’s Golden Comics Digest, appearing only in #7 and #11. In 2017, as part of DC Comics’ reimagining of Hanna-Barbera properties, a Dastardly & Muttley mini-series was released written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Mauricet. The series took the Flying Machines concept by having U.S. Air Force pilot Colonel Richard “Dick” Atcherly and his navigator, Captain Dudley “Mutt” Muller, become gradually cartoonized when the leader of Unliklistan tried to use the unstable radioactive element Unstablium 239 to power a reactor. The (unofficial) Vulture Squadron comes together to try and stop an errant drone, War Pig One, from further spreading the Unstablium around the world. The phrase “Stop the Pig One” eventually makes its way into the book, as does the original cartoon. In 2019, the actual characters returned in Scooby-Doo Team-Up #44 by Sholly Fisch and Scott Jeralds, tricking the Mystery, Inc. gang into thinking Yankee Doodle was a ghost to capture. It also, at long last, revealed why the Vulture Squadron was after him this whole time.

The international version of the complete series DVD.

            Dastardly & Muttley has seen numerous releases to home video; both in English and in other languages. In 1986, Worldvision Home Video released a VHS collection containing three episodes of the series. Another collection repeating a couple of the earlier selections was released by Turner Pictures Worldwide in 1996. In the United Kingdom, The Video Collection released their own compilation in 1986, and again in 1989 when they also released their own version of the Worldvision release, and included a “Magnificent Muttley” segment in their Bedtime Stories: The Cartoon Collection. First Independent Films took over distribution rights in 1994 with a series of collections of various segments, and a collection of those in Bumper Edition. In 2005, Warner Home Video released the complete series to DVD as part of their Hanna-Barbera Classics Collection. It was re-released in 2017 as part of the Hanna-Barbera Diamond Collection. In 2012, Warner also released an international collection called Hanna-Barbera 4 DVD Bumper Pack which contained the first volumes of Dastardly & Muttley, Wacky Races, Top Cat and Hong Kong Phooey

“Fur Out Furlough / Barn Dance / Hot Soup / Muttley on the Bounty / Slappy Birthday” (9/13/69) – The General promises an all-expenses paid month-long furlough for the one that captures the pigeon. / Klunk asks the others if they’re going to the barn dance. / The mop water gets mixed up with the soup. / Muttley dreams he’s Fletcher Christian and Dastardly is Captain Bligh. / Muttley can’t celebrate his birthday until the pigeon is caught.

“Follow That Feather / Barber / Empty Hangar / What’s New Old Bean? / Operation Anvil” (9/20/69) – The Squadron uses a feather-seeking homing missile. / Muttley raises Dastardly’s barber chair a bit too high. / Muttley brings Dastardly a literal hanger for his clothes. / While gardening, Muttley dreams he’s in Jack and the Beanstalk. / Klunk is confident that his flying anvil will finally succeed.

“Sky Hi-IQ / Prop Wash / Carpet / The Marvelous Muttdini / A Plain Shortage of Planes” (9/27/69) – The General sends in an efficiency expert. / Klunk uses a plane to dry his laundry. / Dastardly’s men roll out the red carpet when he returns from vacation. / While locked in the guard house, Muttley dreams he’s an escape artist. / The Squadron has run out of planes and there’s no money to buy any more.

“Barnstormers / Arnold / Pineapple Sundae / The New Mascot / The Bad Actor / Shape Up or Ship Out” (10/4/69) – Crashing in a barn causes a country woman to think Zilly is her Prince Charming. / Dastardly’s giant dog is a little too good at fetching. / Dastardly wants his sundae the way he wants it. / Dastardly shows Muttley their new giant dog mascot. / Muttley dreams he’s being upstaged by Dastardly. / The General transfers the Squadron to sea duty as Yankee Doodle’s route takes him over the water.

“Stop That Pigeon / Grease Job / Robot / The Big Topper / Zilly’s a Dilly” (10/11/69) – The Squadron douses the pigeon with pepper to target their new sneeze-detecting missiles. / Dastardly takes a nap while Zilly greases his car. / Dastardly tries Klunk’s new housekeeping robot. / Muttley dreams he’s a circus performer with Dastardly out to sabotage him. / Dastardly calls in a hypnotist to get Zilly to stop being such a coward.

“The Cuckoo Patrol / Automatic Door / Airmail / Runway Stripe / The Masked Muttley / Pest Pilots” (10/18/69) – The Squadron tries to disguise themselves as fellow pigeons. / Dastardly tries Klunk’s automatic hangar door opener. / Zilly sends a letter airmail. / Klunk uses a rocket to paint the landing strip’s line. / Muttley dreams he’s a western hero after outlaw Dastardly.  / A mad scientist allows the Squadron to try his flying machines.

“The Swiss Yelps / Eagle-Beagle / Deep Reading / Shell Game / Slightly Loaded / Movie Stuntman” (10/25/69) – The Squadron gives chase through the Swiss Alps. / Dastardly decides to use an eagle to capture the pigeon. / Dastardly wants a light to read his book by. / Klunk helps Zilly collect seashells. / Dastardly tries to get the lightest things to offload of a truck. / Muttley dreams he’s a Hollywood stuntman and director Dastardly is trying to get him off the picture—permanently.

“Fly By Knights / There’s No Fool like a Re-Fuel / Springtime / Dog’s Life / Strange Equipment / Coonskin Caper” (11/1/69) – After failing an eye test, the Squadron all get glasses that make their sight even worse. / Running out of fuel has Klunk try to devise a way they can refuel in the air. / The Squadron has to find a new underground spring. / Zilly takes in a dog fish. / Zilly gets his baseball equipment from Dastardly’s desk.  / Muttley dreams he’s Daniel Boone and has to rescue his girl from Dastardly.

“Movies Are Badder Than Ever / Home Sweet Homing Pigeon / The Elevator / Obedience School / Aquanuts” (11/8/69) – The General sends a movie director to film the Squadron and find out what they’re doing wrong. / The Squadron refuses to listen to Dastardly’s orders as their enlistments have come to an end. / Zilly takes the elevator too high. / Muttley returns from obedience school. / Muttley dreams Dastardly is out to steal the sunken treasure he’s after.

“Lens A Hand / Vacation Trip Trap / Parachute / Real Snapper / Leonardo De Muttley” (11/15/69) – Dastardly has to prove to the General that the Squadron is actually working and not just collecting flight pay. / The Squadron is left to carry on while Dastardly goes on vacation. / Zilly bails out when the Squadron’s boat springs a leak. / Dastardly learns he’s sharing his bath with a crab. / Muttley dreams he’s da Vinci inventing the first flying machine.

“Stop Which Pigeon? / Ceiling Zero Zero / Fast Freight / Home Run / Start Your Engines” (11/22/69) – The Squadron hires an actor pigeon for the General’s inspection visit. / The Squadron tries Klunk’s weather machine against the pigeon. / Dastardly and Zilly ride atop a train on Dastardly’s “private car”. / The Squadron plays some baseball. / Muttley dreams he’s a famous racer.

“Who’s Who? / Operation Birdbrain / Bowling Pin / Shrink Job / Ship Ahooey” (11/29/69) – Dastardly loses his memory when he falls on his head. / Dastardly has the Squadron learn to be pigeons. / While complaining about the quiet, a bowling pin falls on Dastardly’s head. / After Dastardly’s uniform is shrunk in the wash, they shrink him so he’ll fit. / Muttley dreams he’s trying to swim across the English Channel.

“Medal Muddle / Go South Young Pigeon! / The Window Washer / Beach Blast / Admiral Bird Dog” (12/6/69) – Muttley refuses to work until Dastardly helps him recover his stolen medals. / The Squadron loses the pigeon amongst migrating birds. / Dastardly tasks Zilly with washing the base’s windows. / Dastardly has Zilly blow up his beach ball. / Muttley dreams Dastardly beats him to the North Pole.

“Too Many Kooks / Ice See You / Echo / Rainmaker / Professor Muttley” (12/13/69) – Dastardly lets the others come up with plans for catching the pigeon. / The Squadron gives chase over the frozen northern front. / Zilly and Dastardly have fun with a cave echo. / Zilly seeds some clouds to bring some rain on a blistering day. / Muttley dreams he’s a brilliant inventor whose ideas are constantly stolen by Dastardly.

“Balmy Swami / Camouflage Ho-Aroo / Mop Up / Big Turnover / Wild Mutt Muttley” (12/20/69) – The Squadron crashes in on a swami that predicts a good future for them, and a bad one for the pigeon. / The General sends a camouflage expert to help the Squadron. / Dastardly doles out cleaning assignments. / Dastardly shows his men his circus high-wire act. / Muttley dreams he’s lord of the jungle.

“Have Plane Will Travel / Windy Windmill / Tough Break / The Ice Cream Tree / Astromutt” (12/27/69) – The Squadron is transferred to an area devoid of pigeons—except for one. / The Squadron uses a windmill plane to give chase to the pigeon over the Netherlands. / Zilly fixes Dastardly’s brakes. / Klunk plants a tree that grows ice cream cones. / Muttley dreams he’s an astronaut with Dastardly scheming against him on a planet.

“Plane Talk / Happy Bird Day / Boxing / Runaway Rug / Super Muttley” (1/3/70) – Klunk develops a plane that has a spare plane. / The General orders off all birthday celebrating until they catch the pigeon—but whose birthday is it? / Zilly takes Klunk’s boxing stats. / On a pleasure flight, Dastardly and Muttley encounter a flying carpet. / Muttley dreams he’s a super hero.

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