Saturday, June 18, 2005

Saturday Morning Cartoons- WACKY RACES!

Many moons ago... (actually many, MANY moons ago) the three major networks (CBS, ABC & NBC) would devote a four to five hour block every Saturday morning to cartoons. Nothing but cartoons.

Ahhh, those were the good old days.

But like "good old days" sometimes our memories play tricks on us. We tend to remember things in our childhood as great only to revisit them as an adult and wonder, "what the hell were we thinking!!??" Since it was a Saturday morning today I decided to treat myself to watching several episodes from a DVD collection I recently got, the Complete Series of Wacky Races.

In 1968 CBS debuted a half hour cartoon that followed the madcap antics of 11 unique auto racers that raced all across the country from Hackensack to Baja in Cannonball Run-esque competitions. Among the 11 contestants were a lumber jack, a vampire, a pair of cavemen, a WW1 flying ace, seven tiny mobsters, an army sergeant, an inventor, a hillbilly, a beaver, a bear, a gentleman racer, a southern belle and a leering villain with his sidekick dog.

So, what was my reaction of watching this cartoon that I first saw as an 7 year old kid?
It still holds up!

First, the logo. I like how the Wacky Races logo has the type font and colors that was often used in the late 60's early 70's, and gives to me a nostalgic feel.

Next, the episodes themselves. What struck me right off the bat was, there was no theme song. The show began with descriptions of each racer by the narrator (and yes, each race had a narrator much like the Power Puff Girls of today) and would go right into the first episode. The half hour show was usually cut into two 15 minute races with "wacky" titles that usually gave you the location of each race, like "Free Wheeling to Wheeling" , "Whizzin' to Washington" and "Mish Mash Missouri Dash".

While the basic premise was pretty routine, the racers would vie for the lead while bad guy (and my personal favorite character of the bunch) Dick Dastardly attempted to prevent their progress with Coyote (from the Road Runner cartoons) style traps that of course, usually backfired on him and his snickering canine sidekick, Muttley).

BUT- as routine as it may sound these cartoons hold up to this "adult". Why? The characters. Each driver (or drivers as some had more than one) had unique characterizations and abilities that lent themselves to neat and fun stories. I was also happily surprised to see that Dastardly wasn't the only one to try to get the upper hand. The other racers would often take the opportunity (though not as obvious as DD) to get the edge over their fellow racers.

I only watched about half of the complete 34 episodes today, I'll save the rest for next Saturday morning, but in case you were interested here's the breakdown of all the winning cars and their driver, with their First, Second and Third place finishes:

The Compact Pussycat (Penelope Pttstop) - 4 firsts, 2 seconds, 5 thirds
The Bullit Proof Bomb (The Ant Hill Mob) - 4 firsts, 5 seconds, 2 thirds
The Turbo Terrific (Peter Perfect) - 4 firsts, 2 seconds, 2 thirds
The Arkansas Chugabug (Luke & Blubber Bear) - 4 firsts, 1 second, 4 thirds
The Creepy Coupe (Gruesome Twosome) - 3 firsts, 3 seconds, 6 thirds
The Buzz Wagon (Rufus Ruffcut & Sawtooth) - 3 firsts, 6 seconds, 4 thirds
The Boulder Mobile (The Slagg Brothers) - 3 firsts, 8 seconds, 3 thirds
The Convert-a-car (Prof. Pat Pending) - 3 firsts, 2 seconds, 5 thirds
The Crimson Haybailer (The Red Max) - 3 firsts, 4 seconds, 3 thirds
The Army Surplus Special (Pvt. Meekley & Sgt. Blast) - 3 firsts, 1 second, 0 thirds
and finally,
The Mean Machine (Dick Dastardly & Muttley) - 0 firsts, 0 seconds, 0 thirds

Proving that cheating never wins. Well, at least never wins in old Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

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