Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wacky Races - See-Saw to Arkansas

According to the polls, everyone wanted something new, so of course, that means I'm going to cover a cartoon that almost 50 years old. Irony!

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Hannah-Barbera, the creators of this ancient work of art. I mean, sure, they've single-handedly defined an entire decade (or decades, depending on how nice you want to be) of animation, but at the same time, they're pretty renowned for basically cranking show after show after show and being one of the harbingers of the animation dark ages. They have great characters, but for every Huckleberry Hound and Tom and Jerry, you have pale knockoffs like Goober and the Ghost Chasers (hint: Goober is a dog) or just plain failtastic ideas like The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang. 

That being said, I can't bring myself to hate Wacky Races. This was truly one of Hannah-Barbera's better ideas and I like it more than I like Scooby-Doo. Sorry Scooby, but your antics just can't top Pat Pending's Convert-a-Car no matter how hard you try.

For those of you who don't know about Wacky Races (which would make me sad if you didn't, because it's one of the landmark shows of the 60's and 70's), it was a 17 episode racing show produced in the late 60's that was wacky, pretty much. One of the things that made it unique was that, unlike a lot of Hannah-Barbera's other shows, it had a pretty big cast. It had eleven vehicles and twenty three characters spread among these cars, so if you got bored with one guy, there was always at least twenty other racers to watch instead. It was formulaic, but then again, racing as a whole has a formula to it so you end up not minding too much. Probably because you're watching a cartoon that has mobsters, scientists, cavemen, vampires, and freaking Dick Dastardly. A little formula isn't going to deter you too much from watching someone in a biplane shoot a gun at some hillbilly on the road.

And, like Scooby-Doo, the reason I'm so familiar with this show is because, before the Cartoon Cartoons were created, Cartoon Network used to air reruns of this show all the freakin' time in the early 90's, when the channel was first created. So much that I'm surprised this show only had 17 full episodes.

Pictured: The inspiration for Mario Kart. Don't deny it.
That, and the fact that this show didn't get the overexposure that Scooby later suffered from. There were only two spinoffs to the show (one with Dick Dastardly and one with Penelope Pitstop and the Anthill Mob) and the Wacky Races legacy was able to retire with quiet dignity before a Flim-Flam racer and a Scrappy-Doo racer could show up.

That being said, the easiest way to cover a show is to look at its first episode, (or in this case, the first half of the first episode, since each episode contains two 11 minute segments) so let's see how our loveable racers deal with their most insidious obstacle yet, for they're going to dive into the dark, clammy, largely unexplored evil that is...Arkansas.

Let's look at an episode that literally has nothing to do with actual Seesaws and just made up a pun on the fly, See-Saw to Arkansas.

See-Saw to Arkansas

September 14th, 1968

Availability: On DVD

Before I talk about the show proper, I'm going to take the time and introduce every car individually, in order of how the intro introduces them (which doesn't introduce them by number, because that would be silly!), since this show did have a very large cast with very unique cars and I can't expect anybody to instantly remember them off the top of their heads. Be sure to grab a cup of coffee, because with eleven race cars, this will take a while.

You wish your chin was as epic as his.
First we have Peter Perfect in the Turbo Terrific. Everyone and anyone has made fun of this man's name and the shape of his car, and I'm not one to break tradition. Peter's car...is basically him overcompensating, to put it mildly. With big, rubbery giant wheels at the back and a car that's 80% length and 20% girth, it's kind of hard not to draw that conclusion. I mean, seriously, one of the Turbo Terrific's powers is to extend the tip, for crying out loud! In another show of Freudian slips, whenever Peter brags about how awesome his long shaft of a car is doing, it will either deflate (yes, this car has deflated) or fall apart, usually while Penelope Pitstop (I'll talk about her in a minute) is watching. Oh, Hannah-Barbera.

He also has a crush on Penelope Pitstop, who helpfully drives a car called the Pussycat that has big fat lips on the front. I have to wonder what it would look like if those two cars got into a front end collision with one another.

Although, to be fair, he's one of the few drivers actually driving a vehicle built for racing. You'll see in a moment.
"Trees can go to hell!"
Next we have Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth the Beaver in the Buzzwagon and somehow he managed to construct a car completely out of the scraps you would find at a lumber mill. That's some mad skills right there, and I think the only thing holding this pulpy abomination together is Rufus's supernatural hatred of anything that's a tree. I'm pretty sure this man can level a forest just by glaring in its direction. I mean, just look at that grin. That's some prime hating on nature there.

So yeah, he's basically a lumberjack and he's okay, because he sleeps all night and works all day. Expect rugged things to come out of his larynx. Also, there is no way this thing is street legal, because it has honest to god buzzsaws for wheels. I'm not even going to question the mindboggling physics or even how he manages to get it down the road without the blades wearing down, because just think of the street damage!

Beetle Bailey goes to the races.
Then we get Sergeant Blast and Private Meekly in the Army Surplus Special. If you want to know their personalities, just take a good look at their names; instead of being subversive and having Private Meekly being a total extrovert and not taking any crap from the Sergeant who can't speak in an indoor voice, he is, of course, meek. Which is a real shame, because they're driving a freaking tank/road sweeper hybrid vehicle that's been known to fire mortal shells at the other drivers. You'd think they'd go the extra mile and spice things up.

These two get the distinction of being the worst racers, because compared to the rest of the racers (I'm not even counting Dick Dastardly because he has a clean 0-0-0 streak), Blast has the least amount of wins to his name. His car has only been in the Top Three four times in the entire series' run, which is really sad when there's a good 34 races in this show. Maybe racing actual vehicles in a machine running on caterpillar tracks wasn't such a smart move.

But yeah, they're not very interesting. It would be wise to just ignore these two and let the grown-ups do the winning for them.
I think the number one reason people join the mob is to get sweet rides like this.
While the Army Surplus Special is piloted by people made of lose, then the Bulletproof Bomb is piloted by people made of win. The Ant Hill Mob (composed entirely out of midgets, because if cartoons have taught me one thing, it's that the mafia is full of short people and ventriloquist dummies) is nothing short of brilliant, if only because they're freaking mobsters that are in a race, pulling out actual tommy guns with actual bullets and trying to avoid the cops. That, my friends, takes pure guts, being wanted criminals and yet starring in a race for a trophy.

And for some reason even though that car could easily seat all of them comfortably, they all choose to bunch up in the front. I'm guessing it's because that's where the air conditioner is.

Out of the four cars that placed First Place four times, they're the ones that placed the most in second place, so some people consider them to be the winners of the first Wacky Races. Also, they were protagonists in The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, making them one of the few examples where there were characters from the mafia driving around, firing off machine guns...and they were heroes. I wonder if Hannah-Barbera got any mysterious unmarked packages in the mail full of flowers and presents for being one of the few people to depict the mob in such a positive light.

Never build a motor vehicle while drunk.
Speeding up next is Pat Pending and his Convert-A-Car. Pat Pending is pretty awesome, because he is a mad scientist (which instantly earns him at least fifty points to his Win-O-Meter) and car can turn into all sorts of cool stuff. He's turned his car into a plane, a motorcycle, and even a bowling ball. His running gag is that the Convert-O-Car always turns into something different, leading to me to wonder why he doesn't market this miracle of science to the right bidder and retire a wealthy, world-changing man.

His car probably has the most appealing design out of the lot (well, that, and The Ant Hill Mob's car; I freaking love 1920's cars) because you can tell the designers just went nuts on making the single most ridiculous thing on three wheels. His car has parts from all forms of transportation, including boat parts. Pat Pending is a credit to his fellow scientist.

But despite that, he doesn't go the full mile and turn his car into some sort of death bot capable of smashing the other cars to bits, probably because he's full of sportsmanship as much as he full of science. No seriously, this man will oftentimes step on the brakes and then use his brilliant invention to help the other cars. All of his car's features are purely defensive, even though he can fully exercise his right to use lethal force considering The Ant Hill Mob uses tommy guns and Sergeant Blast has military artillery. He's just that noble of a person, I guess, and considering how mad scientists are often portrayed negatively in cartoons, we should be thankful for this upstanding guy in our roster. 

Man, that car has some shapely hips.
Next, Penelope Pitstop, the only female racer in the group. Her car is as girly as they come (and even has creepy, huge lips and eyes, which made me think the car was alive when I watched this show as a kid), and her gimmick is that she's a girl who likes pink, makeup, and being captured. In her defense, she's actually pretty assertive, oftentimes figuring out how to get out of her situations almost as many times as she gets caught. And, to be fair, she has more of a personality than Daphne.

Since she's the only person on the track with boobs, the male racers will avoid shooting at her and will often let her pass them. I love how absolutely useless her windshield and her umbrella are too, when you stop and think about the speed she's typically driving.

She also got a spinoff called The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, where her best friends with The Ant Hill Mob. Yes, my friends. After all of that flirting with Peter Perfect, she ends up with a gang of mobsters. Them's the breaks.
"Back in Oog's day, things weren't so commercial."
Driving up after that is the Bouldermobile driven by the Slag Brothers. They're cavemen and they have clubs! That's all you need to know about them. That, and the fact that they were a visual inspiration for Captain Caveman.

Although, personally, them being here just raises a lot of questions. Save for the anthropomorphic beaver and the midget gangsters who are still trapped in Prohibition Times, up until now, the racers were pretty grounded in reality. And then, suddenly, we get anachronistic neanderthals. They shouldn't even be able to survive in our modern atmosphere with these strange, exotic germs assaulting their ancient immune systems, let alone be able to work a rock-based form of our modern technology! How do they exist.

Incidentally, wanna hear something that's wildly unfair? If the whole Wacky Races series had been scored according to the Grand Prix point scoring of the period, the Slag Brothers would've been the champions. Think about how unfair it is, the fact that a 1920's sedan, a dragster, a tank, and car that can turn into an airplane were beaten by a freaking rock with an engine inside! The hell.

Don't even try to sing The Monster Mash in front of them. They will not be responsible for their actions.
But then, right after that, we get the Creepy Coupe and The Gruesome Twosome. When I was a kid, this was always the car I rooted for, when now I tend to root for either Pat Pending or The Ant Hill Mob. In all fairness, I still think the Creepy Coupe is pretty awesome (I say they're in third place of my list of favorite Wacky Racers), because it's another case of really appealing shape and design in the form of a tricked out hearse. I especially dig the little headlights that are actually old-timey gas lamps.

Anyways, The Gruesome Twosome consists of Big Gruesome and Little Gruesome. While Big Gruesome doesn't look too monstrous save for his size (and that could just be the factor of an overactive pituitary gland), Little Gruesome is a purple-skinned vampire whose powers seem to be the ability to summon an eternal raincloud over his car and various horror-themed monsters out of that belfry attached to the roof of his car.

Since anyone who can summon a dragon out of their car is instantly cool in my book, keep an eye out for these guys if Pat Pending or The Ant Hill Mob are nowhere to be seen.

"Suck it, gravity!"
Following them, we get probably the most unfortunate car in the lot. The Red Max and the Crimson Haybailer have the unfortunate distinction of being the car (err, plane) in the group that has had its gimmicks taken by other drivers. Pat Pending's car can fly, The Ant Hill Mob has machine guns, and Peter Perfect flirts with the ladies, so therefore he has no reason to exist. He's basically there as a placeholder, and I'm sure by the time the show was in production, the Hannah-Barbera team came up with an idea that was miles better than him but it was already too late. No, seriously, every time I see this guy, I keep picturing some concept artist kicking himself going "we should've went with the pirate-themed racer!".

What is also disappointing for The Red Max is that, in his attempt to make his airplane into a car that can qualify for the Wacky Races, he nearly completely robbed his aircraft of its ability to fly. What Red Max did was basically clip the wings of a vehicle that most people don't even get the opportunity to drive. Good going there, dude.

"Haters gonna hate!"
Finally, out of the normal racers, we get Luke and Blubber Bear on the Arkansas Chuggabug. It's a hillbilly and his trained bear he somehow felt needed to be in the race with him. That's all you need to know about him.

When I was a kid, I thought Luke was kind of boring and always mixed him up with Rufus, but now that I'm older, I just find this idea radically ingenious. That a good look at the jalopy Luke is piloting; that thing is clearly the most unsafe ride in the history of existence, and yet this barefooted slack-jawed yokel often drives this thing while asleep. The fact that he's still alive is a testament to this man's resourcefulness.

Oh, and he often powers that sucker up by pouring whiskey into the stove pot engine strapped to the back of that thing. Again, this guy is still alive and with all of his body parts intact. Luke spits in your book learnings, you yankees, because he can drive with his eyes closed and still beat a dragster, two airplanes, and a tank.

Apparently pure evil wears a locomotive engineer hat and a trenchcoat.
But wait, we also need a villain for a show. Driving a car marked 00 (or the infinity symbol in some shots where the animators drew the car off-model), Dick Dastardly is just a classic, and the idea that someone could not know who Dick Dastardly or his snickering little dog Muttley are is a thought that terrifies and sickens me.

Anyways, they probably have the best car, because they can get miles ahead of everyone else and still have time to stop the car and set up an elaborate trap involving rigging dynamite or putting some sort of trap that will destroy the other racers. It's a set rule that Dick Dastardly must never win, because he can't just race like a normal person. It's his own hubris and constant cheating that is the result of his failures, not the other racers. It's kind of sad when you think about it. In modern times, there'd be an episode where Dick Dastardly dives into his past and gives us a reason why he's become the monster he is now, but since this is Hannah-Barbera, we're going to assume that the "Dick" in his name also describes his personality.


And now, with those incredibly long, almost gratuitously lengthy introductions that no one's going to read out of the way, time to hit the show proper. Helpfully, the first thing we see is the actual route the Wacky Racers are going down, and it turns out they're neck-deep in hillbilly country because they have to drive various unpaved roads to get to Mustard Spread, Arkansas. Since typing up "Mustard Spread" in Google Maps only gave me the results to various sandwich shops, I'm going to assume that, if this town did exist back in the 60's, it certainly doesn't exist now.

By the way, check out the other town names hidden in there. I'm the most fond of Villville and Blatt. I would sell my right foot to live in a town called Blatt, so long as Blatt had Internet access and a Target.

We tune into the actual racers, and the very first thing we see happening between combatants is Dick Dastardly cheating, this time employing some sort of extendable nose cone thing (which, judging from the angle of it, is clipping through the rest of the car) to completely smash the Slag Brothers' car into bits, which then form into the title for this cartoon. Kind of a gruesome way to start an episode there, Hannah-Barbera, having Dick Dastardly getting crushed by a boulder/car hybrid. Imagine tuning into this show, probably because of word-of-mouth, and seeing four people die onscreen within the first ten seconds. It probably made quite an impression.

But hey, it lets the kiddies know that they're not dealing with your basic run-of-the-mill Scooby-Doo where it's just some guy in a mask. The Wacky Racers play for keeps!

Rocks fall. Everybody dies.
But don't worry! The moment the title screen disappears, the boulders magically reform into a completely working Bouldermobile and the Slag Brothers just mysteriously pop into existence thanks to the miracles of animation. This brings these characters into a new light, the fact that they can just rise from the ashes of their own death like a pair of hairy, flea-infested phoenixes, because it means that the Slag Brothers are capable of black magic so powerful that our mortal brains cannot comprehend their true power. Try to explain this, science!
Or they're the world's first T-1000s. Either way, I'm scared.
Currently, the Slag Wizards have the lead, followed by the Creepy Coupe in second and Red Max in third. Clearly this needs to change, and luckily, the Gruesome Twosome realize this and decide they're going to call upon the power of devils to smite their enemies. I love the glimpse we get of the dashboard in the Creepy Coupe, even if I am basically looking at what is essentially stock footage. I'd hate to think of what the Gruesome Twosome have to do if they ever have to put their vehicle in reverse.

Okay, I am so naming a heavy metal band "Horror Power".
So yep, their car has a dragon feature (helpfully named Dragon Power because the vampire in charge of naming the different gadgets was sick that day) and by god, they're going to use it. The moment they set their car to "Dragon Power", a big scaly beast just kind of expands out of the car's belfry like green putty until it forms into a dragon and the hideous abomination starts flapping its wings, which boosts them along at pretty fast pace. You know, instead of making the car fly or something. I'm not a Physics Major so I can't figure out the real mechanics of what a giant, several hundred pound beast just suddenly popping into existence on the roof of your car and then flapping upwards would do.

And before you ask, I'm not going to point out every single power-up the Wacky Racers use, because then this blog post will read like I've turned into some sort of racing announcer. I'm just pointing Dragon Power out because this was the one powerup I looked forward to as a kid. Even if now I question whether the dragon is always in the belfry or is conveniently stored in some sort of pocket dimension.

...aaaand I just wasted two whole paragraphs on a kind of pointless sight gag. Good going, me.

What do dragons have to do with movie monsters anyways?
But, unfortunately, even summoning a dragon isn't enough, because then The Red Max (or Boring Waste of Space, as I like to call him) decides he's going to actually not suck for once and starts flying around in his hideous mutated piece of modern industry while cackling a laugh that sounds like a Frenchman trying to imitate a stereotypical Frenchman.

...right before he falls off a bridge and lands into a large body of water. Hey, idiot. Typically when we pilot aircraft, we tend to face ahead and look where we're going. At this point, I hope he drowns and we get that pirate-themed racer I just made up in my head.

And then he gets shot down by a white beagle riding a doghouse.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Oh god, please tell me this entire show isn't just stock footage of the same cars driving around, you're probably pleading with me. Well, okay, in the beginning and the end of the episodes, it sort of is, just to hammer it home that you're in fact watching a racing cartoon. In their defense, Nascar is pretty much the same way, and their cars aren't shaped like rocks or airplanes. Hannah-Barbera just wanted something they could use a lot of stock footage in (this being the 60's, a time where a show's budget was like a penny and some chewing gum) and by golly, they've sure got it.

I think part of the reason I'm going to let this assault of stock footage slide on by is the announcer character, an unseen force of nature that both does his job as a man who has to point out who's leading and manages to let his feelings be heard in the way he describes the racers. This is especially apparent when he mentions that The Ant Hill Mob is in last place (although you'd think landing in a river would put The Red Max in last), because he almost sounds like he's mocking them with the tone of voice he uses. Sounds like someone's going to end up getting fitted with some nice concrete shoes if he keeps talking like that. They still haven't found the previous announcer's body.

Gangsters have an inability to respect personal space.
The Ant Hill Mob and their crammed closeness (geez, guys, I've seen litters of puppies that weren't touching each other so much) are pretty dang unhappy that they're trailing behind, and the leader expresses this in stereotypical 20's gangster lingo laced with "youse" and "mugs". That's how you can tell he's a gangster if you're blind and can't see the clothes, the car, and the five-o-clock shadow. Anyways, like the Creepy Coupe, they too have a power, only it's called "Getaway Power". I'm not going to lie. Even after seeing the dragon, I can still call it one of the stranger power-ups in this show, if only because it makes the least amount of physical sense. Just take a look at this screenshot here and try to tell me otherwise.

Because men picking up a car and running is somehow faster than driving at maximum speed. Of course.
Apparently the mob can outrun many things, but they can't outrun the police. A highway officer (who looks strangely like Ranger Smith from Yogi Bear) spots the Bulletproof Bomb and decides to be a hero and chase The Ant Hill Mob down without any backup. Man, it's almost making me want to go back to the stock footage because now this is just raising further questions. Are the Wacky Races held in secret or something? All the racers are clearly going to Mustard Spread and The Ant Hill Mob is clearly a part of the roster. Is there more than one Ant Hill Mob or did everyone assume that the "mob" in their name just meant a really large group of people? They're driving a freaking 1920's sedan and firing off subautomatic machine guns, for crying out loud. They're not exactly subtle!

Luckily, the coupe can tap into the police radios and they happen to hear this critically insane man blabbing to his fellow cop buddies that he's going to chase the mob down on his piddly motorcycle, which offers absolutely no protection to his body against bullets. No back-up arrives, so I'm just going to assume that the Arkansas police force just cleared his desk and applied the "Help Wanted" sign to the front window.

"I know I'm only supposed to be supervising road traffic, but I'm confident
I can fight the mafia with my bare hands."
Fortunately for that dumbass cop, The Ant Hill Mob decides it's going to let this poor man live so that he can end up dying while choking on a ballpoint pen as nature intended. Therefore, they decide they're going to outmaneuver the police and lose him that way. Course, in a stunning display of unique Hannah-Barbera physics, when the Bulletproof Bomb makes a sharp turn, it just launches all of the gangsters out of the car and thus I point out they could've saved themselves a lot of trouble if they just shot the donut-stuffed moron full of holes.
And they can only watch in horror as that beautiful antique car crashes into a rock cliff and explodes.
After The Ant Hill Mob has held our attention for way too long, the cartoon decides to go from mobsters to...whatever the hell Dick Dastardly and Muttley are supposed to be, anyways. And, instead of actually racing, they've parked their car and have been waiting for who knows how long for the other cars to show up. Truly a great plan worthy of noting!

And yes, if I'm going to be covering Wacky Races episodes, I might as well point out the logic fail on Dick Dastardly's part. Mainly, the fact that he's far enough in the lead to stand around in binoculars and plant a trap for all of the racers behind him when he could just be driving his stupid car and cross the finish line fairly. Although I can be optimistic and assume the guy took a shortcut, instantly disqualifying him. He is a dick, after all.

...although that never stops the other racers from using shortcuts. I think the judges just really hated this guy.
"Man, bird watching sucks. I'm taking up a new hobby."
Dastardly Dick is mad that one of the racers (The Ant Hill Mob) turned and can't be subjected to his trap, but he quickly shakes it off. Because hey, that's still nine other drivers he can destroy with his dynamite he's going to plant into a canyon. He can kill the mobsters later. So he cackles in glee as he watches his sentient bipedal dog bury some explosives because he's freaking lazy. He just spent fifty dollars on his manicure and he can't look his dastardlyest if he's covered in dirt.

I just love the music for this scene by the way. You know that stereotypical frantic old-timey piano music when some woman tied to the railroad tracks is going to get run over? That's exactly what plays while Muttley is burying the dynamite. This cartoon doesn't just use cliches; it embraces them. Hannah-Barbera; while Warner Bros wrote the book on slapstick cliches, we certainly know how to read it!

Also, I sure hope those rocky mountain walls aren't some sort of historical landmark in Arkansas or else Dick Dastardly is basically destroying a national treasure for the sake of being an asshole to his fellow drivers.

And here's another classic gag, one that should be instantly familiar to any fan of the Roadrunner cartoons. The dynamite doesn't go off when the racers drive past it, and it only chooses to go off when Dick Dastardly is standing right over the dynamite complaining about how his trap went so horribly wrong without sensing the irony in his particular situation. Come on, we were all expecting it. What I don't get is how the dynamite is still able to go off even though nine different cars (including a giant several ton tank and a car with freaking buzzsaw wheels) ran right over it, but then again, who knows how durable bright red sticks of cartoon dynamite are.

For some reason, it's kind of fun seeing this gag just played completely straight. If there's one thing older cartoons can get right, it's cartoon violence. Nowadays, a cartoon wouldn't even think of using something like this and, if it did, it would then try to subvert it or do some sort of "Oh, look how cliche this situation is! We're pointing it out right in the dialogue! How clever!" thing that pops up all the damn time recently in modern cartoons.

And yes, standing right next to dynamite somehow doesn't reduce Dick Dastardly into a fine red mist even though that same explosion was able to cause an avalanche. It gets established pretty early that our red glove-toting madman is impervious to all forms of damage and is basically immortal as well as immoral.

Man, that dynamite made his clothes all furry and made all of his body hair disappear.
But wait, maybe Dick's plan worked after all, so all of those third degree burns he just received are all in the name of a successful venture. Pat Pending, who was just taking his sweet time getting over here, drives up to a solid wall of pure boulders and has to stop in his tracks. Dastardly gives his trademark cackle, happy that he got one of them. I'm not sure why he's happy that he can now get into 10th place instead of dead last like he normally does, but hey, he wants to make his goals manageable.

Oh thanks, Dick Dastardly. That road is the only way some of these small towns in Arkansas
can get contact from the outside world. Thanks a whole damn lot.
Unfortunately, Lady Luck does not smile upon men who wear train engineer hats, so Pat Pending isn't at all deterred by some measly boulders. Instead, he turns his car into a hot air balloon (don't ask me how; he's just that great of a scientist) and just makes his way into the lead, powered only by the speed of his own awesome. It's time for me to break out my wads of cash and start making bets over who's going to win, like the Action for Children's Television organization thinks this show makes kids do. Yes, seriously, this show got criticized for promoting gambling.

...also, I hate the fact that Pat Pending is so honest and is going to follow the road anyways, because if he has a completely working aircraft in a car race, he can basically just float over everybody while flashing the middle finger to The Red Max. 
"Yep, I'm just going to let this boulders continue blocking the road! Eat it, locals!"
In fact, Pat's vehicle is so awesome that this is where we get our first commercial break. It's kind of an awkwardly placed commercial break, because it happens right after Pat Pending turns his balloon back into a car, especially since I've grown up in an era where every cartoon had some sort of cliffhanger-y situation before fading out to commercials of Pound Puppies. My generation needed the hooks because we were filled with sugar, preservatives, and ADHD, you see. This cartoon, though, it came from a simpler time.

I also just noticed that it's nearly halfway through the episode and not once have I spotted Rufus in his Buzzwagon anywhere. And Red Max has been missing since he fell off that bridge. I'm finding their absence deeply unsettling.
Nobody likes a showoff, Pat Pending.
When we come back, we find who else but the Ant Hill Mob, hopelessly lost and their car still in great shape even though we last saw it careening down a very windy mountain road without any drivers. But hey, they got rid of the cops at least, so they don't seem to mind too much they're getting pretty close to True Grit country. Oddly, this part of the cartoon looks the most like how I'd picture Arkansas; a tree-filled place full of rocks and somehow devoid of intelligent life. And if anyone asks why I hold such disdain for Arkansas, it's because I'm on the West Coast and therefore am required to make fun of any state situated in The Bible Belt.

"Ya sure dis is where ya buried the stiffs, Clyde?"
They keep driving (and not once do they use their stupid "Getaway Power", as nature intended) until they spot a shack in the middle of nowhere. Since the mafia is too concerned about maintaining their gangster cliches in order to be savvy to horror movie cliches, the mob leader tells them to dump the car and hide out in the shack until the heat blows over. Because yeah, a house in the middle of a thick forest in the middle of Arkansas, with the only connection to the outside world being a single unpaved road. There's no way this could go wrong!

...and now I just realized that I kind of need a horror movie with this premise in my life. There's too many films where college students or drunken teenagers find a mysterious shack in the middle of the woods only to get picked off one by one by the monster; they can totally make a fresh spin on the horror genre by having the victims be a gang of mobsters. I guarantee it will kill at the box office.
Or it turns out the house is occupied by porridge eating bears. Either way, they're screwed.
Unfortunately, they're not going to take this shack idea and make it into a horror situation. Nope. Instead, they're going to go into a whole weird area and have the cartoon devolve into absolute insanity. Brace yourself, because I'm going to type one of the stupidest sentences that will ever make its way onto this site.

It turns out the Ant Hill Mob found the house of the Seven Dwarfs.

Excuse me. I'm going to repeat what I just said. The Ant Hill Mob found the house of the Seven Dwarfs. Mobsters found the house of the Seven Dwarfs. In Arkansas. The famous dwarfs in the storybook live in Arkansas of all places.

...what. WHAT. You lost me, cartoon.

Oh geez, the eye-searing pain. Take a color theory class, colorists!
The midget gangsters are just a-okay with discovering the house of some mythical creatures, probably because the famous Seven Dwarfs are often depicted as precious gem miners and are therefore just loaded with cash. But then they hear someone driving, so they decide they're going to dress up in the outfits and pretend they're the Seven Dwarfs in order to hide their identities.

Uh, cartoon? I have a question. What does this have to do with Arkansas? I was expecting like lumber mills, Little Rock, or the Mississippi River. Not criminals dressing up like fairy tale creatures. Even if I did like the little animation they do where the gang just kind of splits up and runs in multiple directions.

"If only we had some sort of gun to defend ourselves!"
Luckily, the cops don't show up (probably because that cop on the motorcycle careened off that twisty mountain road and died), but rather Penelope Pitstop, who says "Oh no, I'm lost!" in a really thick Southern drawl. I'm not a big watcher of this show, so for some reason, I always seem to forget that Penelope Pitstop has an accent.

Also, Penelope? Abandoned shack in the middle of nowhere. You probably shouldn't be driving up to it and knocking on the door. Just saying...
You know, logically, if they're really off-course and stopping at houses, they should be
disqualified from the race...
So she bursts right into the cottage (she knocks and then opens the door, rendering her knocking kind of pointless) and finds seven very ugly, mean-looking dwarfs with Chicago accents, bright purple suits, and greasy complexions. And oh god, I can't believe I'm watching this. She finds them adorable though (and they kind of are, in an ugly sort of way), and even asks them if they're really the seven dwarfs like she heard in the stories. Penelope isn't too bright, I've noticed.

I sure hope the real Seven Dwarfs don't mind that some smelly crooks stole their clothing in order to hide from the law. Even if they look just darling in those little hats.

I'm just picturing the Seven Dwarfs just slaving away for hours, making sure that
their house is the perfect shade of retina-searing orange.
Even though Penelope just kind of accepts that they're The Seven Dwarfs, the mobsters even prove that they're full of happiness and whimsy by dancing around. What then takes place just defies all known words in the English language. If there's a scene that justifies this entire episode's existence, it's definitely this scene. And now I have a new ringtone.
Pictured: Mobsters.
The gangster dwarfs, after they strut their stuff, give Penelope the wrong directions (because they're mean), and then that's when Dick Dastardly shows up, even though it makes absolutely no sense why he'd even be going down this road in the first place. All they have to do is dance a second time (reusing the piece of animation, but considering how genius it is, I just flat out don't care) and he too thinks that he's looking at real Disney celebrities here. I love how none of the racers can recognize the Ant Hill Mob just because they're dressed differently. What if it's laundry day?

Also, it's mighty convenient there were seven mobsters for seven dwarfs. It probably would've ruined the illusion if there was only six of them or if they had one guy too many and he had to prance around in his underwear.
"I hate street performers."
Dick Dastardly hates midgets, so he ruthlessly insults them and then has the gall to ask for directions.

Oh, they gave him directions alright.

They seem trustworthy enough...
This ends up with Dick stuck in a giant mud hole that's somehow bright orange. Nice coloring job there!

Looking back on the situation, it's actually kind of dark if you sit and dwell on about it. What looks like a harmless sight gag is honestly how some people die whenever there's a mud slide or if someone accidentally drives their car into mud deep enough to suck the vehicle under. And The Ant Hill Mob drives up to this giant patch of mud and laughs as two people they know are hopelessly trapped in their vehicle and are sinking at a pretty fast rate thanks to directions they gave the poor sap. There's even a long scene where Muttley laughs, delirious from the lack of oxygen, while his face disappears underneath the mud. It's pretty chilling.

Yes, we're basically watching criminals murder someone in cold blood and then drive off laughing. And they get away with it. Ladies and gentlemen, this is why The Ant Hill Mob is amazing.

Ironically, they make better villains than the show's designated villain.
But we can't dwell too much on homicide. Back to racing! Look, the racers somehow got stuck in a clover leaf, one of those road structures that I honestly only see in cartoons, in an area that doesn't look at all like the same place they were driving through earlier. That should get your mind off the fact we just saw Dick Dastardly and Muttley suffocate in mud!

Also, the looping animation for several different tracks creates the optical illusion that some of the racers somehow manifested doppelganger cars on the roads. And as a Mario Kart racer who just hated Rainbow Road in Mario Kart Wii, just looking at that clover leaf and its lack of guard rails makes me cringe.

You know what Dick Dastardly needs? A blue shell.
How did this happen? Well, turns out our loveable little scoundrel and his chuckling dog somehow defied all laws of time, space, and logic and were able to confuse the drivers by hiding the exit sign, even though we clearly saw them sink in a mud hole. What the hell, Dick Dastardly? Literally like five seconds ago, you were dying! You were incapacitated! Now you somehow got ahead of the racers and can rig the sign? How does that make sense?

Oh right. Hannah-Barbera. They never make sense. I should probably just not dwell on it too much, unless you want to hear my theory on how there are really multiple Dick Dastardlys (either clones or just insane cult members) placed at given points of every single race because of some sort of secret organization trying to put an end to the Wacky Races. Shut up, I'm totally right.

Oh geez, his chin is shaped like a boot.
...course, he demonstrates his ingenious plan by turning the sign around, thus negating his own trap. Such is the life of a cartoon villain, I guess.

And how did we go from a heavily wooded area with cottages, dwarfs, and crap to a giant metropolis with sprawling road structures? Man, Arkansas can do anything!

"You know, I could just be taking advantage of my giant lead and driving my racing vehicle over the finish line,
but I'd rather give away my entire villain scheme and look like an idiot."
After that nonsense, we get a pretty long scene with Rufus and Sawtooth where they have a major lead in front of the other guys because...I don't know really, to be honest. Don't ever try to approach this cartoon and try to make any sense of who's in front of and behind what, because you will get lost. Plus where would the fun be if, say, Pat Pending got in the lead and stayed there?

Anyways, this scene kind of defies words, because it's just so bizarre and out there. Rufus runs over some road bumps (notice how we're back at heavily wooded areas and unpaved roads again?) and the car starts to fall apart, so Sawtooth has to hammer it back together like some sort of miracle levitating beaver thing. And then he spends way too long trying to pull a nail out of a lumberjack's ass. This scene just gave me cancer.

Gentlemen, do that after the race!
Once the other racers make it back into the show and we get into the home stretch, the animators pull out all the stops and try to use as much stock footage as they can, pulling out all the different racers' gimmicks in an attempt to drum up excitement. And that means a copious use of the word "Power" in describing what each car is doing.

Again, I'm just going to point out the powers that I find extremely noteworthy, and in this segment. There's two of them. The first one is "Bat Power", used by what else but the Creepy Coupe. It involves the little vampire actually getting out of the vehicle, attaching cables to his stomach, jumping out of the car, and flapping his arms while flipping the bird to Issac Newton.

Why am I noting it? Because just picture what happens if he happens to get tired and falls to the ground. Vampires can be killed in many ways, and I'm sure getting run over at racing speeds is one of them.

...and how the hell is he handling the sunlight?

"Hey, thanks for not helping and just sitting there!"
Okay, one of the drivers getting out of his car and pulling it along by flying is sort of weird. What can possibly top that?

Allow Peter Perfect to answer that question for you.

"My rigid grill structure is bearing down on your unprotected cargo door."
But then, before any racer can get to the finish line, a train crosses the road! And it's littered with H & B signs in a bizarre attempt at brainwashing us into watching more Hannah-Barbera!

What kind of confused me is the announcer's distress at this train and the fact that now none of the racers will ever get to the finish line now. Uh, unless the train stops and sits there, it's bound to pass through eventually. Not sure why this is a problem.

Everybody`s doing a brand new dance now,
(Come on baby, do The Loco-Motion)
I know you`ll get to like it if you give it a chance now...
Oh wait, nevermind, the train's just going to stop (and what about all of that cargo that needs to be shipped?) and open up a hole big enough for all the racers to drive through, and even gives us some closure in the form of Penelope Pitstop being in the cabin, hitching a ride after she followed the mob's lousy directions. I guess that solves both those problems efficiently.

And Dick Dastardly happens to get run over by every single rider, because he was stupid enough to be on the other side of the tracks and still not take advantage of the fact that he's in the lead. Dude, seriously, the whole point of you cheating is so that you get an unfair advantage, right? So why don't you hop in your car and actually drive after you get your advantage? You had a train stop the other contestants! You had a big enough opening to cross the finish line and get first place!

Now I know what Dick Dastardly's gimmick is. He's supposed to teach the young children watching this how to swear at their TV.
I love how Rufus's reaction to a man in front of his vehicle is to drive faster. What an ass.
And, in a bizarre twist, Dick Dastardly, after getting run over by every single racer and being in dead last, is able to make it to the front. Yes, really! One moment, he's on the ground, dying from multiple bone fractures and the fact that he got run over ten times by ten different vehicles including an army tank and a car made out of splinters and death, and the next moment, he's in the front. Go figure.

But hey, at least he's actually driving instead of getting out of the vehicle and pulling out his binoculars.

In fact, he's even tied with...wait a second, Red Max? But he fell into a ravine and disappeared for most of the episode! Get back in last place where you belong, Red Max. Nobody likes you or your stupid laugh!

Now would be a good time to actually use your power-ups, guys!
It all falls down to a photo finish, and wouldn't you know it, Boring Waste of Space and his crappy red vehicle that makes children cry won. Because I guess he's sleeping with the director or something. From my viewpoint, it's radically and disgustingly unfair that a character that got one short scene in the very beginning of the episode should get the first place win. Going off of character interactions alone, The Ant Hill Mob should've won. Don't tell me they danced like the Seven Dwarfs and aren't even going to place in the Top Three, cartoon!

Although I should be happy the Creepy Coupe got second place and Rufus got third. I'm pretty sure an episode where The Red Max, those boring army guys, and The Slag Brothers all take the top three spots would be an episode devoid of all that is wholesome and good, an abomination designed to suck out the happiness out of everything.
You know what else is sad? The fact that the Arkansas Chuggabug can't even win a race in its native state.
Oh, and Dick Dastardly was disqualified because when he heard there was going to be a photo finish, he stopped his car and let his picture get taken. Hah hah, it's funny because this bad guy has multiple opportunities to win but he just craps it up for himself. 

It's kind of poetic. He loses to his own ego.
With that, we end this race and this show, closing a chapter on what it's like to watch dwarfs in Arkansas and soaking up the strange, bizarre wonder that is, in fact, Wacky Races. But before we go, let's bask in the glorious handsomeness that is Dick Dastardly.


The Moral of this Cartoon
If you come across a house in the middle of Arkansas full of little men in purple outfits, dancing around and claiming they're The Seven Dwarfs while using thick Chicago accents, call the cops.

Final Verdict

Well, okay, obviously this cartoon is outdated in several areas, but it's considered a classic for a reason.

Wacky Races is one of those shows I like to call "dated but timeless". It's kind of a oxymoron, but hear me out. This is a show that you'll instantly get everything regardless of what decade it is, but the animation instantly places it in the Hannah-Barbera age. I feel it's a great example of what was being produced in this era, and for the most part, the jokes still work.

Plus think of it this way. I was way more embarrassed rewatching He-Man than I was watching this show, which is twenty years older than He-Man. Think about that.

I like that, for a cartoon about racing, there are segments in the cartoon that aren't about the actual race. As you can tell from the beginning and the ending, just watching cars doing various gimmicks isn't very exciting, so the fact that we actually see the Ant Hill Mob getting pursued by cops or the Dick Dastardly plots is really fun. But again, it relies on how much you can stomach recycled footage, sort of formulaic plots (Dick Dastardly must always cheat), and Hannah-Barbera level physics and physical humor.

Really, you just have to approach this with the fact that it's a made-for-TV production from the 1960's. Animation has evolved since then and has no need for so much recycling, but for what it's worth, they do quite a lot with what they have. Quite a few of the characters are really fun and I really like the art design coupled with the character and vehicle designs. Hell, the fact that you can tell all the vehicles and characters apart when there's so many should speak wonders for how good this character design still reads. 

So again, like Scooby-Doo, don't expected fully inbetweened works of art that present subtle political commentary and constantly hang a lampshade on what is cartoon physics, but if you're looking for a fun way to burn 10 minutes, by all means, watch an episode. It's a great 60's show.