When the subject of classic cartoons comes up, what usually comes to people’s minds? The majority of the time its either Is it Disney with the Mickey Mouse mascot? Perhaps it’s those vintage Warner Brother episodes starring that rascal rabbit with the nasal Brooklyn accent, Bugs Bunny. Better yet, about those guys at Hanna Barbera?
Hanna Barbera actually has made such an impact on 20th century pop culture than what they get credit for. Since 1957, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera’s animation company has churned out cartoon after cartoon. The first cartoon that was created was The Ruff and Reddy Show, followed by Huckleberry Hound in 1958. The most famous characters from that company are (of course) Fred Flintstone, the over worked passive-aggressive George Jetson and that stoner dog Scooby Doo. They also created cult faves such as The Banana Splits and Space Ghost. They were the hippest of the hip, creating yummy bubblegum fare like Josie and the Pussycats. Hanna Barbera remands strong to this very day despite the passing of one of the co-founders Bill Hanna on March 22nd, 2001. Dexter’s Lab or Johnny Bravo anyone?
Scooby-Doo sidenote: Shaggy just had to be a pothead! I mean c’mon! Why was he always hungry all the time? Does the word "munchies" mean anything to you? And we ALL know what sexual orientation Thelma was!
However, I’m here to pay tribute to one of my all time favorite cartoon characters. The heyday of this particular one was during the late 1960’s and 1970’s. This one didn’t talk too much for he was better known for his under handed snicker. While he wasn’t the most handsome, his characteristics made him stand out above the rest. Originally cast as a sidekick, he always stole the show.
The conniving canine’s TV debut was September 14th 1968. It was part of a Saturday morning line-up with a show titled "Wacky Races". He was Dick Dastardly’s partner in crime, as those two schemed up ways to win this "Wacky Race". Despite of all the ludicrous buzzing, Dick and Muttley always managed to get defeated. Being the bad losers that Dick and Muttley were, you heard echoes of "Drat drat and double drat!"
Dick Dastardly and Muttley became so popular that in the following year on September 13,1969, they received a spin off of their own titled “Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines”. In that one they were hot on the heels of a good-doer carrier pigeon whose name was “Yankee Doodle Pigeon.” Yankee was always a mission for Uncle Sam. Mr. Dastardly and Muttley’s mission was to stop that damn bird. Somehow the pigeon never seem to have trouble delvering those precious messages. Klunk and Zilly weren’t much help either. Supposedly there was another spin-off from 1985 also starring the stumbling twosome entitled "Yogi's Treasure Trail".
I mean, how can one not love Muttley? Okay, so he was bad to the bone, but at least he adorable. Those big brown puppy dog eyes sure came in handy. Besides, any plans that Dick or Muttley had never fully materialized. Muttley had that cute underbite, which resembled upside down fangs. It didn’t help that he had bad posture with a protruding potbelly. Muttley probably ate whatever junk food he could get his dirty paws on as he never took the time to go see a proper dentist. No doubt that he was more or less consumed with Dick Dastardly’s dysfunctional diversions.
What made Muttley a cut above the rest was his memorable snicker. That snicker hasn’t been duplicated since. Muttley wasn’t much for a lot of dialogue, with the exception of “yeah-yeah-yeah” or his low pitched series of curses. The mannerisms capped off the snidely laugh with either his shoulders slouching more than usual, or with his hairy mitts covering his mouth (but not very successful covering his tracks) It was definitely his way of enjoying the pleasures of nastiness that will always delight fans everywhere.
You can sometimes catch the magliant Muttley on the Cartoon Network. Also, if you own either the Nintendo GameBoy/GameBoy Advance, Sony Playstation/Playstation II, or the now defunct Sega Dreamcast, you can play your own Wacky Races! It features the entire WR cast among others, the prissy Penelope Pitstop, the primitive Slag Brothers or the pre-Goth Creepy Coupe. Most important, it features Dick Dastardly and Muttley in The Mean Machine. It’s been out for a while but it’s bound to pop up used in one of those video game chain stores.
Even though Muttley wasn’t always such the perfect pooch, he remains one of the best known and loved cartoon villains. His sneaky dog days are fondly remembered with various generations ranging from the late 1960’s to the mid-1980’s. That alone is worth a sinister snicker.