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Adam Ignatov
Adam Ignatov

Wacky Races

Attempting to foil the racers' efforts were the show's resident villains Dick Dastardly and his canine sidekick, Muttley. Dastardly would usually gain a large lead, then execute all sorts of elaborate schemes to trap, divert, blow up or stop the other racers, only to see them backfire spectacularly. The intended object lesson may have been that Dastardly might have easily won several races had he only kept his mind on the race and off dirty tricks. The Mean Machine was arguably the fastest car in the series, as evidenced by Dastardly's repeatedly zooming to a stunning lead from far behind. Like Wile E. Coyote, Dastardly never saw victory, although on one occasion he did cross the finish line first only to be disqualified when the judges reviewed the video replay, revealing that Dastardly had cheated by extending the tip of his car. Many of Dastardly's plots look similar to those used in Road Runner cartoons, perhaps because Mike Maltese was a scriptwriter on both series.

Wacky Races

One of the original plans for the series was that the races themselves would be part of a live-action quiz show with Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley Productions, the team behind the television series Hollywood Squares. Heatter-Quigley's plan was that contestants would actually bet on which Wacky Racer would cross the finish line first. Although the game show concept was eventually scrubbed, the series still retained a Hanna-Barbera Heatter-Quigley dual production credit.

Yes, that does mean you can crew a Vehicle after your opponent declares an attack and block them from completing a lap. After all, cutting your opponent off seconds from the checkered flag is one of the most dastardly pleasures one can find on the whole wacky racetrack!

One of the unused plans for the series was that the races were to be part of a live-action game show in which real contestants would bet on which of the Wacky Racers would finish first. Although the game show concept was eventually scrapped, the series still retained a dual production credit of Hanna-Barbera and Heatter-Quigley (Merrill Heatter and Robert Quigley, who at the time were known for creating and producing other game shows including The Hollywood Squares, and future hits including High Rollers and Gambit (later reworked into Catch 21).

Wacky Races is an American animated television series produced by Hanna-Barbera. The series, inspired by the 1965 slapstick comedy film The Great Race, features 11 different cars racing against each other in various road rallies throughout North America, with each driver hoping to win the title of the "World's Wackiest Racer." Wacky Races ran on CBS from September 14, 1968, to January 4, 1969. Seventeen episodes were produced, with each episode featuring two different races.

Parents need to know that Wacky Races is a reboot of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon from the late 1960s, notably unhampered by the gender and socioeconomic stereotypes of the original. The show boasts much physical humor, a lot of which lands the characters on the sidelines of their races because of injuries from explosions, collisions, and falls. The resident villain sometimes resorts to sabotage rather than relying on hard work and determination to win, but he rarely wins by cheating. These high-stakes races are lots of fun for kids and true enough to the original series that parents who watched them won't lament the renovation.

This cartoon is a highly entertaining new take on a classic show, keeping the best qualities of the trademark Hanna-Barbera action but losing the gender and cultural stereotypes that stand out for negative reasons today. Like the oldie, the appeal is in the creative vehicle designs inspired by the kooky drivers' identities, and in the preposterous predicaments the races present. A welcome addition is the on-screen presence of the announcer, Brick Crashman (Christopher Judge), who commentates the highs and lows along the way from mobile announcer's desks.

Wacky Races isn't a show that will teach kids anything about, well, anything, but it's mostly harmless fun. You can draw some talking points from how it presents competition (Is it friendly? Are the races fair? How do racers handle loss?) and from what Dastardly's experiences suggest about the reliability of cheating your way to success.

If you've seen the original series, compare how it presents its characters to how this one does. Was any of the original content offensive? Were the races any more or less imaginative? Overall, would you consider this a successful reboot?

In Real Life, the racing of any kind of vehicle is very dangerous, and many people have died or suffered serious injury while doing so. Things have gotten better, but it is still a potentially deadly sport truly only kept in the reins of safety by the skill of the drivers. However, there is also the fact that in real life, except for off-road rallies and endurance races, most races simply involve going from point A to point B, or driving in a circle for 500 or so laps. Because of this, writers tend to spice things up a bit. The result is a Wacky Race, a race so improbable, so outrageous, so dangerous, that it makes Pikes Peak look like a Sunday drive.

  • Live-Action TV Curfew takes place in a dystopian England (and Scotland) both run by a totalitarian government and overrun with mutant monsters. The race featured within turns a blind eye to physical conflict between teams but doesn't enforce it either. It also takes place at night when the monsters are active. The list of vehicles involved note ambulance, Volvo wagon, Volkswagen van, etc. looks more at home in Twisted Metal than Gran Turismo. One character even refers to the event as the Wacky Races.

  • Gekisou Sentai Carranger and to a lesser extent Engine Sentai Go-onger combine this trope with Super Sentai, which is already pretty damn wacky.

  • The Goodies did this in "The Race" when they enter the Le Mans 24 Hour race, despite not knowing how to drive. Ultimately they end up driving their office in the race.

  • House, M.D. of all places. House, Cuddy, Wilson, and Sam at the Go-Kart. Sam makes a point of driving her opponents off the road; House stops her car by disconnecting a power line with his cane. Complete with holocaust allusions on Cuddy's part and Evil Laugh on House's part.

  • The Sooty Show, with Justin Lee Collins as the requisite cheating villain Fred Firewheel complete with "Drat! And double drat!" Shout-Out.

  • Top Gear: One of the show's favorite features, to say the least. One thing they love to do is race cars against things that cars usually don't compete with. For example, the Bugatti Veyron (1000 bhp supercar) vs. Eurofighter Typhoon (top-rated fighter jet) in a drag race (vertical vs. horizontal), Mazda M-5 vs. a greyhound (the dog, not the bus), compact car vs. Le Parkour, Historic People Carrier/Motorhome/Passenger Bus/Airport Vehicle Racing, a rally car on ice vs. bobsledders (and later a second Rally car vs a skeleton luge), and so on. The amazing thing about the Bugatti Veyron race was not that the Bugatti lost, but that it lost by only four seconds.

  • Relatedly, they often race cars vs. various forms of mass transit, such as trains or (if geography allows) boats. While theoretically useful for commuters, these races tend to be carried to such extremes as to provide little practical information.

  • The double-decker car racing, depicted above. The catch is simple: you sit above, your partner sits below. You have the steering, he has the acceleration. The first race of this type pitted England vs. Germany. The same challenge was repeated in the Ashes Special, against the Top Gear Australia hosts. Except the steering car has been turned upside down, but only for the Australian team.

  • Racing "the post." They basically raced against an abstract concept. And lost. Ostensibly, they were racing a relay team; mail boat takes the letter from the island to the mainland, where a series of planes and trucks carry it further until it reaches the local post office where a dude comes round and delivers it.

  • Clarkson actually dared race against God. Well, technically, he attempted to drive across England in one night from west to east before the sun could rise. And he also won.

  • Richard Hammond has held several rally races using a strange selection of vehicles, all with various Touring Car champions as competitors, to determine which one is the fastest within that set, and all of them inevitably wind up like this. We've had caravans, buses, airport vehicles, international taxis and movie-set vehicles.

  • Top Gear (US) had gas-guzzling super-tuned mountain car vs. a pro kayaker down a mountain.

  • Tabletop Games Believe it or not, there are some actual illegal street racing circuits using Humongous Mecha in BattleTech. Fans have taken note of this, and put together some incredibly silly races as a result. It's doubly hilarious because the game's unforgiving skidding rules are friends to none, and this leads to several Cicada-shaped dents in the enclosure walls.

  • The Car Wars boardgame by Steve Jackson Games. It's 20 Minutes into the Future and the aftermath of a nuclear war and everyone drives around in cars with machine guns and lasers and the like. Sometimes there are races, but other times the drivers just blow seven bells out of each other's vehicles in an arena or on the road.

  • Crash Pandas, a one-page Tabletop RPG, has the players play as a group of raccoons trying to make it on the LA street racing circuit.

  • One of the settings written for d20 Modern (published in Polyhedron Magazine) was "Thunderball Rally", which revolved around the eponymous secret cross-country race. The writers made perfectly clear in the notes that, aside from a few twists added to make it more action-driven (one of the race's sponsors is The Mafia and they really don't like blabbers, for example), the setting is a huge homage to The Cannonball Run.

  • Perfectly understandable in Gaslands, given the available sponsors: an arms dealer, a prison warden, a Japanese courier company, a Russian mad scientist, a cult of speed, and a woman who rules Australia from her new capital city, Anarchy. The Time Extended supplements for the first edition made it worse, allowing for lone lawmen and a sponsor whose teams were themed after Hollywood golden-age pirates. Reloaded (the second edition) adds a builder of Frankencars, a sponsor specializing in 'ballet on wheels', pyromaniac cultists, a ghost car, and swerving bootleggers.

  • GURPS Autoduel, an extention of the Car Wars concept into a roleplaying game.

  • "EcksEcksEcksEcksian Cart Wars" in GURPS Discworld Also. A low-tech parody of GURPS Autoduel combined with the Mad Max sequence in The Last Continent, and an experiment in seeing how far the GURPS Vehicles rules could be pushed before they broke. Pretty far, it turns out.

  • "The Widening Gyre" (for 6th edition Hero System). The sample adventure included in the book is not only a steampunk Wacky Race, but several of the NPC racers are Shout-Outs to the Wacky Races racers.

  • "CarToon Wars" in Toon Tooniversal Tour Guide. Another Steve Jackson parody of their own project, this one even more like Wacky Races than the others since it's set in a cartoon universe.

  • Steampunk Rally is basically Wacky Races, but it stars famous historical figures (and Doctor Emmet Brown), and every Invention (the vehicle) is The Alleged Car, and half the game is keeping your bastardized homunculus of a vehicle intact.



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