The working title of ‘Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines’ was ‘Stop that Pigeon!’ That would make sense as the show’s theme was ‘Stop That Pigeon’ crooned in kind of a sing/speak by that noted vocalist Paul Winchell, in character as Dick Dastardly.
Let’s face it. Yankee Doodle Pigeon isn’t really a character. He’s a plot device. He serves the same purpose as the Roadrunner or Tweety at Warner Bros. Dastardly and Muttley serve the same purpose as Wile E. Coyote or Sylvester. They fail. That’s what the show is about and that’s what the gags are built around. And, tossed in for good measure, are some already old Hanna-Barbera standbys—a snickering dog, and a dog that has to be bribed with something (medals, as opposed to Snuffles’ dog biscuits).
But it appears the show started out with the pigeon as the main character before somebody realised Muttley and Dastardly were hugely popular and it was imperative to move them from ‘Wacky Races’ to their own animated profit-centre. I never asked Jerry Eisenberg about this, and Jerry enjoyed working on this show, because it falls outside the purview of this blog. But I bring it up because the Van Eaton Gallery was selling the art you see below by Iwao Takamoto (as I understand it). Not only is Yankee Doodle Pigeon far more attractive than he ever ended up on screen, Iwao imbues him with some personality that was virtually absent from the Muttley cartoon series.
A lot of good people worked on ‘Dastardly and Muttley.’ Mike Maltese wrote some of the segments, old hands Ken Muse, Carlo Vinci, Ed Barge and Jerry Hathcock were among the animators and Ed Benedict was one of the layout guys. But, unfortunately, the gags were starting to wear around the edges, catchphrases were run into the ground, and the animation is a lot stiffer and less interesting than what the studio produced in my favourite era—when Huck and Quick Draw were the studio’s money-makers. Still, the drawings above give a hint the show could have gone in a different, and maybe a little more satisfying, direction.