Saturday, January 27, 2007

Scraping the Edge of Infamy

For some unknown reason i am continually fascinated by the Hanna-Barbera characters who brush with near infamy. i have mentioned in the past that several toons from the decade of the super Saturday morning 70's, came close to becoming less a product of their era, and more a life long part of pop culture, never to be forgotton. i have talked about Jabberjaw and mentioned Captain Caveman. But one dog in particular has flirted with the notion of being forever ingrained in our memory, only, it seems he never quite rose to the occasion. i am refering to, of course, Muttley. you can see the pictures of Muttley throughout this article and no doubt feel as though you have seen him before, and you're right, you have. Only its what you have heard from him that is instantly recognizable. This dubious dog is the owner of that great weez-laden laugh with a hint of a whistle. Muttley would bust this laugh out whenever someone, be it his owner, friend or enemy, had something horrible happen to him. This dog, and his laugh, had a beginning not unlike his predesessors, but is storied and peculiar, just the same. I think of the lineage of these characters more as a related family of brothers and cousins rather than one character who went through inevitable evolutions. Think the Snoopy family...Spike and all the rest of snoopy's brothers are variations on ol' Snoop. that is how i view the Muttley clan.

This captivating K-9 started his illustrious career as Mugger, the pooch with a penchant for pouncing on his trainers arm in the 1964 movie, "Hey There, it's Yogi Bear." Mugger was owned by the traveling circus bad guys who were hauling Cindy Bear away. Mugger was basically what Muttley became, but his coat was periwinkle blue and snout a sea green. He had a bigger muzzle and an amazing set of choppers, much bigger and more vicious than Muttley ever showed. Unfortunately, i do not have a picture of Mugger; i could not find one on the internet if you can believe that.

Precious Pupp, the next "relative" in this family tree, was born for the Atom Ant portion of the "Atom Ant / Secret Squirrel Show", which brought many new character additions to H-B's stable in 1967. This dog, although not looking much like Muttley, acted like and sounded exactly like him. He did have that kind of mangy, flea-bitten, shifty eyed look, but was much taller and gangly, with a tuft of orange hair on top. you can see him in this picture below; the best picture i found came from a spanish site, hence the funky name. In 1968, the "Wacky Races" program began and of course, it needing a nefarious ne'er do-well, tapped what we currently know as Muttley and, also, they created Dick Dastardly as his master. by 1969 H-B knew these were the breakout characters of the show and spun them off into their own show "Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines." I should mention that the original D&M for this series look completely different than the stars from Wacky Races. Dastardly was this portly balding fellow while Muttley was more of a tall, short haired retriever of sorts. Not sure if they were going to be the revamped looks for the characters or what, but the concept art is clear that the "Flying Machines" show was going to have a very different set of can see the concept art below. At any rate, this spin-off solidified their place in H-B lore as the go-to villains for a lot of upcoming projects for years to come and merchandising was beginning to come out with these charactes. This show also squared up Muttley's character profile, giving him abilities and a more fleshed out manner that would become his signature stylings, such as the spinning tail that allowed him to fly.

Suddenly the 70's were upon us and Muttley had taken almost a 10 year break Only to return to our TV screens as Mumbly, a light blue dectective in an orange trenchcoat with the distinctive laugh. Undoubtedly supposed to emulate Columbo and his "mumbling" way of speaking, this dog, now a crime fighter who still seemed to have a shady snarky mean streak, was surly and reignited the Muttley legacy.

Mumbly's Dick Dastardly counterpart / update (you knew it had to happen) showed up in "Laff-A-Lympics" as Dread Baron, and both of them showed up in various other toons through the years most notably in "Yogi's Treasure Hunt."

Another more distant "relative", was Sludge. Really this character with his master Phantom Phink is only worth mentioning because for the first time in a long time, H-B decided not to use Dick and Mutt for their primary recurring villains in the "Yogi's Space Race" cartoon of 1978. this is really more of a footnote, so take it as you wish.

In the 90's when the Warner Bros. Studio Store was around, the classic and the most famous incarnation of Muttley with flight goggles and aeronautical scarf showed up in many forms; stuffed animal, embroidered shirts, keychains, Beanie toy. it seemed as though he finally made it into the big time with the pièce de résistance being a 2 foot statue that i believe was referred to as a "floor decoration." they made one of Scooby Doo too; those were the only two made, and at the time Scooby was really becoming immortalized for the new generation. Do you get what i am saying? the 2 characters made into these very rare and weird collectibles were Scooby Doo and...MUTTLEY?!?!?!? Not Huck Hound or Dino, or Yogi, or Fred Flintstone...MUTTLEY!!!

At any rate, Muttley Continues to be that fringe cult classic character that people have some sort of reccolection of and has skimmed the line between obscurity and infamy for many years and is still waiting for complete recognition. he is also waiting for someone to decide if he is green, or mustard colored.

Hey look, here he is as a costumed character!!! sure sign of infamy huh?

No comments: