Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines: Catch the Pigeon!

Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines-min

Here was a childhood obsession for us (another one). Starring a carrer pigeon, Dastardly, and Muttley, and some aeroplanes, boy did we have it on VHS and watch it over and over.

And why!? Because it was a lot of fun. And kids like fun! But there’s something about this one show (and the confusion about its name) that make it extra special. Let’s explore it today with some pigeon-based reminiscing.

What’s Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines?

It’s a spin-off from Wacky Races and it ran from 1969-1970.

The show features the exploits of Dastardly (voiced by Paul Winchell) and his dog Muttley (Don Messick) as they attempt to catch Yankee Doodle Pigeon.

They’re also joined by bumbling aviators Klunk and Zilly (also voiced by Messick).

Their various efforts are constantly thwarted by the hyper-intelligent carrier bird, who revels in their misery.

Not that Muttley cares. A mischievous character, he doesn’t exactly seem to be on Dastardly’s side.

And voice actor Messick also created this glorious wheezing laugh for him.

Now… *deep breath*. For the last 30 years or so we thought this series was called Catch the Pigeon. It isn’t.

Whilst researching the show and reminiscing about it, the first thing we came across was a lack of a mention to a bird in the title.

Confused, we went off and then found out what its real name is. Confounding!

Erm… why isn’t it called Catch the Pigeon? This was quite a shock for us. Let’s explore this matter with utmost urgency!

It’s Not Called Catch the Pigeon?

No, it isn’t. It’s called Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines (or just Dastardly and Muttley here in the UK).

You can understand why our childish minds would have thought otherwise. From the intro sequence, Dastardly yells the phrase over and over.

We looked it up online and plenty of other people have the same issue, convinced it’s called Catch the Pigeon (or Stop the Pigeon).

False memory (the Mandela effect) is one thing we can attribute that to. Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud investigated the concept.

Well, psychoanalysis or not we think this is an outrage! Decades of lies! Still, at least the show was good fun.

What Was Dastardly and Muttley About?

Over 17 episodes, the dastardly duo attempt to catch/stop a carrier pigeon.

As part of the Vulture Squadron, they want to ensure the bird doesn’t deliver essential messages to the opposition.

That bit isn’t clear, but even as kids we presumed the series was set in a World War. It’s just not mentioned very much.

However, Dastardly has to deal with “the General”, who calls the aviator’s base and roars furiously into the phone if he doesn’t have the bird yet.

Dastardly also has that moustache twiddling, fighter pilot look about him.

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera created the series. The former was also responsible for directing. Larz Bourne, Dalton Sandifer, and Michael Maltese wrote the episodes.

Each episode invents some crazy new way for the pilots to try and outwit the pigeon. And, inevitably, every time they end up losing badly.

To which Dastardly usually announces, “Drat and double drat!” Here they are trying to catch the pigeon with an anvil concept.

So, the show emphasis their ingenuity. They often create some of the most absurd (borderline genius) ways to get hold of the pigeon.

Yet due to various foibles (and the bird’s higher intelligence), they’re typically left in a heap amongst the destruction of their contraptions.

And then Muttley does his wheezing laugh. Or looks apologetic for making an error.

For us as kids, we maniacally watched it over and over. We obsessed about it. That was the early ’90s, no doubt.

But as far as we’re aware, in that sort of disappeared off TV. Or we lost our VHS copies. Or we matured enough to make the cultural leap to Garfield and Danger Mouse.

Back in 1969, though, the show followed directly after Wacky Races. That ran in America (and across the world afterwards) with much success in 1968.

There was a reboot of it in 2017 and the show and its characters continue to enjoy a cult following.

But Catch the Pigeon (or whatever the title is) has become lesser known. And invariably forgotten. Which is a shame. It was good fun.


  1. Wow! I totally forgot about this series, yet I could hear Muttley’s laugh before it showed on the video – so the memory is there. It’s slight but I remember that laugh, and Dastardly’s lovely stasche.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An absolute gem, and, along with Hair Bear Bunch proof positive that everyone at HB in the late 60s and early 70s must have been totally off their trolleys on bonne merde.

    Interestingly enough, it wasn’t the only Wacky Races spin-off – remember “Perils of Penelope Pitstop”? – Frankie Goes To Hollywood certainly did… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, it doesn’t strike me as the most conservative show in history. Looking at Wacky Races’ intro and the psychedelia overload is remarkable.

      I do remember, vaguely, the Penelope Pitstop one. And Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I didn’t know that song had a nod to her. I have learned much during the research (and aftermath) of Catch the Pige… Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines.

      Big title, really, they should have just gone all out for Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines Try to Catch/Stop a Carrier Pigeon.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Frankie GTH thing was in “The Power of Love”, which IIRC was spoken at the beginning as well as sung somewhere in the song, too – “I’ll protect you from the Hooded Claw…”, who was of course the villain in Penelope Pitstop.

        Just remembered another HB “what were they on??!!” ‘toon that very few seem to remember – “The Great Grape Ape Show”. Makes Hong Kong Phooey look like a National Geographical documentary about owls…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t remember this series, though I watched a LOT of ‘Wacky Races’ as a kid and can still bring to mind that Muttley snicker. Yeah, he wasn’t EXACTLY on Dick Dastardly’s side, was he. One thing I never found out until much later was the full name of the anti-hero. Of course, Richard Milhous Dastardly would have gone over my head anyway when I first saw it…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Muttley was a mischievous fiend! The thing I realised yesterday is how exhausting trying to do the snicker is. It’s a skill you can’t learn.

      Do you know Muttley’s full name? Or is it just Muttley? *snicker*


  4. Thanks for the memories, P.M.! I think you’re probably around a couple of decades younger than I am from what you write, but it’s good that you can share those memories despite not being of the requisite sort of age, as I was, at the time of “D & M’s” original showing on the telly.

    With the ‘French Connection’ that ultimately led to my blogging at ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ and ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ I became very familiar with not only the Pop scene of France of the 1970s but also the wider Pop Culture, including TV. There was a trail-blazing interactive show first entitled «La Une est à vous», then later becoming «Samedi est à vous», created by the televisual genius behind «Jeux sans frontières», Guy Lux, presented by the late Bernard Golay whereby the mostly young viewers were given a chance, by phoning in, of determining what was to be broadcast during the Saturday afternoon schedule with there being various categories of TV show, including cartoons. In amongst the cartoons section was ‘D & M’, only known to the French as «Satanas et Diabolo», which doesn’t take a lot of translation! ‘Wacky Races’ also featured in the interactive schedule, entitled, in French «Les fous du volant» (‘The Crazies Of The Steering Wheel’).

    There certainly wasn’t anything like «La Une est à vous»/«Samedi est à vous» on British telly at the time so the French were ahead of the curve there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m 38, yeah, but this show I watched relentlessly in the early ’90s. I must say my knowledge of French TV is non-existent, sadly, but I am fascinated by the ’70s (being the decade and generation just before me) so I shall have a research of those.

      That’s the great thing about the internet, YouTube etc. Plenty of viewing opportunities on there! I just won’t understand them *ahem*.


      • So I wasn’t too far out then! That makes you a little younger even than I thought.

        It was quite a revelation delving into the televisual landscape of France in the 1970s and shortly beforehand, since it appears to be an even greater ‘Golden Age’ of cult TV than we had at the time and reveals a couple of ‘Golden Couples’ in Danièle Gilbert and Jacques Martin, the co-hosts, long before our ‘Pebble Mill At One’, of «Midi Magazine», who were briefly in a personal relationship with each other and Bernard Golay and Sophie Darel, the latter of whom co-hosted a Pop music programme entitled «Cadet Rousselle» with Guy Lux, that would have been on French telly half-a-century ago.

        There’s another one of those Carene Cheryl/Valérie Čižmárová connections going on with «Samedi est à vous» because it was one of the former’s appearances on the show, performing «Samedi, dimanche et fêtes» (‘Saturday, Sunday And Holidays’) that occurred on the same day (12th June 1976) as when the latter appeared on what could be called a touring celebrity comedy game show entitled ‘Vtipnejší vyhráva’ (‘The Wittiest Wins’) that went around works clubs in the Slovak part of the former Czechoslovakia, on that day at the works club of Slovenské lučobné závody š.p in Hnúšťa. The other connection is that «Samedi, dimanche et fêtes» had Carene’s French-language cover of ABBA’s ‘Mamma Mia’, «Oh! Mamma mia!»/«Oh! Mama mia!» as its B-Side while one of the songs Valérie Čižmárová performed on ‘Vtipnejší vyhráva’, ‘Jeho laskominy’ (‘His Treats’) happened to be an ABBA cover itself, specifically of ‘So Long’, perhaps an overlooked ABBA song here in the UK.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah I’m kind of getting to grips with the passage of time now, being able to remember stuff in the moment from 20 years ago.

          The BBC used to destroy a lot of its footage, so lots of things from the ’50s and ’60s are lost. At the time irrelevant, now precious archival footage! Gone!

          I’ve been checking out Manchester’s history for TV stuffs and was surprised to find all sorts. Probably not as varied as French TV was, though.


          • It is quite a tragedy just how much has simply disappeared into the ether. Since Valérie Čižmárová did a cover of Crackers’ ‘When Jo Jo Runs’ – as ‘Oči nelžou’ (‘Eyes Don’t Lie’) – which I think must only have been performed once on the telly on the Manchester-produced ‘Lift Off With Ayshea’ (14th June 1972), most of which has been (accidentally) wiped I’ll probably never get to see the only televised performance of the song that inspired one of Valinka’s greatest recordings, without which I’d have not known a thing about Crackers or ‘When Jo Jo Runs’! There are a few references at ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ to that ‘Lift Off With Ayshea’ edition, including one on the ‘Golden Anniversary’.

            It appears that I’ve been rather under-selling «Cadet Rousselle» as just a ‘Pop music show’ since I’ve been looking into some fascinating stuff on the show at the INA.fr site – which is a wonderful curation of French televisual archives! – and it transpires that, like «La Une est à vous»/«Samedi est à vous», it was an interactive show where songs were voted for by the public and the results were compiled by computer and there was a special vote by – and I kid you not – electricity consumption, voters voting literally by switching lights on and off! This is 1971 we are talking about!

            Furthermore, it went out on the second channel on Tuesday evenings, but looking at clips of it one would have sworn that it was a first channel, Saturday evening kind of show. For instance, I’ve been checking out Carene’s/Karen’s/Isabelle’s musical hero Claude François’ performance of a French-language cover of The Four Tops’ ‘It’s The Same Old Song’, «C’est la même chanson» on the show dated 20th June 1972 complete with teenage girls rushing onto the stage. I can’t imagine anything on a Tuesday evening on BBC Two having that effect!

            It brings it into sharp focus that Detroit, if one spells it Détroit (literally, ‘the strait’), is a French city!

            Liked by 1 person

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