Dastardly and Muttley and the flying machines

Dastardly and Muttley and the flying machines

Dastardly and Muttley and the Flying Machines, also known as “The Vulture Squadron”, represents one of the most beloved cartoons of the late '60s. Produced by the famous production company Hanna-Barbera, this cartoon has marked the history of animation with its unmistakable style and captivating stories.

The series, originally broadcast as a Saturday morning cartoon, made its debut in the United States on CBS from September 13, 1969 and ended on January 3, 1970, totaling 33 episodes divided into one season. In Italy, however, fans have been able to enjoy the adventures of these characters starting from 6 October 1972, thanks to the broadcast on Rai 1.

The heart of the plot revolves around the daring adventures of Dick Dastardly and his faithful four-legged friend, Muttley. The two are engaged in the constant hunt for Yankee Doodle Pigeon, a carrier pigeon that carries secret messages. The main mission? Catch the pigeon, as also suggested by the musical theme of the program "Stop the Pigeon". This title, in fact, refers to the film and the song “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines”, and was initially intended to be the working title of the series, namely “Stop That Pigeon”.

A distinctive element of the series is the soundtrack. The catchy and lively theme song, composed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, has a chorus that repeats the phrase “Stop the pigeon” seven times in a row, and is based on the jazz standard “Tiger Rag”.

The uniqueness of “Dastardly and Muttley and the Flying Machines” doesn't stop at its plot or soundtrack, but also extends to its cast. Although the cartoon features a myriad of characters, only two voice actors provided voices for the entire series: Paul Winchell, who brought Dick Dastardly, the General (heard only indistinctly), and other characters to life; and Don Messick, who played Muttley, Klunk, Zilly and many others.

For those who are new to this cartoon, each episode is a surprise: it is divided into two segments dedicated to Dastardly and Muttley, a segment called "Magnificent Muttley" - where Muttley lives out Walter Mitty fantasies - and two or three segments of "Wing Dings”, small comic sketches inserted to break up longer stories and offer a light break.

The Story of Dastardly and Muttley and the Flying Machines

The adventures of Dick Dastardly and his faithful assistant Muttley, characters already known in "Wacky Races", return in a new context: that of aviation during the First World War. In “Dastardly and Muttley and the Flying Machines,” these two villains relentlessly try to capture Yankee Doodle Pigeon, a carrier pigeon with a very special mission: to deliver top-secret messages to an opposing army.


Led by Dick Dastardly, the Vulture Squadron is made up of characters with markedly different personalities. There's Muttley, who with his spinning tail always manages to find a way out when things get complicated. But one cannot fail to mention his continuous desire for medals, a symbol of his commitment to the missions, so much so that he repeated his catchphrase: "Give me the medal, medal, medal".

Klunk is the on-board engineer, the creative mind behind the absurd flying machines and bizarre traps designed to capture the pigeon. Despite his brilliance, he has an incomprehensible way of expressing himself, made up of gibberish and grimaces, and it is often Zilly, the fearful pilot of the squadron, who interprets for him.

Zilly, for her part, is a character characterized by strong anxiety and fears. Despite his skills as a pilot, he often takes refuge in his trench coat, conjuring up the image of a turtle retreating into his shell.

The plot of the episodes follows a similar structure: The Vulture Squadron tries in every way to stop Yankee Doodle Pigeon. It often starts with Zilly trying to escape, Muttley retrieving him, and Klunk presenting his new plan. However, these plans are never without flaws and often end disastrously for the squadron.

A character who never appears, but who makes his presence felt is the General, who frequently contacts Dastardly on the phone, expressing his disappointment at the constant failed missions.

Furthermore, the series also offers segments such as "Magnificent Muttley", where Muttley, the main protagonist, imagines himself in various adventurous situations, with Dastardly in the role of antagonist. These episodes, which run about three minutes, also include cameos from Dastardly's car from "Wacky Races," as shown in the segments "The Marvelous Muttdini" and "Admiral Bird Dog."

Data Sheet

  • Original title: Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines
  • Original language: English
  • Country of Production: United States
  • Directed by: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera
  • Production: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, with Alex Lovy as producing partner
  • Film script: Larz Bourne, Dalton Sandifer, Michael Maltese
  • Music: Ted Nichols
  • Production studio: Hanna-Barbera
  • Original broadcast network: CBS
  • First broadcast: From 20 September 1969 to 10 January 1970
  • Number of episodes: 17 (complete series)
  • Report: 4:3
  • Duration of each episode: 22 minutes

Data on Italian broadcast:

  • Transmission network: Rai 1
  • First Italian broadcast: 6 October 1972
  • Number of episodes in Italian: 34 (complete series)
  • Dubbing studio: CDC
  • Gender: Comedy

Gianluigi Piludu

Author of articles, illustrator and graphic designer of the website www.cartonionline.com