The series' title card
|Directed by||Charles A. Nichols|
|Voices of||Mel Blanc
Phil Luther Jr.
|Theme music composer||Hoyt Curtin|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||16|
|Executive producer(s)||William Hanna
Art Scott (associate)
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Hanna-Barbera Productions|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original release||September 8– December 22, 1973|
Speed Buggy is an American animated television series, produced by Hanna-Barbera, which originally aired for one season on CBS from September 8, 1973 to December 22, 1973. With the voices of Mel Blanc, Michael Bell, Arlene Golonka and Phil Luther Jr., the show follows an orange dune buggy who, alongside teenagers Debbie, Mark, and Tinker, solves mysteries while participating in racing competitions around the world. The series was produced by Iwao Takamoto and executively produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions. It was distributed by Warner Bros. Television Distribution and directed by Charles A. Nichols.
The series was originally developed under the working titles Speed Bug and Speed Buggs before it was settled as Speed Buggy. Takamoto was less involved with the series due to the trust he had for storyboard and animation artists Bob Singer. The concept for the show was inspired by the 1968 Walt Disney Pictures film The Love Bug and the Speed Racer anime franchise. Several of the storylines and plots originated on Hanna-Barbera's other animated series Josie & the Pussycats.
Speed Buggy lasted for one season with a total of sixteen episodes. Despite its short run, it was broadcast on the Big Three television networks years after its original run as the channels had purchased syndication rights. It was speculated that the series acquired a fan base due to its frequent rotation on American television. Critical response to Speed Buggy was generally positive; some critics enjoyed its shared themes with Josie & the Pussycats and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, while others found it unmemorable and overly repetitive. It has since been released on DVD as part of Warner Bros.' Archive Collection on a four disc set.
Set in an assortment of locations around the world, the series follows three teenagers (Mark, Debbie, and Tinker) and a talking dune buggy as they partake in various adventures. Speed Buggy, the dune buggy, was designed by Tinker and participates in racing competitions in order to collect "winner's trophies". During their travels, the crew often defeats villains and crooks in order to save the world, such as diamond thieves, car-obsessed doctors, and evil pirates. Known as the "Speed Buggs", the group of three teenagers is able to activate Speed Buggy through the use of a portable walkie-talkie. Several episodes in the series feature reworked versions of storylines from Hanna-Barbera's own Josie & the Pussycats.
The series features the following four main characters throughout its run:
- Mel Blanc as Speed Buggy, an orange dune buggy nicknamed "Speedy" who has the ability to talk and solve mysteries. His headlights and front grille serve as his eyes and mouth, respectively. He served as the "wacky hero" of the series with St. Bernard-like qualities. Blanc's frequent work as a voice actor with Hanna-Barbera landed him the position. His voice was similar to the Maxwell automobile he portrayed on the radio series The Jack Benny Program.
- Michael Bell as Mark, a teenager and the designated "brain" of the group. Mark was one of Bell's first voice roles, with his only other credits at the time being for The Houndcats and The New Scooby-Doo Movies.
- Arlene Golonka as Debbie, the pretty-faced female among the crew. Marking Golonka's first role as a voice actress, she had only previously acted on various series such as The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D..
- Phil Luther Jr. as Tinker, a teenage mechanic who is Speed Buggy's designated driver.
Production and creation
Speed Buggy was developed with the working titles Speed Bug and Speed Buggs. The show's concept was partly inspired by the 1968 Walt Disney Pictures film The Love Bug and the Japanese Speed Racer franchise. It was hinted by author David Hofstede that the "Chugga-Boom" vehicle in Hanna-Barbera's The Perils of Penelope Pitstop served as a prototype for the vehicle in Speed Buggy. Executively produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera's Hanna-Barbera Productions, Charles A. Nichols served as the director and Art Scott was the associate producer. Iwao Takamoto, the main producer, expressed in his posthumous 2009 autobiography that the creation of Speed Buggy occurred due to the success of his other productions Josie & the Pussycats and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!. He wrote that his participation in the series was partly because he enjoyed getting "[his] hands on a show whenever [he] felt it was necessary", but was overall less involved than necessary due to his trust with Bob Singer, an animation artist for Hanna-Barbera productions.
Jack Mendelshon and Chuck Menville were the two head writers for the episodes. Several other writers contributed to the series, including Lars Bourne, Len Janson, Joel Kane, Jack Kaplan, Woody Kling, Norman Maurer, and Larry Rhine. The main title theme for Speed Buggy was copyrighted in November 1975; it was composed by Hoyt Curtin under the supervision of Paul DeKorte. Besides the leading roles, other voice actors involved with the series include Janet Waldo, Hal Smith, John Stephenson, and Mike Road.
|No.||Title||Original air date||Production
|1||"Speed Buggy Went That-a-Way"||September 8, 1973||65-1|
|While visting Debbie's aunt Belle, the crew witnesses the theft of Belle's cattle on her ranch. Speed Buggy, Debbie, Tinker, and Mark set out to stop the evil Beefinger, the mastermind behind the robbery.|
|2||"Speed Buggy's Daring Escapade"||September 15, 1973||65-2|
|After discovering Speed Buggy, Dr. Kluge plots to steal the automobile in order to create his own powerful version. Through various bribes and kidnapping attempts, Kluge is desperate to steal Speed Buggy.|
|3||"Taggert's Trophy"||September 22, 1973||65-3|
|During a racing event, a man known as "The Chief" hijacks all of the cars with a motion control device. The crew tries to put an end to the menace's unacceptable behavior.|
|4||"Speed Buggy Falls in Love"||September 29, 1973||65-4|
|While participating at a race, Speed Buggy takes a liking to Mata Cari, an automobile designed by the evil Baron Vulch. Meanwhile, Pygmo, Vulch's assistant, lures Speed Buggy to a castle to retrieve a device that Vulch planted inside of his trunk.|
|5||"Kingzilla"||October 6, 1973||65-5|
|In the Andes, the crew vacates a plane facing difficulty while flying, deserting them in region solely inhabited by gorillas. Two men, Professor Grovac and Karl, pressure Speed Buggy into kidnapping the king gorilla in order to have their own army.|
|6||"Professor Snow and Madame Ice"||October 13, 1973||65-6|
|The villainous Professor Snow and Madame Ice create automobiles for ice in order to travel. After learning about Speed Buggy, they attempt to control Tinker in order to take over the world.|
|7||"Out of Sight"||October 20, 1973||65-7|
|Speed Buggy and crew help Professor Rigby, who is being attacked by his former colleague, Professor Rishna, after discovering an invisibility solution. Rishna uses it to kidnap Debbie and Mark while Tinker and Speed Buggy come to their rescue.|
|8||"Gold Fever"||October 29, 1973||65-8|
|The menacing Gold Fever manages to steal gold from around the world, even Speed Buggy's prized racing trophy. In order to stop his continued thefts and rescue Debbie after being kidnapped, Mark and Tinker travel to Hawaii to end his plans.|
|9||"Island of the Giant Plants"||November 3, 1973||65-9|
|Traveling aboard a cruise ship, the crew falls overboard and ends up on an island infested by large plants that were modified by Dr. Meangreen. In order to control the universe, Meangreen attempts to steal Speed Buggy's remote control device.|
|10||"Soundmaster"||November 10, 1973||65-11|
|An evil replica of Speed Buggy designed by Dr. Ohm steals a powerful battery capable of ruining objects through the use of sound waves. The crew breaks into Ohm's secret headquarters in order to retrieve the stolen device and return to normalcy.|
|11||"The Ringmaster"||November 17, 1973||65-10|
|The crew visits Pleasure Island to enter the Bayou 500 racing competition. During the race, they find a ringmaster who plans to control all of the nearby animals in order to rule the world.|
|12||"The Incredible Changing Man"||November 24, 1973||65-12|
|At a race in the United States and Mexico, the crew encounters Jerick who is able to grow and multiply due to a powerful potion that Jerick's former friend created. However, the former friend places the potion's recipe on a tape that Jerick steals, so he asks Speed Buggy to retrieve the tape and save the day.|
|13||"Secret Safari"||December 1, 1973||65-13|
|Varzak and Emil, both crazy scientists, create a laser device that has the ability to take over the universe. In order to safely hide the device from the authorities, they plan to steal Speed Buggy and escape through a jungle.|
|14||"Oil's Well That Ends Well"||December 8, 1973||65-14|
|In an oil reserve in Oklahoma, the crew encounters Dr. Vesuvio, who is collecting large quantities of oil in order to rule the world. However, they discover that Vesuvio has been illegally hoarding the oil in order to accomplish the feat.|
|15||"The Hidden Valley of Amazonia"||December 15, 1973||65-15|
|While in the Himalayas, Speed Buggy visits the Hidden Valley of Amazonia, where the women use the men for slaves. Queen Sheba pressures Debbie into turning Mark and Tinker into slaves. In order to stop her plans, Speed Buggy and Debbie attempt to overthrow Sheba.|
|16||"Captain Schemo and the Underwater City"||December 22, 1973||65-16|
|Captain Schemo plans to use his private collection of submarines in order to take over the oceans and the world. The crew stumbles upon Scheemo's underwater stash and attempts to stop him before he controls the entire universe.|
Speed Buggy was broadcast on CBS as part of their Saturday morning children's lineup between September 8 and December 22, 1973. Before being cancelled, it continued to air regularly until August 31, 1974. After its original run, CBS included reruns of Speed Buggy in their children-oriented television blocks, it was broadcast from February 4, 1978 to September 2, 1978 and September 18, 1982 to January 29, 1983. It also played on both ABC and NBC, when they acquired syndication rights for the series. ABC aired it at noon in 1975-1976 and NBC aired it in 1978. According to The A.V. Club's Will Harris, the series was successful and had a large fan base because it aired on all three major television networks in the 1970s.
Boomerang has broadcast Speed Buggy on several occasions since its initial launch in 1992. As part of a Valentine's Day event in February 2007, the channel aired the program alongside other cartoons such as Tom and Jerry, The Jetsons, and Dexter's Laboratory. The episode "Speed Buggy Went That-a-Way" was featured on the Warner Bros. Presents DVD compilation Saturday Morning Cartoons – 1970's Volume 1 and released on May 26, 2009. As part of the Warner Bros. Television Distribution's Archive Collection, the complete Speed Buggy series was made available on DVD as a four-disc set.
Aubrey Sitterson of Geek.com included Speed Buggy on their unranked list of "favorite Scooby-Doo knockoffs". He noted similarities between Speedy and Scooby-Doo's "Mystery Machine", and joked that Tinker is "basically just Shaggy in a jumpsuit". However, he hinted that Speed Buggy's success could have been derived from its shared storylines as seen on Josie & the Pussycats. Similarly, Harris from The A.V. Club agreed and wrote that the main difference between the two shows was that Speed Buggy "substitut[ed] racing for rock 'n' roll". He also claimed that the main character "confirm[ed] that sidekicks don't always have to be animals". Speed Buggy and the Scooby-Doo gang would be featured in a crossover episode ("The Weird Winds of Winona") in the second installment of the Scooby-Doo franchise, The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972-1973).
David Mansour, author of From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century, wrote in his book that Speed Buggy shared several characteristics with Hanna-Barbera's Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!. He speculated that Mark was the "Freddy-esque handsome brain", Debbie was the "Daphne-esque pretty girlfriend", and Tinker was the "Shaggy-esque mechanic and driver". Furthermore, he considered Speed Buggy to be one the most "famous dune buggies of pop culture" alongside the buggies in The Funky Phantom, The Banana Splits, and the Big Jim toy line. In a retrospective view of older cartoons, the staff at MeTV included the show on their list of "15 Forgotten Cartoons from the Early 1970s You Used to Love". On a more negative note, author David Perlmutter found Hanna-Barbera's use of "humanized automobiles" to be too predictable and repetitive.
Speed Buggy would not be the last time Hanna-Barbera incorporated automobiles into animation. Both Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch and Wonder Wheels also featured cars that were able to talk and act like humans. Perlmutter grouped the three shows together, calling them a "trilogy". Wonderbug, an occasional live-action segment on ABC's The Krofft Supershow (1976-1978), featured three teenagers and a talking dune buggy and often drew comparisons to Speed Buggy. Also compared to the show was Adult Swim's Mike Tyson Mysteries, with Rolling Stone's James Montgomery calling it an ode to classic cartoons like Speed Buggy, Scooby-Doo, and Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels.
The characters in Speed Buggy would also be featured in a 1973 Milton Bradley board game, where players would race Speed Buggy and other buggies in a fictionalized version of Baja California. Speedy would also make cameo appearances in later cartoons, including Johnny Bravo, My Life as a Teenage Robot, Invader Zim, Animaniacs, South Park, and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
- Mansour 2011, p. 454
- "Speed Buggy (TV Animated)". Warner Archive Collection. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
- "'Captain' Moves". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. September 18, 1982. p. 2. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
- Sitterson, Aubrey (December 12, 2015). "Our favorite Scooby-Doo knockoffs". Geek.com. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
- Mansour 2011, p. 202
- Terrace 1985, p. 387
- Lawson & Persons 2004, p. 51
- Mansour 2011, p. 46
- "Speed Buggy: The Show". Cartoon Network. Archived from the original on April 29, 2001. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
- Harris, Will (June 19, 2013). "Meddling Kids + Sidekick + Mysteries = Series: 13 Hanna-Barbera productions that recycled the Scooby-Doo format". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "The Voices of Michael Bell: Animation". Michael Bell. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
- Mansour 2011, p. 134
- Fernandes & Robinson 1999, p. 214
- Erickson 2005, p. 774
- Hofstede 2011, p. 208
- "Speed Buggy (TV)". Paley Center for Media. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
- Takamoto & Mallory 2009, p. 153
- United States Copyright Office 1975, p. 2598.
- David, Nina (1975). "TV Season: 1975". TV Season. Oryx Press: 186. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 1: Speed Buggy Went That-A-Way". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 2: Speed Buggy's Daring Escapade". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 3: Taggert's Trophy". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 4: Speed Buggy Falls in Love". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 5: Speed Buggy Meets Kingzilla". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 6: Professor Snow and Madam Ice". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 7: Out of Sight". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 8: Gold Fever". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 9: Island of the Giant Planets". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 10: Soundmaster". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 11: The Ringmaster". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 12: The Incredible Changing Man". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 13: Secret Safari". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 14: Oil's Well That Ends Well". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 15: The Hidden Valley of the Amazonia". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Season 1, Episode 16: Capt. Schemo and the Underwater City". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- Erickson 1995, p. 468
- McNeil 1996, p. 779
- Berman, Claire (November 3, 1975). "Saturday's Children". New York. New York Media, LLC. 8 (44): 71. ISSN 0028-7369. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
- "Boomerang Schedule: Thursday, March 3, 2005". Cartoon Network. March 3, 2005. Archived from the original on March 4, 2005. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
- "Boomerang Schedule: Monday, February 26, 2007". Cartoon Network. February 26, 2007. Archived from the original on February 27, 2007. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
- Ball, Ryan (February 13, 2007). "Love Stinks! On Boomerang". Animation Magazine. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- "Saturday Morning Cartoons – 1970's Volume 1". Barnes & Noble. May 26, 2009. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
- "Season 2, Episode 6: The Weird Winds of Winona". TV Guide. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
- MeTV staff (June 17, 2016). "15 Forgotten Cartoons from the Early 1970s You Used to Love". MeTV. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
- Perlmutter 2014, p. 157
- Erickson 2005, p. 901
- Erickson 1998, p. 183
- Montgomery, James (October 2, 2014). "Mike Tyson on Solving Mysteries, Returning to Broadway and Punching Dinosaurs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
- Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third Series (third ed.). United States Copyright Office. 1975.
- Erickson, Hal (September 1, 1998). Sid and Marty Krofft: A Critical Study of Saturday Morning Children's Television, 1969-1993 (illustrated, reprinted ed.). McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786430931.
- Erickson, Hal (August 1, 1995). Television Cartoon Shows, an Illustrated Encyclopedia (illustrated ed.). McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786400293.
- Erickson, Hal (2005). Television Cartoon Shows: The Shows, M-Z (second, illustrated ed.). McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786422564.
- Fernandes, David; Robinson, Dale (1999). A Guide to Television's Mayberry R.F.D. (illustrated ed.). McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786404264.
- Hofstede, David (November 9, 2011). 5000 Episodes and No Commercials: The Ultimate Guide to TV Shows on DVD. Potter, TenSpeed, Harmony. ISBN 0307799506.
- Lawson, Tim; Persons, Alisa (December 9, 2004). The Magic Behind the Voices: A Who's Who of Cartoon Voice Actors (illustrated ed.). University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1578066964.
- Mansour, David (June 1, 2011). From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century. Andrew McMeel Publishing. ISBN 0740793071.
- McNeil, Alex (1996). Total Television: The Comprehensive Guide to Programming from 1948 to the Present (fourth, revised ed.). Penguin Books. ISBN 0140249168.
- Perlmutter, David (March 18, 2014). America Toons In: A History of Television Animation (illustrated, reprinted ed.). McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786476508.
- Takamoto, Iwao; Mallory, Michael (2009). Iwao Takamoto: My Life with a Thousand Characters (illustrated ed.). University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1604731931.
- Terrace, Vincent (1985). Encyclopedia of Television Series, Pilots and Specials, Volume 2. VNR AG. ISBN 0918432618.