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Monday, June 25, 2012

Speed Buggy: Mel Blanc's Car Talk



My chance to watch the awesome Warner Archive Collection's DVD set of the complete '70s Hanna-Barbera cartoon series "Speed Buggy" is the second time that getting an "Archive" set  coincided with a current reminder of the awesomeness of the archived show.

Seeing Linda Lavin, who starred in the '70s CBS sitcom "Alice," in the audience of the 2012 Tony Awards got me wishing for a DVD release of that series. Archive announcing the next day that it was releasing the first season of "Alice" was a dream come true. My review of "Alice" is in the archive section of my site.

My "Speed Buggy" moment occurred this weekend; I came across the wonderful 2008 documentary "Mel Blanc: The Man of a Thousand Voices." Aside from voicing Bugs Bunny and numerous other Looney Tune characters, this cartoon voice god brought the lovable talking crime-fighting dune buggy/race car Speed Buggy to life.

The documentary was a wonderful tribute to this genuine American idol, and did not have a negative syllable to say about this man with whom I would have loved to meet for a carrot juice. The only sad moment for me was that the documentary did not include a clip of Speedy Buggy in the portion on Blanc's career with Hanna Barbera in the '60s and '70s.

I knew before watching the documentary that Blanc was a legend and that he had voiced Speed Buggy. I did not fully understand why I felt such a connection to a Saturday morning cartoon car until the documentary helped me realize that that character's voice and appearance reflected the sweet yet fiercely loyal nature of Blanc.

For the benefit of those of you who missed out on spending your Saturday mornings eating Quisp cereal and watching cartoons on your parents' massive console television that seemed to take forever to warm up, "Speed Buggy" essentially was "Scooby Doo" for the NASCAR set. 

In addition to having an anthropomorphic star, the supporting characters in "Speed Buggy" greatly resembled the Mystery Inc. gang of meddling kids. 

"Speed Buggy" team leader Mark was a handsome stud with a toned bod and limited intellect; cowardly odd looking and lanky mechanic/driver Tinker was Speedy's best bud; the extraneous tomboy Debbie always reminded me of "Mork and Mindy's" Pam Dawber in appearance and spunky personality.

Each "Speed Buggy" episode began with Speedy and his crew traveling to the site of the race or exhibition du jour. Within a few minutes, the gang would encounter the stereotypical big bad du jour and spend the next 20 minutes foiling that evil scientist's or run-of-the-mill criminal mastermind's plot to pull off a major heist or rule the world. 

Each episode was highly entertaining and just darn cute. My favorite involved a plot to use the technology that created Speedy Buggy to build a fleet of robotic cars.

I also enjoyed an incredibly blatant rip-off of a plot from fellow '70s cartoon series "Josie and the Pussycats" that involved a mad scientist's acquiring an invisibility formula. I played wonderfully campy bubblegum music in my head during that episode's chase scenes. 

Incidentally, that "Josie" episode is my favorite behind one involving an aging formula in which the truly brave and bold cat Sebastian really saved the day.

I expect my Archive Collection set of the other terrific '70s cartoon variation of "Scooby Doo" "The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan" today. 

Anyone with memories of questions regarding "Speed Buggy" is encouraged to email me.  I am especially interested in learning if I am the only one who is adorkable enough to use Speed Buggy's catchphrase "va room a zoom zoom" in reference to rushing someplace. I do regret that my horrible imitation of Blanc most likely has that exceptional and badly missed man turning over in his grave.