The Retro Bin: Laff-A-Lympics (1977-1978)
As you may have noticed by now, Twinsanity generally doesn’t probe too deeply into the careers of Hanna-Barbera’s premier roster of characters like Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss and the many, many Scooby-Doo clones. This is for 2 reasons: one, they tend to be a tad on the interchangeable side, and two, the H-B studio has provided us with opportunities to discuss several of them at once.
One such example is the subject of today’s Retro Bin, Laff-A-Lympics.
Laff-A-Lympics was the co-headlining segment, with Scooby-Doo, of the package Saturday morning cartoon series Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics, beginning in 1977. The show was a spoof of the Olympics (duh!) and the ABC television series Battle of the Network Stars, which debuted one year earlier. It featured 45 Hanna-Barbera characters organized into the teams (the Scooby Doobies, the Yogi Yahooeys, and the Really Rottens) which would compete each week for gold, silver, and bronze medals. One season of 16 episodes was produced in 1977–78, and eight new episodes combined with reruns for the 1978–79 season as Scooby’s All-Stars. Yes, both incarnations of the show were named after Scooby-Doo; he was pretty much the Kingpin of Saturday morning back in the 70’s.
The episodes themselves basically reiterated the same formula: the 3 teams would lock horns in various sporting events, typically taking place in some exotic location. The various team members would employ their special talents, quirks and shticks to win; sometimes they’d work, sometimes they wouldn’t. The ‘bad guy’ team, the Really Rottens, would habitually cheat and suffer the consquences, and at the end, 1 team would emerge victorious with a gold medal, a 2nd would earn the silver and the loser (usually the Rottens) would get stuck with the bronze. Yada yada yada. What made this show special was its’ novelty: it featured no less than 45 H-B stars occupying a single program. That means nothing to anyone born past Generation X, but for a kid in the 70’s, especially one who was a hardcore Hanna-Barbera fan, LAL was the equivalent of giving a kid the keys to a candy store and saying they can go nucking futs, or a horndog let loose in the Playboy Mansion with a License to Grope badge. Here’s the intro:
Now, on to the show’s major selling point: the teams and the stars themselves. The “good guy” teams, consisting of the Scooby Doobies and the Yogi Yahooeys, were good friends and their respective team members gladly helped each other whenever they got into a jam. The Really Rottens, however, always cheated and pulled dirty tricks which would ultimately cause them to be the last-place losers in most episodes. Much like Dick Dastardly and Muttley on Wacky Races, typically the Really Rottens would be just on the verge of winning, before they would make a fatal error at the very end that allowed one of the other two teams to end up at the top. Occasionally, though, the Rottens’ cheating technique wouldn’t actually be against the rules, which resulted in them (unlike Dastardly and Muttley) actually winning in a few episodes; there was even one episode where they won through sheer chance. The final event on the show’s final episode, which took place on the moon (!), ended in a 3-way tie.
Each team adhered to a particular ‘theme’ or genre/era of H-B cartoons.
THE YOGI YAHOOEYS
This team was comprised of Hanna-Barbera’s 1950’s through 1960’s television shorts characters. It was the only team made up entirely of anthropomorphic animals. Grape Ape was the only post-1962 character in the line-up. With this team, the challenge wasn’t finding members for it, but narrowing the choices down to just a few!
- Yogi Bear (captain)
- Boo-Boo Bear
- Cindy Bear
- Huckleberry Hound
- Mr. Jinks
- Wally Gator
- Quick Draw McGraw (no Baba Looey)
- Hokey Wolf (no Ding-a-Ling)
- Augie Doggy
- Doggy Daddy
- Yakky Doodle
- Grape Ape
“Oh sure, name your frelling team after one of us but don’t even ask us to be on it! No royalty check, nothin’! We couldn’t even get jobs as water boys! Yeah, that’s fair!”
THE SCOOBY DOOBIES
Much like how the Yogis team represented 50’s-60’s era H-B, the Scooby Doobies team had a heavy 1970’s vibe to them. (They were the ‘modern era’ team at the time.) This team drew mainly from the 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoons, particularly the “mystery-solving/crime busting” series derived from Scooby-Doo, whose titular character served as team captain.
- Scooby-Doo (captain)
- Norville “Shaggy” Rogers
- Scooby-Dum (Why? I don’t know)
- Blue Falcon
- Captain Caveman
- Brenda Chance
- Taffy Dare
- Dee Dee Skies
- Babu (from Jeannie)
- Hong Kong Phooey
- Speed Buggy
*Rumor has it that Mark and Debbie from Speed Buggy had fled to get busy in a love nest in Tijuana at the time.
BTW, take a gander at the original lineup for the Scoobies.
Yes, that’s right: the early production art for the series showed Jeannie from the Jeannie series and Melody, Alexander, Alexandra, and Sebastian the Cat from the Josie and the Pussycats series as members of the Scooby Doobies team, but legal problems with Columbia Pictures Television, Screen Gems’ successor, prevented it. Babu from Jeannie made the final cut, as he was an original creation of Hanna-Barbera, but Columbia controlled all rights to Jeannie’s image. As a result, Babu appeared alone as a member of the Scooby Doobies. Likewise, Archie Comics held rights to the Josie characters. In the actual series, Jeannie was replaced by Hong Kong Phooey and the Josie characters were replaced by Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels.
THE REALLY ROTTENS (Boo! Hiss!)
No prizes for guessing, This team is composed of villainous characters. With the exception of Mumbly and the Dalton Brothers, all of the members are original characters, many of whom are based on various characters that appeared in cartoons and comics prior to Laff-A-Lympics. Originally, Muttley and Dick Dastardly were planned as the leaders of the Really Rottens; however, they could not appear on the show due to those characters being co-owned by Heatter-Quigley Productions. In their place, Hanna-Barbera used the existing character Mumbly and created the new character Dread Baron.
“What did I just tell you??”
Prior to Laff-A-Lympics, Mumbly was a heroic detective rather than a villain on his original show. (Turns out he was another cop gone corrupt, just like in Serpico.) Following the character’s revision as the villainous team leader, he remained a villain in Yogi Bear and the Magical Flight of the Spruce Goose, which was also Dread Baron’s only other role. The Dalton Brothers appeared in 1950s and 1960s shorts (including the 1958 short Sheriff Huckleberry Hound, which featured appearances by Dinky, Dirty, and Dastardly Dalton, as well as their other brothers Dangerous, Detestable, Desperate, and Despicable). However, they were given new character designs for the Laff-A-Lympics series. After Laff-A-Lympics, Dinky reappears in The Good, the Bad, and Huckleberry Hound with brothers Stinky (who bears a resemblance to Dastardly Dalton from Laff-A-Lympics), Finky, and Pinky. Mountain-sized Dinky (get it?) was the only mainstay of the Dalton clan.
- Mumbly (captain)
- Dread Baron (co-captain)
- The Dalton Brothers (Dinky, Dirty and Dastardly)
- The Creeply Family (Mr., Mrs. and Junior; loosely based on the Gruesomes from the Flintstones and the J. Mad Scientists from the H-B shorts)
- Orful Octopus (aka Octo, the Creeplys’ pet)
- The Great Fondue (villainous magician who seemed to be incapable of performing magic with any sort of accuracy; Similar to Abner K. Dabra from the 1963 book, Yogi Bear and the Cranky Magician)
- Magic Rabbit (Fondue’s pet, dialogue limited to “Brack!” Bears a resemblance to the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland (or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?)
- Daisy Mayhem (or as Goldstar likes to refer to her “Boner Launcher”; mean-spirited hillbilly gal with split ends, Daisy Dukes and bare feet, who bears a resemblance to the Li’l Abner character Moonbeam McSwine)
- Sooey Pig (Daisy’s pet pig. You can tell he’s rotten because he wears sneakers and an eye patch!)
- In one season 2 episode, Mumbly is referred to throughout as Muttley.
- Dick Dastardly and Muttley appear in issue #13 of the Laff-A-Lympics comic book series, “No Laff-A-Lympics Today!”. In the book, Dread is revealed to be Dick Dastardly’s twin brother.
- In the Latin American dub of Laff-A-Lympics, Dread Baron and Mumbly are called Dick Dastardly and Muttley.
Each episode was presented in a format similar to an Olympic television broadcast, with announcing/voice-over duties handled by an unnamed/unseen Announcer character (see also Wacky Races, Yogi’s Space Race and Fender Bender 500). Hosting duties and commentary were provided by Snagglepuss and Mildew Wolf from the It’s the Wolf! segments of Cattanooga Cats (though unlike It’s the Wolf!, Mildew was not voiced by Paul Lynde; he was here voiced by John Stephenson). Apparently, Lynde had a reputation of being difficult to work with, so HB opted to go with a sound-alike rather than contend with the real deal.
Also, since the show was airing on ABC, Snagglepuss and Mildew wore the then-traditional yellow jackets of ABC Sports announcers.
Laff-A-Lympics ran for 16 episodes in it’s first season (1977-78) and an additional 8 episodes for its’ second season (1978-79). The series kind of fizzled after that; probably because it was the same basic formula repeated again and again, and also, let’s face it: the show lacked the ‘jiggle factor’ that permeated throughout the series that inspired it, Battle of the Network Stars. Let’s address the elephant in the room…
These guys don’t have much to offer in the wet T-shirt department.