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.

“Riss my ring, ritches!”

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!

TEAM ROSTER:

  • Yogi Bear (captain)
  • Boo-Boo Bear
  • Cindy Bear
  • Huckleberry Hound
  • Mr. Jinks
  • Pixie
  • Dixie
  • Wally Gator
  • Quick Draw McGraw (no Baba Looey)
  • Hokey Wolf (no Ding-a-Ling)
  • Snooper
  • Blabber
  • 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!”

“You folks are probably wondering why your old pal Beegle Beagle didn’t make it to the Yahooeys team. Well, it turns out I was blacklisted by the Laff-A-Lympics Ethics committee. Geez, you offhandedly mention that you know a guy who can hook your team up with some Happy Win-Time Go-Go Juice injections, and suddenly you’re banned for life!”

“So let me get this straight: the Scooby Doobies had a magic user. The Really Rottens had a magic user. I’m a 60’s era H-B character who’s a magic user, and I don’t get so much as a phone call? What the what?!”

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.

TEAM ROSTER:

  • Scooby-Doo (captain)
  • Norville “Shaggy” Rogers
  • Scooby-Dum (Why? I don’t know)
  • Dynomutt
  • Blue Falcon
  • Captain Caveman
  • Brenda Chance
  • Taffy Dare
  • Dee Dee Skies
  • Babu (from Jeannie)
  • Hong Kong Phooey
  • Speed Buggy
  • Tinker

*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.

“When we lawyers sink our teeth into something, there’s no letting go!”

“Shafted again…naturally.”

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.

TEAM ROSTER:

  • 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!)

“What? You recruited a bunch of newbies and doppelgangers instead of me? You could’ve just hired me and all the bad guys from ‘Yogi’s Gang’. There’s your Rottens team right there!”

“I didn’t get a call either? What’s the deal? Just yesterday I was in the park feeding the pigeons…to some alley cats! I’m totally rotten up here!”

Trivia Time:

  • 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.

I guess H-B considered Mr. Lynde to be kind of a silly savage.

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.

Talkin’ Nerdy: The Hanna-Barbera Zoo’s Big Three

Hey, I’ve noticed something about Hanna-Barbera’s roster of 1960’s ‘funny animal’ characters (hereinafter referred to as the Hanna-Barbera Zoo): Nearly all of them seemed be derived from 1 or more of the same 3 basic archetypes. You have your Big Three of:

Huckleberry Hound

Yogi Bear

Quick_Draw_McGraw

…And Quick Draw McGraw.

…And then you have the others.

Hey, kids. Did you spot Waldo?

It’s no secret by now that HB liked to repeat successful formulas, and so I theorize that just about all of HB’s 1960’s output is in some way a derivation of one of those characters’ shorts. They’re either about an animal who appears in a different setting/occupation each time, an animal in a recognizable human sanctuary like a park or a zoo where they make trouble for some human shmuck in charge of them or an animal hero crime fighter who does battle with wacky criminals and is often aided by another animal with the opposite personality who acts as their sidekick.

Now when I first proposed this theory on a message board, someone hit me with this:

“That’s not true! What about Snagglepuss?! He’s not like any of them! He’s the Shakespearean actor of Hanna-Barbera!”

To which I say:

“IRRELEVANT!”

That’s not my point. Like, at all. I’m not talking about individual cast members, personalities or character shticks. Geez, even H-B’s characters aren’t that autonomous. I’m referring specifically to the tones and structures of the shorts themselves. Many of them can be traced to either Huck, Yogi or Quick Draw. Some examples:

  • The aforementioned Snagglepuss is a Huckleberry Hound archetype: a funny animal who appears in a number of various settings in each short doing his usual shtick each time, regardless of how incongruous.
  • Wally Gator is Yogi Bear in a zoo.
  • Ricochet Rabbit is Quick Draw McGraw except here the smaller animal is the leader and the taller one is the sidekick. Also, the leader here is competent and the sidekick dim-witted rather than the reverse like on Quick Draw.
  • Touche Turtle is Quick-Draw in a French period setting.
  • Squiddly Diddly is Yogi Bear in an aquarium.
  • Hokey Wolf is kind of a Yogi/Huck hybrid: a canny taller animal and his short sidekick who scam humans, but in a different setting each time.
  • Breezly and Sneezly are Yogi and Boo-Boo in the Arctic.
  • Magilla Gorilla is Yogi Bear in a pet shop.
  • Snooper and Blabber are Quick Draw and Baba Looey as cat and mouse detectives.
  • Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har are basically a luckless Hokey Wolf and Ding-a-Ling, who as previously stated carry traits of both Huck and Yogi.

-Of course, not every HB funny animal toon falls into 1 of these boxes. Pixie & Dixie is a TV version of Tom & Jerry, but with the main characters able to speak and with limited animation. Loopy DeLoop is a character fighting against his stereotype, in this case a do-good wolf trying to undo the myth that all wolves are evil. Winsome Witch follows a similar formula, only with a witch. Yakky Doodle can be traced back to Tom & Jerry, with a recurring character similar to the titular star and the formula of a small animal being protected from a wily predator by a tough animal with a heart of gold who has no reservations about beating the predator’s brains in (see also It’s the Wolf!). Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy likewise have roots in Tom & Jerry; they’re somewhat more anthropomorphic versions of Spike & Tyke. The Hillbilly Bears are a family of, well, hillbilly bears. (Incidentally, Ma and Pa Rugg were voiced by Jean VanderPyl and Henry Corden respectively, who’d go on to voice Wilma and Fred Flintstone.) Ruff & Reddy was a takeoff of multi-part adventure serials. Yippy, Yappy and Yahooey were 3 hyperactive canine royal guards who shouted their names and crashed into stuff. Dumas is back and we’ve got him!

So while there are exceptions, it’s no secret who had the stroke in the Hanna-Barbera Zoo.

“You heard the man. You jobbers, second-stringers and ham-and-eggers better pay yer respects. WE’RE the top dogs in this pound, an’ doooooon’t you ferget it!”

The Retro Bin: Yogi’s Gang (1973)

As previously mentioned in Jason (Goldstar)’s Yogi’s Space Race review, a staple of Hanna-Barbera Studios was its’ employment of the “potpourri” show concept, namely gathering their vast and rather redundant library of star characters together in a single program, typically with them all involved in some group activity like a major sporting competition or celebrating some character’s First Christmas TM. I suppose to die-hard HB fans, these crossovers were considered the ultimate team-ups. But for folks like me, these characters were simply interchangeable; putting 20 of them on one program was like dawn of the Stepford Cartoons. One early example of the HB “potpourri” show was 1973’s Yogi’s Gang, which aired 16 half-hour episodes on ABC from September 8, 1973, to December 29, 1973 and was based on a TV movie from a year earlier called Yogi’s Ark Lark. For those who aren’t old codgers like me and weren’t around to experience this show, imagine if all of the characters from the Boomerang Zoo block appeared together in one show, suck out all of the fun and mix in the ham-handed PSA preachiness of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and The New Zoo Revue and you have the basic idea of what we had to endure back then.
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Here’s the basic crux: In the TV movie Yogi’s Ark Lark (1972), a myriad of HB’s funny animal toon stars, specifically Atom Ant, Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy, The Hillbilly Bears, Hokey Wolf and Ding-A-Ling, Huckleberry Hound, Lambsy, Lippy the Lion & Hardy Har Har, Magilla Gorilla, Moby Dick (from Moby Dick and Mighty Mightor), Peter Potamus and So-So, Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks, Quick Draw McGraw and Baba Looey, Ruff and Reddy, Sawtooth the Beaver (Rufus Ruffcut’s pet beaver from Wacky Races), Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole, Snagglepuss, Squiddly Diddly, Top Cat and his gang (Benny the Ball, Spook, Choo Choo, Fancy Fancy, and the Brain–not the lab mouse from Animaniacs who wants to take over the world!), Touché Turtle and Dum Dum, Wally Gator, Yakky Doodle & Chopper, Yogi Bear and Boo Boo and an unknown and unnamed dinosaur character (Phew! That’s was a long list, but no worries; since all of them contribute what is in essence a single character–they’re all basically same goofball–and as such I won’t need to delve into any of their ‘characters’ individually again and have no desire whatsoever to do separate reviews of any of their own respective cartoons, I won’t ever have to type it again) headed by Yogi, become concerned about the environment and pollution, and gather together at Jellystone Park to build a flying ship resembling Noah’s Ark with a propeller on top to find “The Perfect Place”, an environment free of of pollution, deforestation, and other forms of mankind’s despoilment. They are aided by Jellystone Park’s handyman, Mr. Smitty, and out of gratitude the gang decide to name the ship after him. The name ‘Smitty’s Houseboat’ is too long to paint on the ship’s bow, but Mr. Smitty’s first name just happens to be Noah, so they end up calling it ‘Noah’s Ark’. (Get it? How original and not at all pretentious!) Anyways, after journeying from everywhere from the Antarctic to the Sahara Desert to outer space (yes, really), the kid animals (Augie Doggie, Boo Boo, Baba Looey, Benny the Ball, Lambsy, Shag Rugg, Yakky Doodle–wait, since when are Boo-Boo, Baba Looey and Benny the Ball kids? I knew that they were short, but them being minors gives their “partnership” with their taller, adult animal partners a somewhat creepy vibe) get the idea that there is no “Perfect Place”, and that they should all simply go back home and clean up the messes that they were trying to get away from, since It’s Up To All Of Us TM. This decision is met with unanimous approval, and the animals all head for home to take pollution down to zero, and turn their home into “the Perfect Place.”
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Nifty. Well, it would seem that these guys must suffer from short-term memory loss, since the following year they were back in that flying boat again, once more looking for a place free of pollution or crime and doin’ the righteous thing for an additional 16 episodes (really 15, as episode 16 was just a rebroadcast of Yogi’s Ark Lark, split into 2 parts. Here’s the opening:

-Now, I know what you younger folks are thinking: about Boo-Boo’s line in the 3rd verse:

…Yeah, Boo-Boo sang “The world be so bright and gay”; keep in mind this was 1973, back when ‘gay’ still meant ‘happy’. It was meant to have shiny, happy connotations, but of course hearing that line now, and then seeing that shot of the little side-stepping dance all those male cartoon characters are shown doing afterwards, it’s unintentionally hilarious. Moving on…

The show typically ran along the same basic lines. The ship, curiously now dubbed ‘Yogi’s Ark’ and now with Yogi at the helm (it’s never stated exactly what happened to Noah Smitty, or at what point Yogi assumed command, but I’m guessing you just might find something interesting at the bottom of the Hudson River chained to a block of cement) traverses the skies and lands somewhere where they run afoul of some loony would-be supervillain who is the embodiment of some human vice, bad habit or negative trait: Captain Swashbuckle Swipe, Smokestack Smog, Lotta Litter, the Envy Brothers, Mr. Hothead, Dr. Bigot (and his henchmen Professor Haggling and Professor Bickering), the Gossipy Witch of the West, J. Wantum Vandal, the Sheik of Selfishness, Commadore Phineas P. Fibber, I.M. Sloppy, Peter D. Cheater, Mr. Waste, Hilarious P. Prankster, and the Greedy Genie (think a dime store Legion of Doom, only not nearly as awesome). Typically these goons would masquerade as allies to the gang, only for our heroes to discover their true intentions by Act 3 (Gee, who would have thought a guy called DR. BIGOT would be bad news), and we the audience would get the basic Moral of the Week pounded into our heads with a sledgehammer: Don’t litter. Don’t play pranks on people. Don’t be envious. Don’t cheat. Don’t fib. Don’t be selfish. Don’t gossip. Don’t steal. Don’t be a hothead. Don’t vandalize. Don’t be wasteful. Don’t pollute. Don’t be sloppy. And above all, don’t expect your Saturday morning cartoons to be in any way fun or entertaining. The preachy moralizing this show did made Smokey the Bear and Woodsy Owl facepalm.

“Dude, seriously. Just give the message to the kids straight. Don’t be drama queens. Nobody likes to be preached to, especially on Saturday morning. And you just gotta love the irony of a bear who’s made a career out of swiping peoples’ pic-a-nic baskets telling people not to be greedy or selfish. Hypocrite much?”
“Remember, TV execs. Give a hoot. Don’t pollute the air waves with Politically Correct pap!”
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Finally, why is Peter Potamus making that messed up face in the crow’s nest in the opening titles? Was he airsick? Did he just receive a vision of the future where Williams Street spoofs him on Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law? Or maybe he just came to the realization that he and his fellow HB toon stars were starring in a show in which they traveled the globe in a flying ark ramming pro-social values down kids’ collective throats. The world may never know.