When I was a child they usually showed The Laff-A-Lympics about the same time every 4 years or so when the Summer/Winter Olympics were going on. As a child I didn’t understand that the two had were not actually related. I was convinced there were the “Real People Olympics” and The Laff-A-Lympics, where the “Cartoon People” competed. It bothered me that they weren’t allowed to compete together, but it made sense because cartoons followed different physical laws. It made sense when I was a kid, don’t look at me like that!
Well, thanks to Boomerang, I was surprised this morning to find a marathon of The Laff-A-Lympics to show my son! I erased our autotunes for the day and just let Boomerang run. We laughed so much. I forgot how amusing it was to watch. As an adult I find it amusing that The Really Rottens were never expelled or disqualified for cheating, just deducted points, whereas we just expelled a Greek jumper for making a racist tweet. Hmm…
Anyway, this week’s Cartoon History Lesson is dedicated to The Laff-A-Lympics! Let’s learn about it, shall we?
Laff-A-Lympics is the co-headlining segment, with Scooby-Doo, of the package Saturday morning cartoon series Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics, produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions. The show was a spoof of the Olympics 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. Unlike most cartoon series’ produced by Hanna-Barbera in the 1970s, Laff-A-Lympics did not contain a laugh track.
The sporting competitions that the characters would be called upon to perform in would often be comical and offbeat versions of Olympic sports, races, and scavenger hunts. Each segment took place in a different location around the world. The end event occurred on the moon as a climactic ending, which followed a rocket race to the moon that was held as the previous event.
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. 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 no longer voiced by Paul Lynde; he is now voiced by John Stephenson). Since the show was airing on ABC, Snagglepuss and Mildew wore the then-traditional yellow jackets of ABC Sports announcers. Non-competing Hanna-Barbera characters such as Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble, Jabberjaw and Peter Potamus made appearances as guest announcers and judges. Other non-competing characters included parents of contestants (who were interviewed by Mildew before events) and various monsters and creatures that would serve as antagonists during events.
The Laff-A-Lympics competition was based upon a point system. Various events were worth a certain point total for the first, second, and third place winners (usually 25, 15, and 10 respectively; however, the last event was often worth either double points or a larger point bonus for the winner). The team that had the most points by the end of the half-hour was declared the winner and received the gold medal. Points could also be subtracted for treachery and sabotage, which were the specialties of the villainous Really Rottens team.
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.
Only one complete season of Laff-A-Lympics episodes were produced, with eight new episodes combined with reruns for the second season of Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics (billed as Scooby’s All-Stars). When it premiered in the fall of 1977, the series consisted of several segments, including “Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels” (which led off the two-hour program and later was spun off onto its own half-hour show), “The Scooby-Doo Show” and “Dynomutt” (both of which featured a small number of newly-produced segments alongside repeated segments from earlier seasons) and the “Laff-A-Lympics” segments themselves. The show resurfaced in 1980 as a half-hour series on its own (sans the “Captain Caveman,” “Scooby-Doo” and “Dynomutt” cartoons) and titled Scooby’s Laff-A-Lympics, and was rerun at various other points during the 1980s on ABC. It has also been frequently re-run in later years as Laff-A-Lympics on USA Cartoon Express, Cartoon Network and Boomerang.
The Scooby Doobies:
This team drew mainly from the 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoons, particularly the “mystery-solving” series derived from Scooby-Doo, whose titular character served as team captain. 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. Hanna-Barbera owned Babu, 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.
This team drew mainly from the 1950s and 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoons and is the only team made up completely of anthropomorphic animals. Grape Ape is the only post-1962 character in the line-up.
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. Prior to Laff-A-Lympics, Mumbly was a heroic detective rather than a villain on his original show. 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.
In March 1978, Marvel Comics produced a comic book series based on the cartoon. Creative staff for the comic book included Mark Evanier, Carl Gafford, Scott Shaw, Jack Manning, Owen Fitzgerald and others. The series lasted 13 issues. A Laff-A-Lympics comic book was also published in Australia in 1978 by Sydney Murray Publishing. From 1980–1982, various Laff-A-Lympics stories were reprinted in Laff-A-Lympics Annual hardback books in the United Kingdom by Fleetway.
An updated Laff-A-Lympics called the “Superstar Olympics” appeared in the Hanna-Barbera Presents #6 comic book in 1996. The Superstar Olympics featured Atom Ant, Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy, Barney Rubble, Betty Rubble, Boo Boo Bear, Chopper, Cindy Bear, Dick Dastardly, Fred Flintstone, Grape Ape, Hokey Wolf, Huckleberry Hound, Jabberjaw, Magilla Gorilla, Muttley, Peter Potamus, Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks, Quick Draw McGraw, Ranger Smith, Secret Squirrel, Snagglepuss, Snooper and Blabber, Squiddly Diddly, Top Cat, Touché Turtle, Wally Gator, Wilma Flintstone, and Yogi Bear.
A Laff-A-Lympics hand-held pinball game was released in 1978. The game featured Scooby-Doo, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, Blue Falcon, Yogi Bear, Boo-Boo Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Grape Ape, Mumbly, Dread Baron, Mr. Creepley, Dalton Brothers, Snagglepuss, and Mildew Wolf.
In 1979, Hanna-Barbera released a Laff-A-Lympics Old Maid card game that included Scooby-Doo, Shaggy Rogers, Dynomutt, Blue Falcon, Hong Kong Phooey, Yogi Bear, Boo-Boo Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Grape Ape, Quick Draw McGraw, Pixie and Dixie, Yakky Doodle, Mumbly, Dread Baron, Snagglepuss, and Mildew Wolf.