Heavens to Murgatroyd: Laff-A-Lympics turns 40 – Animation Scoop

Heavens to Murgatroyd: Laff-A-Lympics turns 40

September has always heralded the somber end of summer and the inevitable start of the school year. For several generations however, the sad farewell to vacation days and re-emergence of three ring binders came with only one glimmer of light: the beginning of a new Season of Saturday Morning TV.

Forty years ago this September, Saturday Morning Cartoons were in the midst of their own “Golden Age” and one show was about to emerge that would represent the pinnacle of this era: Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics.

From Hanna-Barbara, the Studio synonymous with Saturday morning, Laff-A-Lympics, which debuted on September 10, 1977 on ABC was something that had never been done before: a two-hour (!) show that featured some of Hanna-Barbera’s most famous cartoon stars.

The show itself was made up four parts, each about a half hour long: the mysteries of Scooby-Doo, Dynomutt, a bionic super dog of sorts and Captain Caveman, the world’s first super hero.

But the focal point of the show was Laff-A-Lympics. Inspired by both the popularity of the 1976 Olympics and the success of ABC’s special “Batle of the Network Stars,” Hanna-Barbara pitted a number of characters its studio had created against each other in Olympic-like feats of strength.

There was the “Yogi Yahooes,” led by Captain Yogi Bear, a team made up of most of HB’s earliest TV stars, such as Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and Wally Gator, just to name a few.

“The Scooby-Doobies,” were led by Captain Scooby-Doo and the team was made up of more “recent” stars (in ’70’s terms) such as Shaggy, Speed Buggy and Hong Kong Phooey.

Then, there were the villainous “Really Rottens,” which were made up of a series of Hanna Barbera “bad guys.” The Captain was Mumbley, the snickering dog who was actually a “good guy” just one season before in his own show, in which he played a detective.

Mumbley was actually forced into the “dark side,” due to a rights issue. The HB studio originally wanted Dick Datstardly and Mutley, from “Wacky Races,” but the rights issue prevented that (the same happened when members of “Josie and the Pussycats” were supposed to join the “Scooby-Doobies”).

Members of the Really Rottens were actually made up of villains, the majority of whom were created specifically for “Laff-A-Lympics,” such as The Dread Baron, Fondoo the Magician and The Dalton Brothers.

The plot of each Laff-A-Lympics episode was simple: the three ‘toon teams would compete, the Really Rottens would cheat, and eventually get caught (usually called out by announcers Mildew Wolf and Snagglepuss, who would add his trademark, “Heavens to Murgatroyd” catch phrase).

Laff-A-Lympics was extremely popular with audiences at the time. Kids loved watching the “mash-up” of several decades of HB characters interacting. In many ways, it’s really the first example of what today is called a “shared universe.”

There was a smattering of Laff-A-Lympics merchandise available at the time and one of the most popular was a series of well-crafted and witty comic books. Ironically, these were published by Marvel, King of the “shared universe.”

Today, a majority of the Laff-A-Lympics episodes are available on DVD, providing the perfect way for the ’70’s kids generation to celebrate the show’s 40th anniversary, flashback to the magic of yesteryear’s September Saturdays and take some of the sting out of that end of summer sadness.

Michael Lyons

Michael Lyons

Michael Lyons is a freelance writer covering the animation industry.
Michael Lyons
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