Hanna-Barbera Wiki
Hanna-Barbera Wiki

Laugh tracks were used by Hanna-Barbera used for several of its shows, mostly for Saturday morning cartoons from the 1970s. They first used the laugh track for their prime-time shows, such as The Flintstones, Top Cat, and The Jetsons. They then expanded using the laugh track into their daytime fare, starting with The Banana Splits in 1968, which emulated Filmation's The Archies, and from 1968 to 1971 used Charley Douglass' full laugh track on their popular Saturday morning content including Scooby Doo Where Are You! and Josie and the Pussy Cats.

However, by the 1970s, the laugh track had become increasingly expensive. Even though the success of Scooby-Doo set a new direction for the studio, at the end of the 1970-71 television season, the studio decided to cut back on a few of their assets, including Douglass' services. They still felt having a laugh track was necessary, however, so they came up with an alternative track to compensate: sound engineers at the Hanna-Barbera studios isolated half a dozen of Douglass' canned chuckles from some of their shows and mixed them with a Mackenzie repeater machine, a playback device that can play up to five tapes repeatedly. There were four mild laughs, plus two uncontrollable belly laughs (one contains an audible woman laughing prominently at the tail end). This limited laugh track did not contain any looping tapes, no endless variety of chuckles and no titter track. With the exception of the pilot episode of Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, which first aired as a segment in a Season 3 episode of Love, American Style, and their variety shows, such as the short-lived The Hanna-Barbera Happy Hour and the Legends of the Superheroes, in which they briefly turned to Douglass for sweetening, this laugh track, containing six tapes and fewer than ten snippets of laughter, would be used incessantly in nearly all of Hanna-Barbera's comedic fare for a decade.

Critics took note of the inferior-sounding laugh track permeating Hanna-Barbera's Saturday morning fare. The same prerecorded laugh can be heard after nearly every punchline. The fact that the treble was mixed far too high for the accompanying soundtrack only drew attention to the falsity of the practice.

The laugh track affected several TV specials as well, such as Casper's First Christmas, many specials from The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie (1972-73), and all The Flintstones' prime-time specials that aired during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The studio also occasionally slowed down the laugh track for a greater effect; this was done in Season 2 of The New Scooby-Doo Movies.

Hanna-Barbera also used the limited laugh track when it produced Wait till Your Father Gets Home in 1972, the studio's first prime-time animated television show since the demise of The Flintstones in 1966. This laugh track was also slowed down during production, plus the studio added a third belly laugh to add a little more "variety" to the track. (This was the only TV series made by Hanna-Barbera to have this added belly laugh.)

The laugh track was discontinued after the 1981-82 television season. Except for The Flinstones package shows, the final shows to receive the chuckles were Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, the first season of Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, The New Fred and Barney Show, and The Super Globetrotters. The last special to feature the laugh track was The Flintstones: Jogging Fever, which aired 11 October 1981.

Cartoons with a Laugh Track

Hanna-Barbera cartoons with a laugh track include:

* Used the limited laugh track