Hanna-Barbera used laugh tracks 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 Pussycats.
However, by the 1970s, the laugh track had become increasingly expensive, enough for Hanna-Barbera to not keep up with its budget. 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 canned chuckles from Douglass’ vast library. Mixed with a tinny, metallic sound to it, there were five 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. This laugh track—containing fewer than 10 snippets of laughter—would be used incessantly on nearly all of Hanna-Barbera's comedic fare from 1971 to 1980.
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, most notably Casper's First Christmas.
On occasion, the studio would slow 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 1979-80 television season. The final shows to receive the chuckles were Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo and The Super Globetrotters. The last special to feature the laugh track was The Flintstones' New Neighbors, which aired in September 1980.
Cartoons with a laugh track
Hanna-Barbera cartoons with a laugh track include:
- The Flintstones (ABC, 1960-1966)
- Top Cat (ABC, 1961)
- The Jetsons (ABC, 1962)
- The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (NBC, 1968-1970)
- Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (CBS, 1969-1970)
- Where's Huddles? (CBS, 1970)
- The Harlem Globetrotters (CBS, 1970-1971)
- Josie and the Pussycats (CBS, 1970-1971)
- Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch! (CBS, 1971-1972)
- The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show (CBS, 1971-1972)
- The Flintstone Comedy Hour (CBS, 1972-1973)
- Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space (CBS, 1972-1973)
- The New Scooby-Doo Movies (CBS, 1972-1974)
- Wait till Your Father Gets Home (Syndication, 1972-1974)
- Jeannie (CBS, 1973-1975)
- Partridge Family 2200 A.D. (CBS, 1974-1975)
- Hong Kong Phooey (ABC, 1974)
- The Scooby-Doo Show (ABC, 1976-1978)
- Dynomutt, Dog Wonder (ABC, 1976-1977)
- Jabberjaw (ABC, 1976-1978)
- Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels (ABC, 1977-1980)
- The Super Globetrotters (NBC, 1979-1980)
- Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo (ABC, 1979-1980)