Sunday, October 7, 2012

Scooby-Doo through the years: A Look Back

Some of you probably know that the current Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated will end after 2 seasons, the second of which is being misused by Cartoon Network, but that's another story for another time. Time, then, to take a look back at 43 years of Scooby-history.

*Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? (1969-72, 1974-6): To think that after all these years, they originally wanted this to be a rock & roll mystery show?! It's true. The original working title was Mysteries Five, but Scooby eventually got his name thanks to a line in Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night", suggested by then-programming honcho Fred Silverman at CBS. The familiar format would serve well for years to come. Scooby became Hanna-Barbera's last icon of the 60's, and was the only one of the studio's four freshman series in 1969 to have new episodes ordered for the following season, which in those days was pretty rare for a Saturday morning cartoon from H-B. A rock soundtrack, with the theme re-recorded by Austin Roberts, was used for season 2, as H-B wanted another piece of the bubblegum rock pie, after the Banana Splits had been cancelled and the Cattanooga Cats was all reruns and downsized to a half hour for its 2nd year.

The characters' familiar personas emerged quickly. Fred (Frank Welker) was the co-leader, along with bookworm Velma (Nicole Jaffe), but was often paired with leggy Daphne, which left Velma to team with cowardly Scooby (Don Messick) and his owner, Shaggy (Casey Kasem).  We can't say for sure if teenage girls became interested in pink or purple nylons thanks to Daphne, oh by the way.

*The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972-4): In answer to ABC's Saturday Superstar Movie, which H-B was contributing to, the studio was commissioned to give Scooby a hour-long series that saw various celebrities (i.e. Sandy Duncan, Tim Conway, Sonny & Cher), other cartoon characters (i.e. Batman, Josie & the Pussycats), and comedy icons (The Three Stooges, Laurel & Hardy) appear with the gang. Of course you know that Batman & Robin's two appearances helped lay the groundwork for Super Friends a year later, only for that franchise to go to ABC. During season 2, Scooby helped welcome Speed Buggy in much the same way that Space Ghost introduced viewers to Mightor, Shazzan, Moby Dick, & The Herculoids during his 2nd season.

And, just so you know, the appearances by the above mentioned celebrities smacked of network crossover synergy. Duncan had a couple of short sitcom runs, Conway was appearing on The Carol Burnett Show, and Sonny & Cher had their own variety series at the time, all appearing on CBS.

*The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour (1976-7): Scooby finally followed the Dynamic Duo to ABC, and was paired with a new hero, Dynomutt, a canine parody of The Six Million Dollar Man, crossed with Batman (personified by the Blue Falcon). Mystery Inc. frequently teamed with Dyno during his half of the show, but the opposite never held true, though I think there might've been one episode that encompassed the entire hour.

*Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics (1977-9): For year 2 with Dynomutt, the series was expanded and reformatted, tucked neatly in the center of ABC's Saturday lineup, in between All-New Super Friends Hour & the returning Krofft Supershow. Continuity, as you'd figure, was tossed out the window in trying to figure out how our heroes found time to solve cases and compete in the Laff-a-Lympics, all in the course of 2 hours. Captain Caveman completed the 2 hour block, but he & Scooby would not share an adventure together until an ill-advised dream sequence in a season 1 episode of Mystery Incorporated.

*Scooby & Scrappy-Doo (1979-83): Some will say the franchise jumped the shark with the introduction of pint-sized Scrappy, and there are two schools of thought on the pug-sized nephew, who proved to be both braver & smarter than his uncle, perhaps to a fault. Season 2 saw Fred, Daphne, & Velma take a leave of absence for whatever reason, as it seemed the network felt the kids would be more comfortable with just 3 protagonists, creating a bizarre comedy act perhaps inspired by the Three Stooges.

*The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries (1983-5): Daphne finally returned, but save for a guest appearance in "The Nutcracker Scoob", a Christmas adventure, Fred & Velma were hardly heard from, and, oh, how fan fiction mavens have missed opportunities to reverse the usual romantic pairings, though some claim there could've been romantic overtones between Daphne and Shaggy.

*The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (September 1985-March 1986): Amazingly, the first Scooby series not to be renewed, and it didn't finish out the season! Reruns of earlier seasons, under titles like Scooby's Mystery Funhouse & Scary Scooby Funnies, helped fill open spaces on the schedule during the mid-80's, a testimony to Scooby's growing popularity. Episodes from 1969-79 were now in syndication at this point.

After nearly a full decade at ABC, Scooby finally got a vacation, as the network cleaned house in 1986. However, the great dane would return......

*A Pup Named Scooby-Doo (1987-91): For the first time, Casey Kasem & Don Messick got star billing, and a then-unknown actress, Kellie Martin, was cast as a younger Daphne. Pup is a prequel to the earlier series, purporting that the gang had been together since childhood, forming the Scooby-Doo Detective Agency early on in their careers. Kellie Martin would go on to a string of primetime successes, including Christy, Life Goes On, and a stint on ER.

For the next 7 years, there would be only reruns, as Scooby was off network television again. Cartoon Network debuted in 1992, and ultimately would be the only place to find Scooby. It got to the point where network programming nerds, obsessed with the ratings generated by the reruns, would fill every available hole in the schedule with Scooby. In 1998, Hanna-Barbera, in one of its last major projects, launched a direct-to-video movie series that continues to this day. The first film, "Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island", was also the first Scooby project without Messick, who'd passed away a year earlier, and without Kasem, who had left. He wanted Shaggy to adopt a vegan lifestyle to mirror his own, it seems. However, despite getting a current A-list voice actor to succeed Kasem in Billy West (Futurama), it just didn't seem right. They also failed in casting Scooby. Scott Innes essayed the role in the first four films, and doubled as Shaggy beginning with 1999's "Scooby-Doo & The Witch's Ghost". In "Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders", Innes, as Shaggy, performs a musical number, which might've been the only advantage he ever had on "Mr. Top 40", as Kasem, who recorded some vocals for the 1976 series' theme song, was not exactly rock star material himself. However, Innes might not have struck enough chords with fans.......

*What's New Scooby-Doo? (September 2002-February 2005): After 11 years off network television, Scooby returned, this time on Kids' WB!. Casey Kasem returned as Shaggy, and Frank Welker now essayed a dual role as Fred & Scooby, something that some might think should've been a no-brainer four years earlier, given that Welker, now a pre-eminent expert on animal voices, might have been a protege of Don Messick's for all those years. Granted, Neil Fanning, who voiced Scooby in 2 live-action features, the first of which preceded What's New by 3 months, wasn't too bad, but....!

The Canadian rock group Simple Plan recorded the show's theme song, and the producers marked the 30th anniversary of the movie series by casting the occasional guest stars, including Simple Plan and baseball star Mike Piazza, then with the New York Mets. However, carrying over from the live-action "Scooby-Doo" was the dumbing down of Fred, who now was a fanboy who marked out meeting people he'd read about and admired. It would only get worse. They also did a callback to the Scooby/Shaggy/Scrappy era, minus Scrappy, in an episode where Scooby & Shaggy were working with some younger kids at a camp that was supposedly haunted. What a shock.

*Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue (2006-8): Flash animation just didn't work right, and the producers obviously didn't learn thing one about leaving Fred, Daphne, & Velma behind. Scott Menville took over as Shaggy, but unlike the previous series, where Kasem & Welker got star billing, no such case here. There was an ongoing storyline, negated by the lame notion of nanite-infused Scooby Snacks giving Scoob some superpowers. I'd say it would be the worst incarnation of the franchise......

*Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated (2010-present): Cartoon Network fumbled this one real bad.

For starters, head writer and producer Mitch Watson decided to reboot the franchise from scratch for a new audience. Problem was, he messed with the formula big time, deciding that Fred was kidnapped as a baby from his "real" parents, and that the Mayor of the gang's hometown, Crystal Cove (as opposed to Coolsville in traditional canon), was a corrupt, money hungry weasel. CN ran the first half of season 2 over 3 weeks this summer, in the afternoon, because they were so slow in putting the show back on the air. Watson was trying to be all things to all people, including playing to fan fiction fans online by playing up not only the predictable Fred-Daphne romance, but also a pro tempore Shaggy & Velma coupling. Matthew Lillard, who played Shaggy in the 2 theatrical features, and even interacted with the ol' Shagster (as voiced then by Casey Kasem) & Scooby in "Looney Tunes: Back in Action", succeeded Kasem, apparently getting the seal of approval from the radio legend, who now plays Shaggy's disapproving father.

The fact that the gang's respective parents disapproved of their interests in mysteries (and Fred's new obsession with building traps, making him even more of a geek than previously imaginable) bothered me. So, too, did Watson's royal mishandling of the Funky Phantom. While he's attempting to gather as much H-B history together in one box by creating a whole H-B Universe in homage to the studio's founders, and I admire his initiative, he needs to take into account that it shouldn't just be one fan's perspective (his), but taking also into account 40+ years of history encompassing Scooby's run, and how all fans might perceive it. He might have the seal of approval from creators Joe Ruby & Ken Spears, but he has alienated more than a few people. Unfortunately, with production ending on this series, Watson's next project may be cause for much cringing. He's reportedly on board for Beware the Batman, due next year. Let's see if he gets it right this time.

I am not sure what the future holds for Scooby after Mystery Incorporated ends its run, but, trust me, it has to be better than it is now.

12 comments:

magicdog said...

You don't know how long I've waited for this!

The original two seasons of SDWAY I still enjoy to this day! It is the toon that started it all and the current show SDMI is strongly rooted in it. You can't go wrong introducing Scooby & the gang and most adults can enjoy it on some level. Many of the backgrounds are still quite scary looking, despite the tone of the show having been lightened due to new broadcast restrictions.

I also enjoy the "Scooby Movies" if anything because each ep is a time capsule. So many talented individuals guested on the show (which wasn't uncommon in live action shows back then) and it's amazing to think that Scooby shared screen time with the likes of Don Knotts, Sonny & Cher and Mamma Cass. I'll admit I'm not as fond of the eps featuring the Stooges and L&H. Not that I didn't like them but because they weren't "the real deal". They didn't seem to fit. The Speed Buggy ep I didn't know was an intro to that show. I remember thinking Mark was so darkly colored (compared to his series self) I thought the colorists had made a mistake. I found out later that TPTB originally intended for him to be an American Indian, but there's never been any mention of it in the series proper.

The Scooby/Dynomutt years were fair, but DM got on my nerves with his incompetence and it was funny to see BF so happy to have a gang of teens help him out so readily on a mission. DM & BF came full circle guesting on a recent ep of SDMI - and DM was a LOT more competent this time around.

The Laff a Lympics to me was more of the same, but it was fun to see familiar HB faces as part of the action.

magicdog said...

Continued:


I began tuning out on SD by the time Scrappy arrived. The show was being dumbed down to a younger audience (hence Scrappy's inclusion) and as mentioned, Fred, Daphne & Velma were getting the shaft. The network had a chance to take the show in the opposite direction but apparently didn't think it was worth the risk. They had Clue Club instead.

13 Ghosts had so much potential and Vincent Price was a great icon to include. Trouble is, the gang was still incomplete and we had both Scrappy & Flim Flam. The hints of a romantic interaction between Daph & Shaggy was addressed (in a fanservice-y way) in SDMI.

Hated "Pup". This was the beginning of Freddy's character assassination which hasn't let up since. This was also the show calling the kid's hometown, "Coolsville" although there was nothing in earlier cannon about it. I never tought of it as a true prequel to any of the incarnations, merely a copy cat of trends found in shows like "Flintstone Kids" & "Muppet Babies" .

The DTV's vary (many seemed to take on the tone of WNSD rather than the darker and mature tone set in the first two) but I think more can be done with them.

WNSD seemed to try to mesh the format of the orginal show (mysteries, musical chase scenes) with NSDM (celeb guest stars), except most of the "stars" were C-listers at best. Who is Lindsay Pagano? Right! I do give them props for the cool theme song, which seemed appropriate to the times, but the monsters weren't very scary. Again, could have been better.

"Get A Clue" was a mixed bag for me. I hated the obnoxious theme song, the fact the rest of the gang was left out (save for the pilot and a guest appearance later on) and I despised how they all looked in Flash. OTOH I appreciated that Shag & Scoob had to step it up and stop Dr. Phibes' nefarious plans, not to mention Uncle Albert's role in things.

SDMI I actually enjoy! It's not perfect, and there are some things I'd change but I think they went in the right direction as far as the artwork and sense of danger. I liked the mystery arc (which has yet to conclude) and that we got to see more about hwo the gang lives. I'd have preferred a more serious take, but the show does have its moments. Best of all it borrows/acknowledges all the past incarnations and even honors HB with toon cameos and homages. I'll miss it when it's gone.

Some theorize the next SD series will be in CGI - personally, I hope that DOESN'T happen.

Geed said...

I gave up on Scooby Doo as well when Scrappy arrived. Missed all the shows until Mystery Inc started up. I loved the episode with all the Scooby clone show sidekicks all teamed up (with a surprising villain in the end). Hell, they even did a Flim-Flam reference in one episode.

hobbyfan said...

Magicdog: I honestly have no clue why they couldn't have done a 3rd season of the New Scooby-Doo Movies. Like, there were more possibilities (Scooby & Carol Burnett, anyone?).

I referenced Dynomutt being a cross-parody of Batman & Six Million Dollar Man, a case of biting the hand that feeds (ABC). However, I'd also go so far as to reference Get Smart, since Dyno was such a bumbling boob. I haven't seen the season 2 eps of SDMI yet, as CN pulled them off the schedule already. Idiots. I will have something to say once I get a look at Watson's take on Dyno & Blue Falcon.

CN's been moving toward more CGI, as witnessed with Clone Wars, Green Lantern, and next year, Beware the Batman. Some of their outsourced programming has also been CGI, so that would appear to be the preferred direction for today's generation.

Geed: I forget which ep where Flim was referenced in passing, and not in a good way. Why that was, only Watson knows for sure. In that regard, there's a backstory that needs be told, and probably won't be.

magicdog said...

Seeing Scooby with Carol Burnett would have been AWESOME!

Of course they probably would have also had Scooby meet with Tabitha & The Clown Family too!

As for BF & Dynomutt in the SDMI universe, think Dark Knight paired with a competent Dynomutt! He still sounds the same, but his parts actually work like they should.

hobbyfan said...

Scooby & Tabitha? Uh, no.

Tabitha & Adam & the Clown Family was an ABC Saturday Superstar Movie.

Ok, so Frank Welker pulled extra duty on the Dynomutt ep of SDMI. I think he's the only one who does most of the time.....

Scoobyfan1 said...

@Hobbyfan and @magicdog: actually, I would have liked to see Scooby and the gang solve a mystery, or hang out with Tabitha and Adam from Bewitched; I think it would have made for a good episode or movie.

Especially after the gang's dealings with Jeannie and Babu, as well as the Addams Family.

However, I would have kept something from that ABC superstar movie and had Tabitha and Adam as a teenage witch and warlock.

Think about it: Scooby and the gang didn't have much of a problem with the Addams Family, nor Jeannie and Babu, and they were real supernatural beings, or were into the supernatural(hence the Addams house).

The problem I have with some of the Scooby projects throughout the years, is that whenever there's something really supernatural they only have Shaggy and Scooby think it's OK, and the rest of the gang is nowhere in sight.

Or(like the Scooby and the Goblin King movie) when they have the whole gang deal with the supernatural, the writers and producers cop out and just put Shaggy and Scooby as the stars and leave Fred, Daphne and Velma to do nothing but fill up space.

I for one would rather have the gnag deal with the supernatural and have Fred, Daphne and Velma not just run away, but maybe talk to the supernatural creature or being, and heck, maybe be friends with them.

Hence Scooby and the gang meeting Tabitha and Adam from Bewitched. At first, they could maybe be unsure of them because they're a witch and warlock, but eventually once the gang gets to know them better, and sees that they are friendly magic users, they are cool with them having magical powers.

You could have Tabitha be friends with Daphne and Velma, Shaggy, Fred and Scooby be friends with Adam, etc.

All in all, something like that could be really good.

hobbyfan said...

@ScoobyFan: Have you considered a fan-fic with Mystery Inc. meeting Tabitha & Adam yet? If not, you should!

Of course, I have my own idea for a future fan-fic over at ToonZone and it again involves a certain pair of siblings........

Scoobyfan1 said...

@hobbyfan: as far as your idea, I'll have to look for it.

Not only have I thought about doing a fan fic where mystery inc meets tabitha and Adam, but I've started one as well.

I have some plot ideas as far as the story goes, but it's not very far along yet. It will be eventually though.

Scoobyfan1 said...

@Hobbyfan: speaking of Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated, cartoon network has finally figured out when to run the last 11 episodes of the series, weekdays starting on March 25th.

Sounds good right? Well, apparently they're running it at 5:30 PM(and 5:00 PM for a double shot on March 25th.

Unfortunately, this also means that the show is running at the same time as a little event on CBS, TBS and TNT(the latter two being owned by Time Warner, the same people who own Cartoon Network) known as the Division 1 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

Yep, Cartoon Network is running Scooby Doo Mystery Inc's last 11 episodes at the same time as one of the biggest sporting events of the year, not to mention the NCAA tournament now is on TBS and TNT, as I mentioned, which means you have Scooby, and a huge sporting event competing one another, both on networks owned by Time Warner.

Which means for people like me who are both sports and Scooby fans, and who don't have a DVR, i'll be doing a lot of remote clicking starting on the 25th.

I seriously hope Cartoon Network does not run the next new Scooby Doo series, because after screwing this show up by running it in several different time slots, including weekdays at 2 PM, I would hate to see Scooby suffer the same fate again.

hobbyfan said...

CN's brain-dead suits just don't care about Scooby as much as the last administration did. That much we know.

Sticking SDMI opposite the NCAA tournament? That's asking for trouble. There are going to be a lot of college hoops fans who are like us and will do some channel surfing.

The NCAA tournament starts next week, running Thursday-Sunday the first two weeks, so Scooby's safe the first three days (March 25-27), as the tournament will end on 4/2. However, this is just a case of burning off the episodes to give the fanbase another double bird, if ya will.

Marshalsify said...

https://www.change.org/p/warner-brothers-create-a-modern-reboot-of-the-new-scooby-and-scrappy-doo-show