JLAJRC pointed out that it’s Scoobtober, so I thought I’d look at some different iterations of the Scooby-Doo shows, from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? to Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated. My history with Scoob isn’t too complicated; it’s never really been in the top ten or probably twenty of my favourite shows, but I’ve never had a problem with it per se. Kinda lame comedy with some attempts to do scary mystery and monster stories, to a formula. I watched it but rarely taped it as a kid and always preferred when the whole gang was present, because Fred, Velma and Daphne offset some of the silliness with Scoob and Shaggy. And I might be in the minority because I like Scrappy-Doo too.
What a Night for a Knight
First episode of the show, from 1969, and even when I was a kid it was always a hard one to reconcile that it was produced that long ago. This one features a disappeared archaeologist and a seemingly living suit of armour. Ill-placed laugh track aside, it’s played pretty straight. The main actors are finding their feet as far as how OTT to go with the voices, with a far more reserved Fred and Daphne played as just a female student rather than the sexy one. It does end up as a chase and evade adventure with the scary Black Knight (who is more of a gunmetal grey, really) eventually running away from Scooby and Shaggy in comical fashion and if you don’t (as I never did) keep track of who had appeared previously in the episode then you have a half-decent chance of being surprised when it’s revealed.
Mine Your Own Business
The Scooby Gang arrives in ghost town Gold City, the only occupants of a hotel that’s quickly running out of business. The reason being the menacing Miner Forty-Niner, who apparently showed up looking for gold in 1849 and 120 years later hasn’t found it and isn’t happy about it. This leads everyone underground to find out what’s happening. The show definitely always had it down pat when it came to creating some creepy locales, and the monsters aren’t bad either, although the Miner Forty-Niner is just a big guy with a beard who wails a lot. It really is the name that’s given him a level of immortality. The episode itself is fine, pretty inoffensive.
Watch Out! The Willawaw!
Moving into the 1976 iteration, The Scooby-Doo Show, which most will probably remember from the shark biting off Scoob’s water-skis and the interlude with Scooby-Dum, who isn’t in this episode. The Willawaw is a giant owl and the appearance of it at the same time that Velma’s uncle Dave, who the gang are visiting, is concerning. To help the kids is a tribe of Native Americans, led by the amusingly-named Red Heron, who seem not to have mastered syntax yet. Cracking the case on this one pretty much depends on paying attention to the sound effects used for when the Willawaw is flying around. Eventually we get enough clues grounded in reality to work out what’s going on.
Make a Beeline Away From That Feline
This is one I remember from when I was a kid based on the villain. Daphne’s aunt believes she is turning into a cat creature at night to commit crimes. The way this one works is in the Sherlock Holmes-like rationality and secret tricks that could work, even though they’re a little elaborate. Great staging and atmosphere even for a setting that is just a town. There’s a pretty interesting piece of animation as Scooby and the cat tangle in a lift that looks to have been produced by either a different studio or a more ambitious animator. A grumpy doorman is presented as a possible culprit for the crimes, but not really developed enough to be feasible. Eventually, the other guest character is revealed to be responsible. Not sure what the cat noises the cat creature is making are supposed to be, sound more like the agonising screams of someone catching their balls in their zip.
The Neon Phantom of the Roller Disco
Picking up Scrappy-Doo now. Remember when I said I didn’t find Scrappy that annoying? That’s on account of him acting tough, not acting cool. Trying to get down to some non-existent music at the Hollywood Bowl makes him look like an annoying ass. There, they come into contact with the Neon Phantom, who has the seeming power to drain electricity from the surrounding area. He has a really cool glowing almost-skeleton appearance that’s something different and Michael Bell provides one of his memorable voices for him, not unlike Doc Ock. If I were the producers of the show, I’d be hoping that the Gibbs or their kids weren’t watching, as the incidental music used in the episode is extraordinarily close to Stayin’ Alive! Definitely trying to tap into the disco fever of the time, including an epilepsy-inducing dance scene at the end – I’m pretty sure that strobe lights include more than just hard, alternating, red and green.
The Sludge Monster from the Earth’s Core
Jumping ahead to the end of the eighties now, past a few varied versions of Scooby-Doo, with A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. It’s not good vibes to start off with a “funky” new theme tune and the characters re-imagined as kids in a world where right angles don’t exist and everything has distorted edges. A weird monster with tentacles, claws and an eye in his stomach is haunting Scooby’s kennel. Even though the earlier series weren’t exactly sincere scarefests, the production of this show is so OTT that it’s hard to invest in the fear factor, even with great writers like Tom Ruegger, who would go on to work on Batman: The Animated Series. Coincidentally, based on watching the Willawaw episode earlier, this series has a bully character that’s presented as a possible suspect most times called Red Herring.
I remember this show but don’t exactly have memories of it, so it was a surprise when a chase scene turns into a musical number. An element of this show that carried over into Mystery Incorporated is Daphne being a rich girl who lives in a mansion, which is mentioned when the Scooby-Doo Detective Agency (as they dub themselves) venture into Scoob’s kennel, which like the TARDIS is the size of a mansion and just as nice. My favourite part of the show, then and now, is little Velma with her legs working overtime to keep up with everyone else, dwarfed by her magnifying glass. Bless them for trying something different, but it’s a reinvention that just didn’t work and it wasn’t until the gang travelled to Zombie Island that they reestablished a new identity to enter the new millennium with.
Big Scare in the Big Easy
Now firmly a part of Warner Bros. and riding that wave of success from Zombie Island and the live action movie starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar, What’s New Scooby-Doo? was a decent effort at mixing the humour and adventure for a more contemporary audience, although the theme tune is incredibly dated now and points to garage bands with lip piercings, tattoos and spiky hair of various colours. Ghostly confederate soldiers the Leland Brothers come to life while the gang are attending Mardi Gras in New Orleans. There is an attempted depth to the characters and situations, although it’s clearly more for kids than any heritage audience. I was also surprised how cheap the animation looks for a show of this era. I just wish they’d put as much effort into the rest of the episode as in the catchy musical number late in the episode.
The Legend of Alice May
Finishing for now with the excellent Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, which still had a sense of humour, but was far more mature and filmic, with an ongoing storyline that could have seen the whole world destroyed, tapping into conspiracy theories, and really working with the relationships between characters. A teenager goes to prom with the girl of his dreams, who reveals herself as a horrific monster. At the same time, Velma and Daphne compete for the oblivious affections of Shaggy and Fred respectively, the latter setting himself up to become the next victim of the eponymous Alice May. Hynden Walch, Starfire from Teen Titans, is great as her, playing her both as innocent and menacing at the same time.
Walch isn’t the only good addition to the cast, with Patrick Warburton playing up to his usual kind of dumb jock character as Sheriff Bronson Stone and Vivica A. Fox as DJ Angel Dynamite. Angel could’ve easily been a Cree Summer casting, nothing against Summer, but it was nice to see a bit of variation. Jennifer Hale also makes a cameo as one of Daphne’s many sisters, Delilah, a military gal, and Maurice LaMarche provides his Vincent Price impression as Vincent Van Ghoul.
Prom ends up having a touch of Carrie about it when the ghost Alice May shows up and haunts the event, scaring everyone out. They actually create a link to the classic villain the Creeper in one of many callbacks to the history of the show, which was celebrated. The end of the episode, accompanied by a creepy recurring leitmotif, provides some new information regarding the original Mystery Incorporated. Much as I said recently about Transformers: Prime, this is probably the best Scooby-Doo show ever and likely won’t be topped, as inferior follow-ups have pretty much proven and not really taken off in the same way. Excellent show!
Conclusion: I’ll try and make it back to Scoob with some more episodes and some of the DTV specials, including the WWE ones. A lot of stuff in the library of this brand to appreciate, and some stuff to pass over.