What Happened to Scooby?

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   Unfortunately, you haven't been stuck in a nightmare all these years. Scooby-Doo, the best cartoon show ever to come out of a studio and into the minds of a generation, has deteriorated into nothing. What happened? Why did it happen? Could it have been stopped?

   My opinion? Hanna-Barbera couldn't leave well enough alone. They just had to figure out a way to make Scooby-Doo appeal to a wider audience, hence more ratings, hence more $$$. They tinkered with the music, the format, the characters, trying to get the most out of S-D as possible. It lead to damnation.

   At first, there was the original gang--Fred, Velma, Shaggy, Daphne, and Scooby--and a bunch of scary villians--the Miner '49er, the Space Ghost, the Ghost of Redbeard. etc. "Scooby Doo Where Are You!" was so unique because it took scary situations with dangerous criminals, and made the viewer laugh, gasp, or scratch his head instead of just making him bite his nails and cower in the corner. There were plenty of bizarre occurences in the show--edible donut-shaped fog, fish in empty buckets, levitating ham sandwiches, eyes peering from behind empty rooms, mice and squirrels that either scared Shaggy and Scooby half to death or ate the Scooby snacks before Shag or Scoob could, etc.

   A classic was born from these simple ingredients, where the gang shirked high school to walk into haunted houses, board ghost ships, act as extras on haunted movie sets, and traverse many dark and gloomy caverns and mineshafts. With the antics of Scooby and Shaggy always eating and trying to get out of the mystery; with the general uselessness of Daphne and Fred always trying to split up from the rest of the gang; and with Velma who usually had the mystery solved after seeing only two clues, we learned that the supernatural beasties inhabiting the world are really just a bunch of criminals in latex, face-paint and wetsuits counterfeiting money, hijacking yachts, and searching for buried treasure.

   In 1971, two years after Scooby-Doo's introduction, someone at Hanna-Barbera decided to redo the introduction and add music into the chase scenes. Music that told everyone to remain happy as Fred and the gang were chased by two zombies in a speeding car, music that had a chorus of "na na na na na na na" during a time in which Scooby and Shaggy were running away from a werewolf who would just love to smack the gang around with his fists. Music that had absolutely nothing to do with what was happening around the gang.

   The deterioration had begun. The villians--Zen-Tuo and the Scare Pair, the Wax Phantom, Mono Tiki Tia, etc.--were still as memorable, one-sidedly determined, and goofily dressed as ever. The gang was still entering haunted houses, dusty attics, and broken-down buildings. But the music ruined the mood for me. Maybe if the music had meant something, if it had been composed for a chase scene instead of simply slapped on as filler, I wouldn't have minded so much. Too late now.

   A year after the music, someone came to their senses and realized the music wasn't helping anything. They realized that Scooby-Doo, for full effect, was meant to be at least forty minutes long instead of the measly twenty-three from before. The New Scooby-Doo Movies came out.

   This show had some of the most memorable scenes; mainly because the episodes were full of guest stars--movie, television, cartoon, and music. Now the gang was solving mysteries for Batman, Sonny & Cher, Jerry Reed, Dick Van Dyke, and others. Aside from the sheer impossibility of how the gang met with a star each episode, Scooby Doo was back, and better than ever.

   Then, the classic 1976 season (the year of my birth), where the gang decided that America was too boring and went to solve mysteries in Spain, Italy, Scotland, China, and many other countries. The villians in this one--Merlin and his Black Knight, the Loch Ness Monster, Mamba Wamba etc.--were, I don't know, not the same. I do like this season, but, in my opinion, the Wax Phantom and Werewolf are twenty times more believable than the Gator Ghoul and the Headless Horseman.

   Why don't I like the '76 season as much as the originals? Simple. '76 was when Scooby's relatives showed up. First, there's Scooby-Dum. A nauseating, buck-toothed Scooby wanna-be complete with magnifying glass and Sherlock hat. Some people find this character "hilarious" and "a perfect match for Scooby." Others can't live without seeing the "shake" him and Scooby do. I just find him annoying.

   Of course, now that Scooby's family tree has started, Hanna-Barbera adds Scooby-Dee, a throw-away love-interest character that gets kidnapped almost as often as Daphne. The show has lost its magic, its ability to captivate and astound me. What happened next to the show should've been illegal.....

Scrappy-Doo.

   From here on in, the show was finished. Scrappy-Doo yipped and yapped at the heals of villians; brandishing his paw-fists and threatening them with two of the most annoying quotes in cartoon history: "Ta-da-da-da-da-da, P-p-p-puppy Power!" and "Let me at 'em. I'll splat 'em."

   After a handful of horrible episodes, Velma and Fred are gone (can you blame them?). The mysteries are gone. The show has become a campy romp through cartoon-ville, where Shaggy and Scooby find humorous ghosts, turn into donkeys a la Pinnochio, find Medusa masks that work by shining flashlights through the eyes, etc. No longer are the villians memorable, or even slightly believable. The shows are cut in half. Usually, I'd be angry, but a Scrappy-Doo episode lasting anything over ten minutes is scary enough.

   More shows are spawned from this, clinging onto the Scooby-Doo name like a fungus. I will not go into them here. The horror they caused is best left to the imagination, where it won't be as deadly.

   The only rectifying moment was 1988's "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo". Unfortunately, this show was slated for kids only, so the scary monsters and artwork were gone, replaced by such laughable characters as the "Haunted Hamburger" and "Dr. Croaker, Space Toad." But, at least the original voice artists for Shaggy and Scooby--Casey Kasem and Don Messick-- were back in their full glory.

   But nothing will ever match the sheer energy, lunacy, humor, horror, and fun of experiencing a Scooby-Doo show. At least TBS and Cartoon Network still show it, but aside from the classic reruns, there is nothing new, nothing for a new generation to awe over and laugh with and have fun watching. A moment of silence, please, for the loss of a great show, possibly the greatest to ever grace a television screen.

   If you have never seen the original Scooby cartoons, please do not start by watching the new Scooby movies, such as Zombie Island and others recently released. They have new characters and they are not all that great, so I hope you don't expect them to be as good.

 


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