Scooby-Doo: Then & Now!
By Kurt Kuersteiner (© Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards) for The Wrapper Magazine
One of the saddest things I always heard growing up was, "And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids!" That's because it meant my favorite cartoon was ending another episode of ghost-hunting. The four teen-aged detectives and their dog had solved the mystery, and I would have to endure seven more days and nights before I could see the next installment of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
Watching the series each week was like going through a carnival haunted house. You knew all the monsters were fake, because they always exposed them at the end of the show, but you still had fun getting scared. Unlike other monster cartoons (like Sabrina, the Teenage Witch), the monsters in Scooby-Doo were not goofy looking but sinister in appearance. There was always a detective sub-plot, where you could attempt to add up the clues and guess who was behind it all before they were busted. (Hint: It was usually the janitor or hired help.) And of course, there was the comic relief, aptly provided by the anthropomorphic Great Dane and his shaggy teen-aged sidekick.
The series had one heck of a great opening sequence. A flutter of wings would sound and squeaking bats would swarm from a steeple toward the audience. The theme music would begin and an impressive assortment of monster highlights would follow, interspersed with scenes of Scooby and his human counterparts panicking, stumbling, and bumping into one another. The only TV series with as cool of an intro was Johnny Quest, which was another series by the same cartoon company of Hanna-Barbera.
The cast of Scooby-Doo was easy to like. They were old enough to drive but young enough not to work. There was the dapper Freddy, who seemed to be the head honcho. He acted straight but wore a rather queer red scarf. Then there was Daphne. She was the looker of the bunch. She had orange hair and a slim figure. The way Freddy always split up the team and disappeared with Daphne made some think the gay scarf was a red herring to keep viewers from suspecting what was really going on. Velma was the frumpy one of the gang. She wore glasses and was the brains of the outfit. Like the professor on Gilligan's Island, she always seemed to know whatever ancient language or obscure trivia was needed crack the case. Shaggy was a big coward who hung out with Scooby. He wore a sloppy green T-shirt (never tucked in) and grew scruffy peach fuzz on his chin. Shaggy and Scooby had a never ending hunger. In fact, some said his constant craving for munchies was really a drug reference. Scooby was the goofy dog with a ferocious appetite but a chicken disposition. He spoke bastardized English the same way that Astro did in The Jetsons.
By odd coincidence, I happen to raise three Great Danes. Despite my best training efforts, I have not been able to teach any of them to talk or solve crimes like Scooby-Doo did. They do, however, possess Scooby's appetite, and can swallow entire submarine sandwiches in one or two gulps. But I digress.
Later episodes of Scooby-Doo had many guest stars. There was Tim Conway, Vincent Price, Phyllis Diller, Jonathan Winters, Don Knotts, Laurel & Hardy and the Addams Family. There was even Batman and Robin. Robin's voice was performed by Casey Kasem, who was also the voice of Shaggy, and is the weekly announcer to America's Top 40 rock music count down. (When his voice isn't solving crimes, it's committing them. Again, I digress.)
The monsters were also stars of the show. They featured the standard assortment of creepy classics, including Count Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Headless Horseman, the Mummy, the Wolfman, and the Abominable Snowman. There were also new monsters, like the Miner 49er, the Kelp monster, the Gator Ghoul, Charlie the Robot, and some deep sea diver monster guy. (Anybody in a mask is kinda scary, or so it seemed on Scooby-Doo.)
The original series lasted six seasons and remains popular in syndication all over the world. I was surprised to discover the Scottish were crazy for it. They broke it up in to 15 minute episodes and ran it every day. Zoinks!
It took over 30 years for someone to dedicate a series of cards to this classic. During the last year, Inkworks has released two. The first one came out last summer with the live action movie. (More on that later.) The second just came out and profiles the cartoon series. It's a 72 card set and includes Monsters, Episode Summaries, Behind the Scenes, Mystery-solving cards, and lots of trivia.
The new set is available in a standard retail version for $.99 per pack or a collector's hobby edition pack for $2.99. I have to say I like this dual approach. For those of us who want to see cheap trading cards available to entice new collectors, $.99 cents a pack seems pretty fair. And for others who like the chase cards and are willing to pay extra for them, knock yourself out at $3 a pack. The added price buys sketch cards from nine different artists (1:85 packs), six autograph cards (1:62), six foils (1:7), and nine stickers (1:1).
One of the things the newer set covers is the later reincarnations of Scooby-Doo. Whenever anything succeeds in Hollywood, the money sharks circle and start taking bites out of it until they bleed it to death. The early CBS years of Scooby-Doo were the best (1969 to 1976). When it moved to ABC, things went down hill. It became the Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt show, which introduced Scooby-Dum and Scooby-Dear. It really tanked in 1979 when Scrappy-Doo was added to the cast. Scrappy-Doo was Scooby's nephew puppy, and spoke clear English. But he was so obnoxious, you wished he would bark instead. "I'm not afraid," he'd yell at the worst possible times, "Let me at him! I'll show 'em a thing or two! PUPPY POWER!" Little wonder many viewers pronounced his name without the "S."
Steven Spielberg directed a lot of neat movies in his heyday, but his bad influence on cartoons is enough to condemn his soul to eternal torment in hell. He's responsible for the horrendous formula of recycling all our favorite cartoon characters into adolescent forms. Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck-- you name it and they were recast as some insipid pre-teen. It was an interesting idea, until you watched it. This terrible transformation happened to Scooby and the gang in 1988 and I haven't watched TV since. (Not on a regular basis, anyway.)
Fortunately, there're still the movies to offer some form of escape. Last summer's live action version of the Scooby-Doo looked like a dog in the previews, but was actually pretty entertaining. They did a bang-up job of recreating Shaggy. He meets the girl of his dreams who even has his favorite name: Mary Jane. (Those drug rumors keep a-coming!) Scooby is a computer animated character and looks pretty bogus, but his personality is so amusing, audiences were still won over. Daphne was played by Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Freddy actually kisses her in the movie, so perhaps he was scared straight.
The Inkworks card set for the film has 72 base cards and several different bonus cards, including 6 sparkly cards, six lenticular cards, and 72 parallel cards that look like the base set but peel off to become stickers.
It's good to see this classic cartoon earn its place in cardboard history. I'll give it three Scooby snacks. (Not perfect, but enough to make Shaggy enter a haunted house!)
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