Warner Bros. // 1970 // 549 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // October 20th, 2004
"Solving mysteries is our hobby!" -- Shaggy, "Spooky Space Kook"
Pop culture icons are a fascinating concept. There is something inherent in the collective human consciousness that (for good or bad) grabs hold of a particular person, character, phrase, or performance and reverberates around the country -- sometimes even the world. On September 13, 1969, CBS introduced us to four teenagers and their pet Great Dane, who just happen to inexplicably stumble upon and solve mysteries on an almost daily basis. For the first time, Warner Bros. gives Scooby fanatics something we've long been clamoring for -- the first two seasons of Scooby-Doo, Where are You!, complete and uncut, on DVD.
Life for animated teens in the late '60s was pretty sweet! At least for Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy. You had your own wheels; an endless supply of time, energy, and money; no meddling parents; no job to worry about; and your very own talking dog. What more could you want?
How about mystery, intrigue, and suspense?
Be careful what you wish for!
Friends for life, these four super-sleuths and their trusty canine companion dubbed themselves "Mystery Inc." (though never officially) and set out on an indefinite road trip, righting wrongs, solving crimes, unraveling mysterious goings on, debunking cultural myths and legends, and somehow always finding time to chill out with a late night beach BBQ or a visit to the local malt shop.
Who are these incredible do-gooders? Let's go behind the veil of super-stardom and find out as DVD Verdict presents The DVD! True Animated Story...
* Frederick "Freddy" Jones
The prototypical All-American male. Six feet tall, blonde hair, snappy dresser, and popular with all the kids. A born leader who can think on his feet, assess any situation, and come up with a plan to address it. While most other jock-types are excelling at every sport imaginable, working out at the gym, and trying to shag the hottest cheerleader, Freddy is spending every waking moment traversing the country with a princess, a geek, a stoner, and a dog. Why do you suppose that is? Could it have something to do with the ascot? Enquiring minds want to know.
* "Danger Prone" Daphne Blake
The pretty princess. Well coiffed, well mannered, well funded, and always eager to help. Far from dumb, her obliviousness to other people and her surroundings is purely unintentional and regularly leads to victimization and self-injury. Daphne spends a great deal of time alone with Freddy, but her true feelings for him remain unclear. Exhibiting the largest pupils of the gang, could it be her self-focused nature is medicinally induced?
* Velma Dinkley
The brains of the outfit. As is the case with most people possessing high intelligence, the common sense aspects of life often escape Velma. Usually the first to decipher even the most obscure clues, this investigator is convinced the thick glasses are the true source of her incredible powers of deduction. How else do you explain the idiocy that results when they are accidentally knocked off her face?
* Norville "Shaggy" Rogers
A true dead-head if there ever was one. He loves to sleep, eat, and avoids any type of labor or risk. Not to mention his best friend is a talking dog. But Shaggy is not as useless as some may believe. His talent for quick thinking, impersonation, ventriloquism, and creative problem solving has gotten the gang out of more than a few jams. It's funny how the people everyone else thinks are crazy or weird are in fact the most normal of us all. Perhaps even a bit wiser.
* Scoobert "Scooby-Doo"
Part Great Dane and part chicken, Scooby is the world's foremost animated crime-fighting canine (well...next to Dynomutt, who isn't a real dog anyway, so never mind). Not only can he talk -- in and of itself a remarkable feat -- but he can also sing, dance, cook, paint, fly a plane, drive a car, perform gymnastics, and martial arts, just to name a few. A true renaissance dog. While it's never clearly stated, Scooby would appear to be Shaggy's pet. But when push comes to shove, this mutt puts all insecurities behind him and fearlessly comes to the rescue of anyone in trouble. You can't ask for a better friend.
Evil doers beware! These five amateur detectives have quite the amazing track record. Heck, they were the America's Most Wanted of their day. Although, I shudder to think of the criminal animosity that has built up over the years as a result of their actions. No wonder they're always on the road. Makes it harder for the bad guys to find them!
Back in 1969, CBS Daytime programming chief, Fred Silverman, wanted to change the stagnant face of Saturday morning TV, moving away from the over-mined superhero genre and into a format that had long played well with children of all ages: mystery. His original concept was a blending of old time radio detective shows with the zany characters and situations of The Many Loves of Doby Gillis. Some also claim the series draws inspiration from British author Enid Blyton's 1940s Famous Five novels, in which Julian, Dick, George, Anne, and Timmy the dog stumbled upon mystery and adventure in the English countryside.
Approaching cartoon kings William Hannah and Joe Barbera with his House of Mystery concept, Silverman began working with writers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, as well as character designer and Disney expatriate Iwao Takamoto to develop a proposal for the network. The end result was Mysteries Five, a Laguna Beach based teen rock band who, along with their trusty sheepdog Too-Much, would travel the California coastline playing beach parties and school dances, while continually running into monsters and mysteries in ghost towns, haunted mansions, deserted islands, and mountain resorts. The tales would be serialized in 15-part, 15-minute segments, each ending with a cliffhanger.
Sadly, our Mysteries Five heroes, Geoff, Mike, Kelly, Linda, WW, and Too-Much never saw life on the small screen. It turns out CBS president Frank Stanton deemed the concept too frightening for children, and the proposed series was shot down. Not one to give up easily, Silverman went back to Hanna-Barbera to consult with Ruby and Spears. Inspired by Frank Sinatra's scat riff in "Strangers in the Night" (Scooby-Dooby-Doo), this reworking would center on the teen's canine companion -- now a Great Dane named Scooby -- and tone down the fright factor with more classic comedy. CBS approved the change and green lighted the show for a fall 1969 premiere.
Once the excitement of the approval died down, Ruby and Spears realized more changes would be needed to make the series work. Fifteen minutes just wasn't enough time to tell the stories they had in mind. Out went the music group, one of the characters, and their names. The plot was extended to 22-minute, self-contained tales in which they were able to split up the team and focus on a smaller number of characters. Always wondered why Fred and Daphne went off together? Well, after completing the first five episodes, Joe and Ken found Shaggy, Velma, and Scooby were more enjoyable to write for. A short time later, they began shipping Velma off with Fred and Daphne to focus exclusively on the antics of the boys -- a format that would continue through the history of the series's many incarnations.
Joe Ruby and Ken Spears wrote all but four of the series's two season, 25 episodes (those penned by fellow HB writer Bill Lutz) before jumping ship for rival animation studio DePatie-Freleng (Pink Panther). In their absence, Hanna-Barbera created The New Scooby-Doo Movies, which featured famous guest stars voicing animated, mystery solving versions of themselves (Don Knotts, Mama Cass, Phyllis Diller, Sonny & Cher, and more). This incarnation also lasted only two seasons (24 episodes), with CBS re-running Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! for the 1973 and 1974 seasons.
When Fred Silverman left CBS for ABC in 1975, the network lost interest in Scooby. Quick-thinking Silverman and young programming exec Michael Eisner (yes, that Michael Eisner) bought the rights to Scooby-Doo, re-hired Ruby and Spears, and created The Scooby-Doo Show, paired in an hour-long slot with their new series Blue Falcon and Dynomutt. The shrewd move paid off in a big way, as Scooby and the gang became ABC's most profitable animated property for the next 15 years.
What has made Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! such an enduring piece of Americana? First and foremost, this was something different. Here is an animated series that's accessible to all ages, never talking up or down to any one segment of its audience. The younger crowd (6-12) loves the screwball comedy, the teens love the mystery, and the adults love having cartoons they could watch with the kids without being compelled to perform a self-induced lobotomy. Granted, not every episode is a gem, but each adventure offered up something new, evolving these characters beyond their two dimensional limitations.
The vocal talents of Frank Welker (Fred), Casey Kasem (Shaggy), Nicole Jaffe (Velma), Stephanianna Christopher and Heather North (Daphne), and the great Don Messick (Scooby) gave their personas life, depth, and history. It's great to discover that Shaggy was a high school track star and amateur ventriloquist, Daphne has an uncle that's a famous film director, Velma dabbles in the occult, and Freddy is strangely proficient with a lasso. Unlike most series of its time, Scooby-Doo has a canon that grew with every adventure, one that writers continue to draw from even to this day.
Instead of analyzing each of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!'s 25 episodes, I thought it would be more interesting to focus on the series as a whole and the observations made re-watching this series (in its entirety) as an adult.
Season One: (September 1969-January 1970)
Showcases some of the best-remembered adventures, but certainly not the best written. Loaded with continuity flaws, cleanup errors, stilted dialogue, and uneven characterizations, writers Ruby, Spears, and Lutz were working out the kinks and establishing a format that would eventually become legendary. The same opening and closing credit sequence runs for the entire season.
* What a Night for a Knight
* Hassle in the Castle
* A Clue for Scooby-Doo
* Mine Your Own Business
* Decoy for a Dognapper
* What the Hex is Going on?
* Never Ape an Ape Man
* Foul Play in Fun Land
* The Backstage Rage
* Bedlam in the Big Top
* A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts
* Scooby-Doo and a Mummy, Too
* Which Witch is Which?
* Go Away Ghost Ship
* Spooky Space Kook
* A Night of Fright is No Delight
* That's Snow Ghost
Season Two: (September 1970-October 1970)
Learning from mistakes made on their first production run, the Hanna-Barbera team crafted some of the best and worst episodes of the series's run. A new opening title sequence and theme song gave notice that the show's creators were not going to give us more of the same. While the characters designs remained true to form, we bear witness to a number of improvements, including varied camera angles and movement; cleaner, brighter, and wackier animation; more sight gags (especially with Scooby, Shaggy, and food); increasingly elaborate chase sequences (including the famous multi-door gag) underscored by a featured song; and a new voice for Daphne (Heather North, who has remained with the series off and on to this day).
* Nowhere to Hyde
* Mystery Mask Mix-Up
* Jeepers, It's the Creeper
* Scooby's Night with a Frozen Fright
* The Haunted House Hang-Up
* A Tiki Scare is No Fair
* Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Werewolf
* Don't Fool with a Phantom
1. Every Episode Takes Place at Night...Beach parties, boating, surfing, road trips, pizza runs, museum visits, et cetera. Some make perfect sense ("Let's stop for the night"), while others are like, huh?
2. The Mystery Machine is One Hell of a Vehicle...Designed by the British Secret Service, perhaps? Well, you explain how this standard American non-conversion van can go from completely empty to having a fully stocked kitchen ("Spooky Space Kook") and a high tech tracking system ("Decoy for a Dognapper"), as well as being able to store a huge fun house mirror and extension ladder. It's a mystery to me.
3. Breaking the Law...The gang has mastered the art of breaking laws in nearly every episode. Trespassing, breaking and entering, and destroying private property, all in the best interests of society, right? Good thing they solved those mysteries.
4. Making Enemies...There must be a prison full of two-bit criminals biding their time in the slammer and plotting their revenge on our teen heroes. No wonder they're always on the road.
5. Who's Paying for All This?...Long before the days of credit cards for teens, these super sleuths traveled the country in a van, stayed in various hotels and resorts, stopped at every malt shop, and never once held down a steady job. Wealthy parents? Another mystery.
6. Temporary Insanity...On occasion, Shag and Scoob have been known to set aside their rampant, irrational fears and go after ghosts and monsters ("Hassle in the Castle," "A Clue for Scooby-Doo," "The Backstage Rage," and "A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts"). There really must be something to those Scooby snacks.
7. Just Plain Weird, in an X-Files Sort of Way...Bluestone the Great had time to create a fake Shaggy head? ("Hassle in the Castle"). Ape Man has a Scooby-Doo mask? ("Never Ape an Ape Man"). Kids visiting the circus have Scooby-Doo balloons? ("Bedlam in the Big Top"). The Mummy has time to create a cement casting of Scooby? ("Scooby-Doo and a Mummy, Too"). The swamp boat has enough power to dredge up a fully loaded armored car buried deep in the swamp? ("Which Witch is Which?"). Where are Mulder and Scully when you need them.
8. Sloppy, Sloppy, Sloppy...Hanna-Barbera has never been know for their quality control. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! is no exception. Perspective? Nah. A full sized bi-plane can easily maneuver its way through a museum and standard doors ("What a Night for a Knight"). Daphne's voice from Velma's mouth ("What the Hex is Going On?"). Shaggy's voice from Fred's mouth ("The Backstage Rage"). The Mystery Machine must have come over from the UK, with the steering wheel on the opposite side ("Bedlam in the Bigtop"). Just how many people can climb a ladder at the same time? ("The Backstage Rage"). Watch in horror as faces and bodies change shape and size from scene to scene ("Which Witch is Which?").
First use of "Zoinks!": "Hassle in the Castle"
First loss of Velma's glasses: "Hassle in the Castle"
First appearance of Scooby Snacks: "Hassle in the Castle"
First elaborate monster trap: "Hassle in the Castle"
First visit to a malt shop/shoppe: "A Clue for Scooby-Doo"
First split-up search: "A Clue for Scooby-Doo"
First wardrobe change: scuba diving suits, "A Clue for Scooby-Doo"
First mention of Danger Prone Daphne: "Mine Your Own Business"
First villain rebuke: "...and I would've gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for those blasted kids and their dog!," Big Bob Oakley, "A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts"
First format change: Scooby tussles with local wildlife, "Which Witch is Which?"
Best of the Best
10. "What a Night for a Knight" -- The very first episode. A
9. "Decoy for a Dognapper" -- An elaborate mystery with many layers.
8. "Foul Play in Fun Land" -- Just when you think it's over, it's not!
7. "A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts" -- Classic monsters, a spooky castle, the voice of the incomparable June Foray, Shag and Scoob take the offensive, and Scooby solves the mystery.
6. "Scooby-Doo and a Mummy, Too" -- Overnight in a spooky museum, with a classic mystery, a great monster, and lots of clues.
5. "Haunted House Hang-Up" -- A headless phantom, a haunted mansion, an axe-wielding spectre, and a well developed plot.
4. "Nowhere to Hyde" -- First episode of season two, wackier, brighter, and more energy with another great monster and a complex mystery loaded with red herrings.
3. "A Tiki Scare is No Fair" -- Three words: Mono Tiki Tia! The gang brings the Mystery Machine to Hawaii for a vacation and a mystery.
2. "Spooky Space Kook" -- One of the series's best monsters, complete with a ghostly cackle that will haunt your memory forever. Not to mention a great chase sequence.
1. "A Night of Fright is No Delight," "Cousin Simple, Cousin Slicker, Cousin Norvell, Sweet Cousin Maldehyde" -- With lawyers like Creeps and Crawls, the Phantom Shadows, overnight in a haunted island mansion, and mystery reminiscent of a classic 1940s film, it's my all-time favorite.
Presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame format, unfortunately, it doesn't appear as if Warner Bros. invested much time or money in restoring the source prints. Loaded with dirt, grain, and scratches, this collection doesn't look any better than what is currently running on Cartoon Network. Same goes for the audio. The 1.0 Mono track is adequately serviceable, but it would have been nice to see this animated hall-of-fame treasure given the five-star treatment, perhaps even stripping off the often annoying and completely unnecessary laugh track.
Hopefully you were not holding your breath for a bevy of bonus features, as Warner blows yet another opportunity to create a definitive collection. What they did was give some Hanna-Barbera interns a video camera and sent them off to create a few short Scooby-Doo tribute pieces. Oh brother...
* Scooby-Doo's Ultimate Fans (12 minutes): Collector Brent Cooper,
voice artist Scott Innes, and current Scooby chief Scott Jeralds are profiled
for their memorabilia collections.
* Funky Fashion (5 minutes): A tongue-in-cheek analysis of what the gang's clothing choices say about their personalities.
* America Loves Scooby-Doo (2.5 minutes): A music video using clips from Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost, Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase, and Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders, as performed by country artist Nelson Blanchard.
* Scooby Street Smarts (3 minutes):
A lame attempt at questioning staffers about Scooby history.
* Scooby Challenge: An equally lame cursor-driven trivia game.
* Get the Picture: How to Draw Scooby-Doo and the Gang: A time-lapse look at an HB animator sketching out Mystery Inc.
At best, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! is a trail-blazing series and an American icon that defined the animated mystery format for generations to follow (Jabber Jaw, Clue Club, Goober and the Ghost Chasers). At worst, it's empty-headed cartoon fun and fodder for comedic ridicule. Either way, the series has left an indelible imprint on pop culture and spawned a marketing franchise that shows no sign of slowing down. It's unfortunate that Warner Bros. is blinded by the almighty dollar and refuses to preserve the series in the manner to which it is due. However, don't let this deter you from making Scooby-Doo, Where are You! The Complete First and Second Seasons a permanent addition to your DVD collection.
This court would like to hire Mystery Inc. to unravel the mystery behind Warner Bros. continued decisions to release long-awaited classic material on DVD with little forethought or effort. Well, that and the various unqualified phrasings for the series's official title. Looks like we have yet another mystery on our hands. Court adjourned.
Review content copyright © 2004 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Golden Gavel 2004 Nominee
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 549 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Scooby-Doo's Ultimate Fans
* Get the Picture: How to Draw Scooby and the Gang
* Funky Fashion
* America Loves Scooby-Doo
* Scooby Street Smarts
* Scooby-Doo Challenge
* Studio Trailers
* Official Site
* Joe Ruby and Ken Spears Official Site
* Cartoon Network