Nov 20 2010

The Original Scooby Doo

Scooby-Doo Where are You! Complete Series (Warner)

Who doesn’t recognize this trademark finale: a phony phantom is trussed up and surrounded by four teenagers and a goofy Great Dane. When his mask is pulled off he growls: “I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.” Wayne and Garth borrowed that classic conclusion for their alternate “Scooby Doo” ending to Wayne’s World, but the real meddling kids were a quartet of freelance teenage sleuths who rode around the country in a lime green van decorated in flower power stickers, in search of spooky mysteries.

Jinkies, kids, it looks like another case for Scooby and the gang

In 1969 Hanna-Barbera, the animation factory responsible for The Flintsones and The Jetsons (among scores of animated shows), unleashed their groovy teenage detectives to a rapt Saturday morning audience. Clean cut all-American Fred leads the intrepid bunch, which includes Daphne (the curvy red-head who attracts accidents like a magnet), Velma (the intellectual gal-pal who’s blind as a bat without her glasses), and Shaggy (a Maynerd G. Krebbs for the next generation voiced by radio legend Casey Casem). Part beatnik, part hippy, and, like, wow man, totally laid back, the slouching comic relief was as shaggy as his name.

But the star of the show is that greatest of Great Danes, Scooby Doo himself, a scaredy-cat dog who barks out a sort of English (“Rooby rooby roo!”), plays practical jokes, and will do almost anything for a Scooby Snack (just what is in those crunchy little treats?). Scooby and Shaggy wind up the advance scouts, reluctant investigators, and inevitably the bait in every one of Fred’s elaborate schemes. Zoinks!

With more glowing ghouls, secret passages, and dusty, musty, gimmick-laden haunted rooms than a carnival funhouse, Scooby Doo wasn’t exactly Ellery Queen Jr., but it was a rare Saturday morning cartoon that even attempted a mystery. Between the silly slapstick and Shaggy’s painful puns were scattered clues for the plucky young investigators (and just in case you didn’t pick up on it, one of those teens was sure to chime in: “Look, a clue!”).

Sophisticated? Hardly. It suffers from the same limited animation of most Saturday Morning fodder, the plots are painfully redundant, and that repetitive music has a tendency to swirl around your mind after prolonged exposure. But that’s par for Saturday morning animation. If you grew up with Scooby and the gang, these original episodes are like a nostalgia train to Saturday morning yesteryear and the episodes still have a certain charm as the “like, wow man” Shaggy and talking (sort of) Great Dane Scooby Doo shiver in comic terror with knees knocking and teeth chattering as they confront phony ghosts and manufactured ghouls. And after forty years the shows have hardly aged (even beatnik Shaggy could pass for grunge). And seriously, these kids spent their lives driving around a VW bus looking stumbling into cool mysteries. Who wouldn’t want to be Scooby’s pal?

All 41 episodes of the original run of the Saturday morning staple are collected on eight discs in an accordion-style paperboard pack, along with featurettes, music videos and a whole disc of light new supplements, but the selling point (beyond the addiction to Scooby Snack TV) is the case: a plastic replica of the van with a top that opens up to reveal the discs. Rooby rooby roo!

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