Welcome to Super Saturday, a new ongoing weekly column that will pay tribute to the animated classics of yesterday, and will be offered on Saturday mornings, a period when many of us remember being the only time animated kids’ programming was offered in the dark, primitive days before streaming, cable, and home video were ubiquitous, making a special time for such programming obsolete. Hope you enjoy and feel free to leave any feedback or personal remembrances in the comments! To read the first Super Saturday about The Super Friends click here.
For the second Super Saturday, I am showcasing what might be the most influential Saturday morning cartoon ever, ‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?’, Hanna-Barbera’s classic mystery-comedy that launched an unbelievable number off knock-offs and still thrills kids to this day. If one looks at the history of Saturday morning cartoons, Scooby-Doo is perhaps the most constant presence in one form or another. ‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?’ launched in 1969, and some version of Scooby aired continuously until ‘A Pup Named Scooby-Doo’ went off the air in 1991, and by that time, Saturday morning cartoons, in general, were dying out. Even when new episodes weren’t being produced, reruns aired pretty consistently in syndication and later on the Cartoon Network and Boomerang.
On ‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?’, viewers were introduced to the intelligent, somewhat anthropomorphic Great Dane, Scooby-Doo and his human companions, Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, a skinny, nervous “beatnik” type, preppy leader Fred Jones, pretty but accident-prone Daphne Blake, and the brainy Velma Dinkley. Don Messick provided Scooby’s voice and was somewhat inspired by the speech pattern of Astro, from the earlier Hanna-Barbera series, ‘The Jetsons’. Casey Kasem voiced Shaggy, Frank Welker voiced Fred, Indira Stefanianna voiced Daphne, and Nicole Jaffe voiced Velma. Welker voices Fred to this day and now also voices Scooby.
The early episodes of ‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?’ are noticeably darker in tone to later seasons. Most of the stories took place at night, in creepy venues like old mansions, swamps, and closed amusement parks. But the characters of Shaggy and Scooby were pretty constantly played for laughs, so things didn’t get too intense for young viewers. The gang would encounter what appeared to be a ghost or some other supernatural creature, but in the end, it always turned out to be an opportunist trying to scare people off so that they could carry out an elaborate scheme to get rich. This continued to be the format for all ‘Scooby-Doo’ series until the 1985-86 series ‘The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo’ which featured real ghosts.
After broadcast standards began cracking down on children’s television, subsequent ‘Scooby’ shows were brightened up, with stories usually set during the daylight hours, the slapstick comedy was notched up.
In terms of the humor, Shaggy and Scooby were famous for being afraid of everything and always hungry. Shaggy’s unquenchable appetite and ragged appearance, plus the gang’s psychedelic-painted van, the Mystery Machine, has led to generations of teens and adults joking that he was always stoned. Some have pointed out that Shaggy’s character resembles that of beatnik Maynard G. Crebs (played by Bob Denver, who would go on to play Gilligan) from the early ’60s sitcom ‘The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis’. In fact, many draw comparisons between ‘Scooby-Doo’ and that sitcom, which also featured a group of teens.
‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?’s mixture of hijinks and mysteries led to many other cartoons which milked the same formula, with a group of teens and usually a mascot of some sort. Among the Hanna-Barbera shows that ripped off ‘Scooby-Doo’ were ‘Josie and the Pussycats’, ‘The Funky Phantom’ (with the ghost of a Revolutionary War soldier), ‘The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan’, ‘Speed Buggy’ (a talking sentient dune buggy), ‘Jeanie’ (two genies), ‘Goober and the Ghost Chasers’, ‘Jabberjaw’ (talking shark), ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids’, and ‘Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels’ (an unfrozen caveman). When ‘Scooby-Doo’ moved to ABC after airing for years on CBS, Hanna-Barbera created the show ‘Clue Club’ (with TWO dogs) to replace it on CBS.
For Season 2, singer Austin Roberts re-recorded the famous theme song, plus several additional pop songs which were played during chase sequences. These songs had NOTHING to do with the episodes or scenes. These songs can almost all be found on the CD ‘Scooby-Doo’s Snack Tracks’ which was released in 1998. (An early version of ‘Scooby-Doo in pre-production would have cast the kids as a traveling band.)
‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?’ aired from 1969-1971, when it was replaced by ‘The New Scooby-Doo Movies’, which I will cover at a later time. But ABC would return to the name ‘Where Are You?’ in future seasons.
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of ‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?’ and in honor of that, the original series has been released in a dazzling Haunted House Blu-Ray boxed set, along with a slew of merchandise.
New episodes of ‘Scooby-Doo’ in some format have been in production since the early 2000s, in addition to various original animated movies. There were two live-action ‘Scooby-Doo’ movies in the early 2000s as well, and a new animated theatrical film, ‘Scoob’ is in the works to be released next year.
Do you have any fond memories of ‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?’