Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Scooby Doo and 45 Years, Too...

Scooby Doo, you're hitting 45 this year...and some of the celebration's started early for just recently in DVD format you've been paired up with various personalities from the wrestling world.

Scooby IS turning 45 this year. His debut on television occurred on September 13, 1969 in a series titled Scooby Doo, Where Are You?. A lot of the character traits, catchphrases, and basic formula is established in this series which ran on CBS in first run production from September 1969 through January 1971 for a total of 25 episodes. The series returned in the fall of 1972 in an hour long format titled The New Scooby Doo Movies. It's is these hour long episodes that introduced the famed team-up format of Scooby and the gang (Shaggy, Fred, Velma, and Daphne) meeting famous celebrities and solving various mysteries. One of the peculiarities of the series is the inclusion of several celebrities that had passed away by 1972 or had been out of the public eye for at least 5 years. I'm referring to the episodes that had Scooby and the gang meeting Laurel and Hardy and in a couple of episodes the gang meet The Three Stooges (Larry, Moe, and Curly Joe). There were 16 episodes aired during the 1972-1973 season and 8 more that aired during an abbreviated 1973-1974 half season. The rest of the season was filled out with reruns of the 24 episodes. The original half hour series (1969-1971) continued to air in reruns on CBS, too. These 49 episodes continued to air in reruns on Saturday mornings on CBS until the first half of 1976. After CBS canceled the series and removed it from it's line-up, Fred Silverman at ABC (formerly at CBS and responsible for Scooby's debut on CBS in 1969) jumped on the program and bought it rather immediately (this is according to his own words in a Scooby documentary you can see on-line). I've embedded the video clip here...narrated by Gary Owens and featuring a lot of behind the scenes information from producers and creative talents associated with the series...

The video clip leads into the creation of Scooby's debut series on ABC in the fall of 1976 titled The Scooby Doo/Dynomutt Hour and how the series continued it's Saturday morning popularity as the years went by. There were 16 episodes produced during the 1976-1977 season. Scooby's cousin, also referred to as his brother, Scooby Dum, made his debut on this series and appeared in 2 episodes: "The Gruesome Game of the Gator Ghoul" and "The Headless Horseman of Halloween". Dynomutt (also referred to as Dog Wonder) ran as a separate series within the hour long format but in several episodes Scooby and the gang made cross-over appearances to help Dynomutt and his human side-kick, Blue Falcon, solve a baffling mystery. Blue Falcon and Dynomutt's base of operations is called Big City. The Scooby series by this time began to add more characters and incorporate more and more "ghosts of the week". ABC launched the ambitious 2-hour program, Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics, to the 1977-1978 line-up. The series featured 5 half hour programs: Laff-a-Lympics, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, further adventures of Blue Falcon and Dynomutt (Eight 2-part episodes running 11 minutes each...equaling 4 half hour episodes total), a brand new half hour Scooby adventure (featuring additional episodes guest starring Scooby-Dum and in one episode, "The Chiller Diller Movie Thriller", the introduction of their cousin, Scooby-Dee; 8 episodes altogether), and reruns of the original CBS Scooby series filled out the 2-hour programming block.

In the fall of 1978 the current ABC series got re-titled to Scooby's All-Stars. The programming block was reduced from 2-hours to 90 minutes. It removed reruns of the CBS run of Scooby and the Dynomutt/Blue Falcon series and in it's place added brand new episodes of Laff-a-Lympics and Captain Caveman. All new Scooby episodes continued to air that season, too...a total of 16 episodes aired throughout the 1978-1979 season. Those 16 episodes later surfaced on DVD as Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Season Three!.

The 8 Scooby episodes that aired during the 1977-1978 season that I mentioned earlier (the episodes guest starring Scooby Dum, Scooby Dee, and featuring the obligatory parade of ghosts and goblins) have never been released on DVD (not to my knowledge).

You may be able to find these 8 episodes on-line but I've never seen them become available on a commercially released DVD in their complete form:

1. The Curse of Viking Lake; September 1977

2. Vampire Bats and Scaredy Cats; September 1977

3. Hang In There, Scooby Doo; September 1977

4. The Chiller Diller Movie Thriller; October 1977

5. The Spooky Case of the Grand Prix Race; October 1977

6. The Ozark Witch Switch; October 1977

7. Creepy Cruise; October 1977

8. The Creepy Heap from the Deep; October 1977

As if you all didn't realize, a lot of Scooby episode titles from each series from 1969 to the present are filled with alliteration and rhyming. Following the 1978-1979 season, Scooby returned in a dramatically overhauled program titled Scooby and Scrappy Doo. This series aired first run episodes from September 22, 1979 until January 5, 1980. The focal point relied heavily on Scooby, Shaggy, and Scrappy and less on Fred, Daphne, and Velma. Scooby had been on the air for 10 years at that point in time and the introduction of Scrappy, like him or not, gave the franchise the jolt that it needed and his involvement brought in a lot of new viewers for the series, too. Upon the introduction and success that Scrappy provided the franchise it shouldn't come to no surprise that further episodes would come to focus exclusively on the comic trio of Scooby, Shaggy, and Scrappy and that's exactly what happened as the new decade began. The 1980-1981 season got underway in November (due to a voice actor strike) and the new Scooby series this time seen him receive second billing, sharing a title with Richie Rich. The Richie Rich/Scooby Doo Show as it's officially called, featured 13 half hour Scooby episodes during 1980-1981. The length of each episode also seen severe cuts. Each half hour consisted of three 7 minute comic adventures (a total of 39 seven minute shorts). Seven additional half hour episodes aired during 1981-1982, in the same 3 short episode per half hour format, giving the series 21 seven minute episodes...bringing the overall total to 60. The program returned under a different title for the 1982-1983 season, The Scooby and Scrappy Doo/Puppy Hour. 33 seven minute shorts aired during this season...bringing the grand total number of episodes produced during the 1980-1983 time span to 99. In that season every third 7 minute short per half hour starred only Scrappy and featured to new characters, Deputy Dusty and the Texan canine, Yabba-Doo (explained to be one of Scrappy's other Uncles).

Scooby returned to ABC's fall line-up in 1983 under The New Scooby and Scrappy Doo Show. This series (and that title) remained for 13 half hour episodes. Daphne, not seen since 1979, returned as a regular and became the 'leader', in a sense. She joined Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy in adventures that featured real ghosts and phantoms (rather than ordinary people in disguise). Fred and Velma appear infrequently.

Here's the intro that appeared during the 1983-1984 season (airing from September 10, 1983 until December 10, 1983)...

Here's the intro that appeared during the 1984-1985 season (September 8, 1984 until December 1, 1984) after the title had been changed to The New Scooby Doo Mysteries...the monster dance is the most memorable thing about the intro, obviously...

Upon the conclusion of this series, ABC brought it back in the fall of 1985 as The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo. This series, running exactly 13 episodes, featured Scooby, Shaggy, Scrappy, and Daphne joined by a con-artist/good guy named Flim Flam who travel the globe searching 13 ghosts that Scooby and Shaggy mistakenly set free. Vincent Price co-stars as the voice of Vincent van Ghoul, the mysterious sorcerer/magician that keeps track and offers help in spirit form to guide Scooby and pals on their journey. The intro features narration from van Ghoul and explains the premise of the series. The villains of the series, in addition to the monsters, are dimwit ghosts named Bogel and Weerd. The fictional Amulet of Ish Kabibble is a recurring artifact mentioned throughout the series. It ran from September 7, 1985 to December 7, 1985...and in reruns through 1986. This series ultimately became the final incarnation of Scooby, in adult form, on network television. Reruns of all various incarnations of Scooby had continued to air in syndication since 1980 in addition to the new episodes that aired weekly on ABC each season. ABC canceled the series following the 1985-1986 season...but that wasn't the end...

The popularity of The Muppet Babies had spawned, by the mid '80s, several inspirations...the most notable being The Flintstone Kids. ABC brought back Scooby and the gang in 1988 as A Pup Named Scooby Doo...complete with 30 half hour episodes and an entirely different take on the franchise. The animation was patterned after the famed styles of Tex Avery and Bob Clampett (exaggerated physical expressions and fast-paced movement). The first episode debuted on September 10, 1988 and the last first run episode aired on August 17, 1991. This is rather misleading, though, because the series aired in weekly fashion consistently from September 1988 through November 1989. A total of 21 half hour episodes were produced and aired in that time frame. The series returned with new episodes in September 1990 but only four were produced. 2 episodes aired in September 1990 and 1 new episode aired in both October and November 1990...accompanied by reruns from the first season. The last 5 episodes, bringing the series to 30 half hour episodes in total, aired in August 1991.

So, you can see, this series had an erratic schedule during 1990-1991 as only 9 first run episodes were produced altogether. ABC continued to air this program in reruns through the 1992-1993 season and after that point in time the Scooby franchise left network TV and moved to cable TV exclusively. Reruns of the various incarnations of Scooby appeared on USA Network, TBS, and later Cartoon Network and much later, Boomerang (all of this spanning the years 1993-2002). After a series of direct-to-video Scooby movies had been released starting in the mid '90s and moving forward, their on-going successes and a live-action adaptation caused the Scooby series to be revived as a weekly Saturday morning cartoon series once more in 2002. What's New, Scooby Doo? aired on the cable channel The WB from 2002 until 2005. It marked the first time since 1984 that all four teenagers and Scooby appeared together in teenage form solving a mystery. The series also contained an element of self-parody...something that's been becoming ever more prominent with each subsequent Scooby series ever since. It ran from September 2002 through April 2005 with a final, single first run episode airing more than a year later in July 2006. 42 episodes were produced.

Scooby, as mentioned, made his debut on the big screen in live-action form in June 2002. Scooby appeared in animatronic/CGI form but the human cast members were live action actors/actresses. The film went on to make more than $275,000,000 at the box office. It was followed by a sequel in 2004 and a prequel in 2009. The 2004 film grossed more than $181,000,000 at the box office. An otherwise huge hit but because it's compared to the 2002 box office totals it's considered "a failure" (it's mind boggling to me, too. Such an astronomical figure like that is considered a failure...geesh!).

The 2009 prequel aired on Cartoon Network...bringing in an audience number of more than 6 million! A fourth live-action incarnation appeared in 2010 and drew more than 5 million viewers. I should list the titles of these live-action films: Scooby Doo (2002), Scooby Doo: Monsters Unleashed (2004), Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins (2009), and Scooby Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster (2010).  As all of that as playing out, a new animated Scooby series debuted in 2006 and modeled after the live-action character designs. Scooby appeared in animated form based on his appearance in the live-action films. The series, Shaggy and Scooby Doo Get a Clue!, ran for 26 episodes during September 2006 through March 2008 on The CW cable channel. Each season consisted of 13 half hour episodes. The series included a villain called Dr. Phibes (the name based on a character appearing in a couple of horror films starring Vincent Price).

Upon the releases of the most recent live action Scooby film in 2010, Scooby returned to a more traditional animated appearance in the soap opera-like Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated. The series ran on Cartoon Network and aired for 56 half hour episodes during a highly erratic schedule. It had numerous hiatuses where the program wouldn't air for months on end, only to resurface on the schedule, before vanishing after a couple of months. These on and off erratic airings persisted during the program's entire existence and the 56 half hour cliff-hanger episodes were spread out over 3 seasons (2010-2013). In fact, the 56 episodes aired between April 5, 2010 and April 5, 2013. To date that is the last weekly Scooby series to air.

I keep reading commentary across the internet and most of the time people think Scooby originated in movie form and that the cartoons they see on Cartoon Network are based on those movies. I'm in my mid 30s and love the older Hanna-Barbera cartoons of Scooby and the gang from all time periods (1969-1991). The most recent, Mystery Incorporated, wasn't terrible or anything but I prefer the stories to be self-contained, less edgy, less self-parody, and with zero drama and romance.

Scooby's a comedy cartoon (or it's suppose to be) so it's kind of difficult to take in scenes of say, Fred and Daphne, bickering and teasing one another and talking like love-struck kids. It borders too much on fan-fiction.

Attention Scooby cartoon writers: Return the action to what made the franchise popular in the first place. Leave the 'Fred loves Daphne' or 'Velma's got a crush on Shaggy' stuff to fan-fiction and return the series to the conventional formula of 4 teens and a talking Great Dane traveling the country solving mysteries.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Tex Avery Day 2-22-14

I just came across this article from the famed animation site, Cartoon Brew. It's an article about an upcoming celebration to Tex Avery later this month in Taylor, Texas. You can read about it HERE. The event is called Tex Avery Day and it'll be held on February 22, 2014. The article has a publish date of January 31, 2014 and so it's just a couple days old. The article also gives specifics about the venue, etc. etc.

Tex Avery's name is associated with some of the biggest characters in animation history: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, BUGS BUNNY, and later on, Droopy. His career has been much ritten about through the years and you owe it to yourselves to look up his cartoons and be entertained in his unique style. His legend is rooted in the Warner Brothers theatrical cartoons but many have argued that his lasting legacy are the zany, wild, and exaggerated cartoons he directed for MGM. The cartoons he did for MGM include dozens of Droopy adventures...also there happened to be a series of cartoons starring a character named Screwy Squirrel and then there are the George and Lenny spoofs (titled George and Junior) that appeared in several of his MGM cartoons. In addition to those recurring characters Tex also brought us one shot cartoons that parodied or spoofed pop culture and fads and featured no recurring character at all. One of those kinds of cartoons is below...

Crazy Mixed-Up Pup comes from Tex's days at the Walter Lantz studio. It features vocal work from the legendary Daws Butler. The story is a funny scenario of a man and a dog changing personalities and the chaos that comes along as a result. The dog looks a little like the future Doggy Daddy of Hanna-Barbera fame.

One Ham's Family is a Christmas cartoon starring a pig family and it parodies a couple of things. The focal point, Junior, is a spoof of the Red Skelton radio character of the same name (note the crop of red hair on the pig's head). Meanwhile, the father's voice could very well be Andy Devine or an impression. Third, a wolf (dressed as Santa Claus) comes complete with a vocal that spoofs The Great Gildersleeve's famed giggle/laughter. The title of the cartoon is a pun of a real series, One Man's Family.

Don't forget...if you're in the area on February 22 go and experience the Tex Avery festivities taking place in Taylor, Texas. The link is in the first paragraph of the blog entry.

Fred "Tex" Avery: February 26, 1908 - August 26, 1980.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Daws Butler and those Character Voices...

Voice Magician, Part 1

Voice Magician, Part 2

Voice Magician, Part 3

Voice Magician, Part 4

I decided not to embed the videos just in case at some future date they vanish from You Tube. Instead, each URL contains each separate installment of the 1987 documentary Daws Butler: Voice Magician. This is a special that I have been aware of for more than 15 years (or more). It originally aired in 1987 and has a running time of just under 1 hour. The one that uploaded it onto You Tube a couple of days ago broke it into 4 individual segments (each running a little more than 14 minutes each). Once you click Part 1 and you're taken to You Tube, from there you can click Parts 2 through 4 and see the entire documentary for yourselves. The guests are plenty...from voice acting side-kicks and co-stars to several legendary animation giants (Walter Lantz as well as Hanna and Barbera).

One of the thrills of the special is seeing Daws perform a lot of the cartoon characters on camera. In one scene he and Don Messick perform on camera as the voices of Yogi (Butler), Boo Boo (Messick), and Ranger Smith (Messick). Stan Freberg appears during several moments throughout the special and near the end of the documentary focus shifts to Daws' time working for Jay Ward in the Rocky and Bullwinkle series. The final minutes focus on Daws' voice acting class.

Some of the guests in the documentary are: Don Messick, Stan Freberg, June Foray, Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, and narration provided by William Conrad.

Daws Butler: 1916-1988