Thursday, December 30, 2010

41 years of Scooby-Doo...

Last summer I wrote about an up-coming new series of Scooby-Doo cartoons that were to hit the airwaves beginning in the fall of 2009. No doubt, over a year later, those familiar with all things Scooby are well aware that the series didn't exactly make it on the air until the fall of 2010. That series, Scooby-Doo: Mystery Inc., initially aired in April 2010 but didn't debut on a regular basis until July 2010. The program's home, Cartoon Network, continues to air the entry into the series that's like nothing seen before. In this particular version the familiar concept of solving mysteries is still there but there's a much more realistic approach to each of the characters that was lacking in all versions of the program, except perhaps the original run during 1969-1971. In fact, publicity centered around the idea that this latest series was to be a continuation of the 1969-1971 era when the four teenagers were treated as teenagers instead of as adults in teenage clothing.

In the latest version there's a romantic overtone that was lacking in other versions...and I think this romantic element being inserted into the series is a direct result of the internet culture where people, for whatever reason, romantically link Fred and Daphne as well as Shaggy and Velma. There was always this romantic connection between Fred and Daphne, going back to the original 1969 episodes...what with Fred typically more concerned whenever Daphne would get into trouble or vanish. In an episode from 1976 titled "The Frightened Hound meets Demons Underground" Daphne is taken prisoner by one of the demons. Upon realizing this seconds later, Fred shouts out something like: "Daphne!!?! Quick...we gotta find her!!". So, yes, there was always a subtle hint that Fred and Daphne were boyfriend and girlfriend...but it was never an in-your-face distraction.

This sort of romantic insertion, personally speaking, was always troubling to me because it shown irreverence toward the crux of the series: mystery solving. Those familiar with all the different versions of the series will certainly get a shock when they see Scooby-Doo: Mystery Inc. for the first time...the series has it's great moments, though, but I find the romantic edge a distraction which plays more to a fan-fiction crowd than anything else. I prefer the traditional story of ghosts, monsters, goblins, and other assorted demons terrorizing the area and the teenagers, and Scooby, stumbling onto the mystery and solving it. This isn't to say that there's no mystery solving in the latest I remarked, there's plenty of it...but having the romantic overtone is the equivalent of eating ice cream topped with pencil shavings (something Scooby and Shaggy may find incredibly appetizing). There's an on-going sub-plot in this series where the gang continues to find clues as to the whereabouts of another gang of four mystery solving teenagers and their dog who've long since disappeared.

In a rating scale of 5 stars, with 5 being great, I give the series 4 and a half. If the romantic element would be dropped I'd give it 5 stars.

This is the 11th individual series based on the original Scooby-Doo: Where Are You? concept. As the title of this blog entry suggests this is also the 41st year of Scooby-Doo. Here is a look at the various Scooby-related programs that have been on the air since 1969. This list doesn't include the home video/DVD market which have issued direct-to-video movies regularly since 1998...

1. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?; 1969-1971
2. The New Scooby-Doo Movies; 1972-1973
3. The Scooby-Doo Show; 1976-1978
4. The Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo Show; 1979-1980**
5. The Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo Show; 1980-1982**
6. The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show/The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries; 1983-1984***
7. The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo; 1985
8. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo; 1988-1991
9. What's New, Scooby-Doo?; 2002-2005
10. Shaggy and Scooby-Doo: Get a Clue!; 2006-2008
11. Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated; 2010-present

**- there were 99 seven minute episodes produced and they aired as part of the package shows, The Richie Rich/Scooby-Doo Show and The Scooby and Scrappy-Doo/Puppy Hour. 34 hour programs {21 of the former, 13 of the latter} were produced altogether. In the second series there was a segment that featured Scrappy-Doo and new characters, Yabba-Doo and Deputy Dusty, solving cases with a western setting.

***- this series featured Scooby, Scrappy, Shaggy, and Daphne. There were 52 eleven minute episodes produced...2 eleven minute episodes aired per half hour...26 half hour episodes were produced altogether, 13 each season. The series went under the name of The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show in 1983 and The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries in 1984.

Frank Welker voices Fred in all of the incarnations of the series except for A Pup Named Scooby-Doo in which the characters were all small kids...even though Casey Kasem returned as Shaggy and Don Messick resumed his role as Scooby for that series. Casey was the voice of Shaggy in all incarnations of the series except Shaggy and Scooby-Doo: Get a Clue! and the latest, Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated. Don Messick was the voice of Scooby in all incarnations of the series through 1991. Don retired in 1996 following a stroke and passed away in 1997 and since then the character had been voiced, first by Scott Innes from 1998-2001, and then by Frank Welker starting in 2002. Innes was also the voice of Shaggy during 1999-2001, prior to Casey returning to the role. The Scott Innes characterizations are found on the various home video/DVD/video game releases since there was no television series in production at the time. Heather North, the second voice of Daphne but the actress who held the position the longest, joined in 1970 and remained with the series on and off through 1997. The original voice of Daphne was an actress with the unique name of Stefanianna Christopherson during the initial 1969-1970 season. Mary Kay Bergman held the role from 1998-2000. The current voice is Grey DeLisle...she took over the role in 2001. Velma has had several voice actresses through the years...most notable are Nicole Jaffe, Pat Stevens, and B.J. Ward. The current voice, since 2002, is Mindy Cohn, the face actress known by millions as Natalie on the 1979-1988 TV series, Facts of Life.

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