Monday, September 15, 2014

Scooby-Doo and John Stephenson, Too...

Hello all...this is part 3 of my Scooby blog series spotlighting the 45th anniversary (1969-present) of the franchise. I posted part 2 earlier this morning and I posted the initial entry (referred to as part 1) back in March of this year.

This particular entry simply shines the light on the various characters that were voiced by John Stephenson during the program's various incarnations...imagery from the first 8 years, specifically (1969-1978). I created 8 collage's of John Stephenson's characters and I'm going to post them as a salute to his contributions to the Scooby franchise. You can click on each collage and see the bigger image. I'll be sharing 8 collage's...this should be interesting...

In this collage of 9 pictures, they originate from the first 2 seasons of the program. The character names are Elias Kingston, Uncle Stuart, Mr. Sims, Mano Tiki Tia, The Creeper, Redbeard the Pirate, the Magnus Butler, C.L. Magnus, and The Ghost Clown. As I've mentioned in previous Scooby blogs, many of the episodes had titles filled with alliteration and rhyming. Those 9 characters come from the following episodes: What The Hex Going On?; A Tiki Scare is No Fair; Jeepers, It's the Creeper; Go Away Ghost Ship; and Bedlam in the Big Top. The Kingston Manor, depicted in What the Hex Going On?, appears in the opening credits of the first's also referred to as the black castle with the bats flying around. Also, scenes from that episode appear more times in the opening sequence of the first season than the other episodes. It's also worth pointing out, since this is a John Stephenson character salute blog entry, that his first roles in the Scooby cartoons occurred on the What the Hex Going On? episode.The Magnus Butler is one of several characterizations from Stephenson vocally based on Boris Karloff.

In this collage of 6 pictures I took a look at some of the characters that John voiced in the 1972-1974 series, The New Scooby Doo Movies. The 2 at the top of the collage come from the episode "The Frickert Fracas" (guest starring Jonathan Winters as himself and Maude Frickert). John voiced the characters Simon Shakely and Vernon Crow. In the third box there's the farmer character from the episode "The Ghost of the Red Baron" (guest starring The Three Stooges). It's one of the only characters John voiced in the Scooby cartoons that comes close to sounding like his most famous character, Mr. Slate (from The Flintstones). The fourth picture is Hans Eitherwise, a German-American ski instructor in the episode guest starring Laurel and Hardy, "The Ghost of Big Foot". The bottom 2 sinister looking cut-throats are Morgan and Winslow from the episode "The Loch Ness Mess" (guest starring The Harlem Globetrotters). John, as Winslow, does an impression of Titus Moody (a character from Fred Allen's radio programs and Pepperidge Farm television commercials played by Parker Fennelly).

These 8 images represent characters voiced by John Stephenson during the mid-late '70s episodes, roughly 1976-1978. The big image is that of a Coast Guard employee that appears near the end of the episode "Scooby-Doo, Where's the Crew?". Off to the right are Mr. Wells, Mr. Speck, The Specter, Elwood Crane, The Demon Shark, a Customs Agent, and Avery Queen. Mr. Wells, the Demon Shark, and the Customs Agent all come from the episode "There's a Demon Shark in the Foggy Dark". In that episode John roars and growls as the Demon Shark and speaks in a gravelly voice for Mr. Wells. Elwood Crane comes from the episode "The Headless Horseman of Halloween". In the episode he's referred to as Cousin Elwood. John also voiced the Headless Horseman character but I didn't post an image of him...these collage's aren't meant to be a career defining project...just a sampling of his character roles through the various Scooby episodes. Scooby-Dum makes an appearance in that episode...and Janet Waldo voices one of the guest characters, Beth Crane. The Specter and Mr. Speck come from the episode "High Rise Hair Raiser". Avery Queen comes from the episode "The Ghost of the Bad Humor Man".

A five picture collage reveals characters largely stemming from 1976 and 1978. The creepy character in blue is Dr. Tooksbury from the episode "The Harum Scarum Sanitarium". John also provides the voice of a Canadian Mountie at the end of that episode. In the episode Scooby and the gang must solve a mystery surrounding a sanitarium and the legend of a ghostly doctor that's come back to haunt the area. Next to him is Officer Grizzly, a hard of hearing night watchman at the Ice Cream factory in "The Ghost of the Bad Humor Man". As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Stephenson also voiced the owner of the Ice Cream factory, Avery Queen. Below those characters are Zarko and Merlin from the episode "Scared a Lot in Camelot". Zarko appears near the beginning of the episode performing a magic act. Shaggy and Scooby become volunteers from the audience to participate in a magic act. The act backfires thanks to the terrified duo thinking they were really going to be cut in half...Zarko's laughed off the stage (the gang make a run for the exit in the process). Merlin appears throughout the remainder of the episode as he haunts the castle of Shaggy's uncle, Shagworthy. The larger picture is that of the leader of a gang of zombies and witch doctors (Mamba Wamba) in the pop music-inspired episode, "Mamba Wamba and the Voodoo Hoodoo". Scooby and the gang visit friends of theirs who have become rock music stars. The group perform a song about voodoo and are soon being chased by the ghost of Mamba Wamba and his henchman who are after a parchment...the real mystery is explained, of course, at episode's end.

In this collage of John Stephenson characters there's Mayor Dudley, Mr. Doherty, Mr. Prentice, The Rambling Ghost, and Mr. Grumper. These characters appear in the 1976 episodes "The 10,000 Volt Ghost", "High Rise Hair Raiser", "The Ghost That Sacked the Quarterback", and "The Spirits of '76". On a personal note, "The Ghost That Sacked the Quarterback" happened to originally air on December 4, 1976 (2 days after I was born!). In that episode the gang solves the mystery of a haunted football team and the legend of The Rambling Ghost. The team's owner is Mr. Prentice. Coinciding with America's Bicentennial celebrations in 1976, Scooby and the gang encounter ghosts at The Smithsonian Institution in form of Bendict Arnold, Major Andre, and William Demont. John voices the ill-tempered Mr. Grumper, one of the security guards. John voices a Federal Agent near the end of the episode. Mayor Dudley is John's more humorous characterization compared to the other characters. I should say the mayor comes across lighthearted. As is the case in many Scooby episodes things are not exactly as they seem.

The Red Baron, from "The Ghost of the Red Baron", appears first in this collage. The character, along with a farmer, were voiced by John Stephenson. The episode features The Three Stooges. Next to the Red Baron is the dapper Sam Crenshaw from the episode "The Frightened Hound meets Demons Underground". The bearded Albert Tross is another Stephenson-voiced character from that same episode. The irritated Mr. Dilly, co-owner of The Dilly Dally Dolly Company, appears in the episode "The No Faced Zombie Case" as does the next character in the collage, the police Lieutenant (another character similar in vocal tone to his Mr. Slate characterization). The character in the blue coat and red shirt is the Captain in "Scooby-Doo, Where's the Crew?". That was John's main character in the the end he gave voice to the rescuing officer from the Coast Guard that I mentioned earlier. 

For this seven image collage I decided to mix things up more and include an image of John Stephenson himself...from the 1950's. The six characters come from episodes that originally aired during 1976-1978. Captain Eddie, The Ghost of Juan Carlos, Uncle Leon, and the Vampire Ghost are the characters that appear on the left. The 2 characters off to the right are Professor Salari and an Indian leader, Red Harron. Captain Eddie and the Ghost of Juan Carlos (one of John's most maniacal roles in the series) come from the episode "Don't Go Near the Fortress of Fear". Professor Salari, the curator of a local museum, appears in the episode "A Menace in Venice". Red Harron appears in "Watch Out! The Willawaw!!". The Vampire ghost and Uncle Leon appear in "Vampire Bats and Scaredy Cats". In that episode, also co-starring Scooby-Dum, Scooby and the gang investigate the family legend of their friend, Lisa. It seems her late grandfather and members of the family (including her uncle) have kept a secret from her...members of the family have been known to turn into vampires!!

Lastly, I made this collage. If you notice I also included another black and white photo of John...this time laughing. The characters mostly come from 1976-1977. On the top there's back to back Viking characters, then there's Mr. Bohannon. In the second row there's a nameless pilot and next to him, from a different episode, another pilot by the name of Luis. Samson the Strongman concludes the animated character collage. The vikings come from "The Curse of Viking Lake". Mr. Bohannon comes from "Hang In There, Scooby-Doo". The nameless pilot comes from "Scooby's Night with a Snow Beast Fright". Luis comes from "Jeepers, It's the Jaguaro!". John also provided the guttural moans for the Jaguaro creature and I assume electronic enhancing created the shrilling effect (you'll hear what I mean once you see that particular episode). Samson the Strongman appears at the beginning of 1969's "Bedlam in the Big Top". As a side note, John does a great impression of Sydney Greenstreet's characterization of Nero Wolfe for the Mr. Bohannon character.

As I pointed out earlier these collages and this blog post aren't meant to be a career retrospective...just a glimpse at some of the characters John Stephenson gave voice to during his years associated with Scooby-Doo. These do not include characters from other cartoon programs, of course, or the characters he did on the Laff-a-Lympics episodes (even though the series was billed as Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics). Since that series deviated from the mystery solving concept I excluded his many vocal contributions on Laff-a-Lympics (he voiced several Really Rottens members and did a Paul Lynde impression as Mildew Wolf).

If you're interested I'd highly encourage you all to purchase the various DVD releases of the Scooby series to hear the vocalizations of John Stephenson and the other voice artists that contributed to the overall success of the franchise. Here are links to some of the DVD projects...

Scooby Doo First and Second Season DVD

Scooby Doo and Dynomutt

Scooby Doo DVD 1978 episodes

The Best of the Scooby Doo Movies

The link I call 'Scooby Doo and Dynomutt' takes you to a DVD consisting of the episodes that aired during the 1976-1977 season of the Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Adventure Hour. I mentioned some of the episodes that featured a John Stephenson vocal characterization but I didn't get into the episodes of Dynomutt that have a Stephenson vocalization. The episodes feature their syndicated opening titles...meaning that each cartoon program airs back to back and has it's own opening and closing sequence. Some of the fans voiced their outrage at the time of the DVD's release because the episodes didn't feature the official opening sequence of the hour long series (which would have one opening and closing sequence per episode) and instead the company utilized the opening and closing sequences from the syndicated airings of each cartoon program. Regardless of the outrage from some...the episodes are intact and that's all that's important for a lot of us. It's that 1976-1977 season that contained Stephenson episodes such as "High Rise Hair Raiser", "The No Face Zombie Case", "The Spirits of '76"...

The link referring to the 1978 episodes takes you to a 2-disc release billed as Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? Season Three. Technically there isn't a season three of that series. The company that released the DVD took the 16 half hour episodes from 1978 that originally aired during the Saturday morning programs, Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics and Scooby's All-Stars, and issued those episodes as 'Season Three'. The 16 episodes found on the DVD utilize the opening sequence of The Scooby-Doo Show (it's the opening that features Scooby water skiing and having his ski's eaten by a hungry shark). It's anyone's guess as to why the 8 half hour episodes from 1977, which also follow the formula from the first 2 seasons, hadn't been released on DVD. Those, technically, could've been marketed as 'Season Three' and the 16 episodes from 1978 as 'Season Four'. The episodes "The Curse of Viking Lake", "Vampire Bats and Scaredy Cats", and "Hang In There, Scooby-Doo" that I mentioned earlier due to John Stephenson's vocal involvement originally aired in 1977 but haven't been released on DVD yet.

Scooby-Doo and 45 Years, Too...part 2...

Earlier this year I published a blog about the Scooby franchise turning 45 this year. This past Saturday (September 13, 2014) was the exact date that Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? made it's premiere on Saturday morning television...45 years to the day!

It aired on CBS-TV for 2 seasons (1969-1971) and then in reruns for another season. The gang returned in all-new episodes for the 1972-1973 season, titled The New Scooby-Doo Movies. These episodes ran roughly 45 minutes (an hour including commercials). This is the version that has the gang meeting celebrities, both fictional and non-fictional. This incarnation ran 2 seasons also (1972-1974). After 2 seasons of Saturday morning reruns on CBS, the network soon dropped the series.

According to commentary from Fred Silverman from various interviews he's given about Scooby, once CBS dropped the series he picked it up for the ABC Saturday morning schedule. Fred Silverman had been instrumental at CBS in bringing Scooby to television in the first place...and how ironic that after moving to ABC he'd be instrumental in bringing the character back to the spotlight once more in a new series in the fall of 1976. In that series Scooby shared top billing with a new character, Dynomutt (a/k/a Dog Wonder) on an hour long series called The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Adventure Hour. Dynomutt ineptly solved crime with his super-serious, super hero partner/master, Blue Falcon.

In the meantime, Scooby would remain an ABC staple for the rest of it's Saturday morning network run (not counting cable-TV and off-network syndicated reruns) until the removal of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo from the ABC Saturday morning line-up in the early '90s. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo had ended production of new episodes in 1991 (after having debuted in 1988). Since the mid '90s Scooby reruns have aired on various cable-TV networks and beginning in the late '90s direct-to-video Scooby animated movies started appearing for retail purchase. All new half hour television episodes returned in 2002 in the appropriately named What's New, Scooby-Doo? and that series remained in production through 2005.

A live action theatrical series of films based on the Scooby franchise became financially popular...coexisting with the direct-to-video animated movies and the TV series that aired in the latter half of the 2000s. In 2010 a more adult/romantic fan-fiction interpretation of the characters took center stage in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. That series ran another 3 seasons (it's final episodes airing in 2013). The erratic scheduling of this series caused hat would have been a 2-season series to stretch into 3 seasons. There are 52 episodes of this incarnation (26 for season one, 26 for season two). However, Cartoon Network aired the show erratically and placed it on several hiatuses...causing significant air-date gaps (there would be a period of several months sandwiched between the airing of episodes). The final first-run episodes that aired in 2013 had actually been produced as early as 2011/2012.

Since the end of that series and the 45th anniversary date of Scooby's debut this past Saturday, the franchise lost one of it's legendary vocalists, Casey Kasem. From the debut of the series in 1969 through 1991 and once again from 2002 until 2005, Casey voiced the character of Shaggy Rogers (the most popular character on the series aside from Scooby himself). While it's a fact that Casey didn't voice Shaggy during the final two incarnations of the series (Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue! and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated) and previously had left the role in the mid '90s during the direct-to-video animated film era (Scott Innes, among several others, took over the role in the interim), Casey nonetheless remained strongly connected to the franchise. Casey returned to the role of Shaggy in 2002 and retired from the role after What's New, Scooby-Doo? ended production. He had a recurring role as Shaggy's uncle, Dr. Albert Shaggleford, in Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue! (2006-2008), transmitting messages/clues to Shaggy and Scooby while he was on the run.

It's interesting to point out that in several episodes throughout the history of the series there have been rich relatives of Shaggy appear and ultimately be the focal point of a mystery. My guess is because Shaggy is suppose to represent a beatnik/hippie and be turned off by material possessions, what better way to invoke comical irony than to have Shaggy come from a long line of millionaires?!?

One of the earliest episodes to feature a rich uncle of Shaggy's is "The Loch Ness Mess", a 1972 episode guest starring The Harlem Globetrotters. In the episode the gang meet up with the Globetrotters while driving through the New England countryside and they all make their way to the mansion of Shaggy's uncle, Nathaniel, and are ultimately caught up in a mystery involving a sea serpent and the ghosts of Paul Revere and his 2 partners in crime. In a 1976 episode the gang visits another rich uncle of Shaggy's, appropriately named Shagworthy. He's also described as an eccentric millionaire that had a castle imported from England to the United States stone by stone. He's gone missing and is ultimately found by Scooby and the gang. This mystery is played out in the episode "Scared a lot in Camelot" (the villains are The Black Knight and Merlin).

In the Mystery Incorporated series Casey voiced Shaggy's father, Colton Rogers, in several episodes. Casey retired from the entertainment business not long after that series and of course, as you all should know by now, he passed away several months ago at the age of 82.

The voice cast throughout the history of the Scooby series is rather large and prolific.

The original voice of Scooby, Don Messick, passed away in 1997. He had been the voice of Scooby since 1969 and he remained the voice of Scooby through the end of A Pup Named Scooby Doo in 1991.

As previously mentioned, Casey Kasem passed away this past June and he had been the voice of Shaggy the longest (1969-1991, 1995, 1997, 2002-2009).

Frank Welker's voiced the teenaged Fred since 1969. The only animated depiction of Fred that hasn't been voiced by Frank is the child version of the character on A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. Frank became the official voice of Scooby beginning in 2002...a role he continues to play.

Prior to 2002, Scooby had been voiced in animated cartoons by Scott Innes starting in 1998 (Don Messick retired in 1996 following a career ending stroke). After Frank took over as Scooby in 2002, Scott continued to voice Scooby in a series of video games through 2006. Scott had also been the voice of Shaggy following Casey's departure from the role in the mid-late '90s. Scott voiced Shaggy in video game releases through 2009. Shaggy's current voice actor is Matthew Lillard (2010-present).

The female half of the gang, Daphne and Velma, don't have as many voice actresses in their history so it won't be as confusing/convoluted as the previous paragraph might appear to some.

Daphne's voice originally was supplied by an actress named Stefanianna Christopherson during the program's first season (1969-1970). Heather North became the second voice actress of Daphne in 1970 and she held this role on various Scooby incarnations through the early 1980's. She returned to the role in 2 direct-to-video Scooby animated movies in 2003: Scooby-Doo! and the Legend of the Vampire and Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico. Kellie Martin voiced the child Daphne in A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. Mary Kay Bergman voiced Daphne in direct-to-video animated movies from 1997-2000 and her replacement, Grey DeLisle, has voiced Daphne ever since.

Velma's original voice actress is Nicole Jaffe (1969-1974). Pat Stevens became the second voice of Velma in the mid '70s (1976-1979). After this, Velma's appearances (as well as Fred and Daphne) became sporadic. Velma's next voice actress happened to be Marla Frumpkin for brief, non-recurring appearances through 1984. The child version of Velma on A Pup Named Scooby-Doo was voiced by Christina Lange. B.J. Ward became the next voice actress associated with Velma. She voiced the character in the string of direct-to-video animated movies in the late '90s (1997-2001). Mindy Cohn (Natalie from the 1979-1988 sitcom, The Facts of Life) became the next voice of Velma in 2002. She's been the voice ever since.

Aside from those that gave voice to Scooby and the four teenagers there have been other voice artists that have contributed to the in particular, John Stephenson. I'll spotlight his contributions on the next Scooby 45th anniversary blog entry that I post later on the look-out for it!!