It was September 13, 1969 when Scooby-Doo made his first appearance on American television, more precisely on the Saturday morning of the CBS network. Created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears for the well-known animation company Hanna-Barbera, cardboard became an immediate success with that first series, Scooby Doo: Where are you?, and then gave rise to several animated spin-offs, cassette films and even two (questionable) films that ended up in the cinema.
The adventures of the coward dog who investigates the supernatural with his gang (Shaggy, Velma, Fred and Daphne) have come down to us so much that the Sky Boomerang channel on September 13th he will dedicate an evening to him with the transmission of his very first ever episode and to follow the debut of the most recent series, Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?, which sees the appearance in animated version of many celebrities such as Whoopy Goldberg, Sia and Steve Urkel.
1. Born against violence
But there are many things that perhaps are not known about the genesis and evolution of the most famous German dane of cartoons. First of all we need to know that the first series of Scooby-Doo was born after several passages very connected to the television context of the time. In 1968 the associations for the defense of the family, in fact, made a lot of pressure on the television channels to remove what they considered an excessive violence within the animated series of the morning, leading to the cancellation of several titles. Needing a new success, the CBS managers ordered Hanna-Barbera a new show that somehow followed a hit of that moment, the cartoon Archie.
The authors Ruby and Spears came therefore to conceive what was to be Mysteries Five, on a musical band that between a concert and the other solved supernatural cases with the help of the festive dog Too Much, a bobtail that played the bongos (the same race seen in Archie ). After several negotiations with the network several modifications were applied: the characters were brought to four and their names and characteristics were changed while they returned to the original idea of a great and scruffy German Great Dane (initially discarded so as not to overlap with the famous Samson comic ). A further pitch failed because it was considered too scary for the children, but in the end it was possible to find the square by changing the name to Scooby-Doo, a name perhaps inspired by the trills that Frank Sinistra makes at the end of Strangers in the Night.
2. A designer from Disney
From the first projects concerning this series it was clear instead that Iwao Takamoto would be in charge of the drawings. Of Japanese origins, his family emigrated from Hiroshima to Los Angeles and after the bombing of Hiroshima was forced to live in the internment camp in Manzanar dedicated to people of Asian descent (similar to what is seen in the recent series The Terror: Infamy ). Right here from two other internees Takamoto learned the basics of drawing but his talent was such that he was immediately hired by Disney in 1945.
Here he quickly made a career as a character designer, working on animated films that became absolute masterpieces such as Cinderella, Lilli and the vagabond and Sleeping Beauty. In 1961 he left his place to land at Hanna-Barbera, where he was responsible for the creation of several characters such as Scooby-Doo, but also the Jetson Astro dog and Wacky Races’ Penelope Pitstop. He then worked in Warner Bros. Animation, following the acquisition by the latter of Hanna-Barbera.
3. The Scooby family
Scooby Doo is certainly not the only animal to appear in the history of this animated saga. In 1979, for example, the pestiferous puppy Scrappy-Doo, the bravest nephew of his much more impressive uncle, was introduced, who often got into trouble for his smoking character: his character was introduced in the animated series of that year to revive the declining ratings with a breath of fresh air, even this new figure never reached a real popularity, so much so that it was later relegated years later to simple occasional appearances.
Less known is Scooby-Dum, a dappled German Great Dane and Scooby’s cousin fessacchiotto but he does his best to solve the various mysteries with his magnifying glass and intoning Beethoven’s Fifth. Other members of this extended family include Yabba-Doo (not to be confused with the typical phrase of Fred Flintstone), his brother, a white Great Dane who solves cases on the west coast of the United States often helped by his nephew Scrappy-Doo; and Scooby-Dee, a white female Great Dane presented first as Scooby’s cousin and then destined to become his girlfriend in another series but never reached the necessary number of episodes to introduce her as such.
4. The (little) successful films
The Scooby-Doo media franchise includes 14 animated series, 41 films for TV, 12 lines of comics, various television specials and films directly finished on videotape or DVD. But above all in the memory of many the two films for the big screen that came to the cinema in 2002 and 2004 are well impressed. The premises were all there, starting from the cast that included Freddie Prinze Jr (Fred), Matthew Lillard (Shaggy), Linda Cardellini (Velma) and especially Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played Daphne despite the unlikely wig (and ironically in the Buffy series the main characters are called Scooby Gang ). There was even Rowan Atkinson, the famous Mr Bean here as a villain over the top.
Despite the fact that the first film had done well at the box office enough to push for a less successful sequel, the criticisms on both titles were devastating. The mix between live-action and special effects was not seem to be successful, costumes and settings were more cartoonist than expected and above all the writing of the jokes seems really idiosyncratic. The first film, however, had the merit of cementing the career of James Gunn, who was here a screenwriter and later became director of films such as Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming The Suicide Squad.
5. The crazy crossovers
Thanks to its popularity but also to its absolute accessibility, Scooby-Doo has proved to be a very versatile character, capable of trespassing even in productions more or less close to its narrative universe. Since 1976, in fact, several crossover episodes of other series in which the Mystery Inc appeared, for example in the Blue Falcon and Cane Prodigio cartoon. In 1997 our occult investigators trespassed into another series of Cartoon Networks, a channel that had been hosting them for some time now, in Johnny Bravo, helping the muscular to find his old aunt mysteriously disappeared.
But the Ten years gave us the most bizarre pearls. In 2011 Scooby and the others make their appearance in an episode of the retro-style series Batman: The Brave and The Bold, having to assist Batman and Robin in recovering the American folk singer Weird Al from the clutches of Joker and Penguin (the same two DC superheroes had already appeared in 1972 in some special episodes of The New Scooby-Doo Movies). Even more insane is the special episode of the 13th season of the Supernatural TV series, entitled Scoobynatural, in which the protagonists Dean and Sam are sucked into the animated world and must help the gang get rid of a ghost.