Making a special that salutes shows from the past can often go off the rails. It’s specially true if the subject is an old Saturday Morning cartoon series.
Kudos, therefore, to the folks behind Scooby-Doo, Where Are You Now? airing Friday night on The CW.
The premise is simple” after 52 years of solving mysteries, the Scooby gang gathers at the Warner Bros. Studio lot to reminisce about their favourite cases. Janel Parrish from Pretty Little Liars hosts and interviews the animated characters who haven’t aged a bit: Fred (voiced by Frank Welker), Daphne (Grey Griffin), Velma (Kate Micucci), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby-Doo (Fred Welker again).
Seventy-five-year-old Welker, the original voice of Fred, is one of the most-prolific cartoon voice-over artist of all time. Don Messick, who originally did Scooby-Doo, died in 1997.
Half the musical comedy duo Garfunkle & Oates, Micucci as the voice of Velma was a surprise to me. Canadian-born Nicole Jaffe was the original voice of Velma Dinkley. The Montreal native is now 80.
Not mentioned, unfortunately, is the fact that America’s Top 40 host Kasey Kasdem was the original voice of Shaggy. That freaked me out when I learned about it years later.
In the special, we see the whole gang drive up in that teal-coloured Scooby “Mystery Machine van. A new mystery of sorts pops up and will get thew kiddies hyped for Halloween.
What I liked is that the producers thought to include leaders in the animation field to comment on the original Hanna-Barbera series, which premiered in September of 1969. Among those featured are animation historian Jerry Beck, Robot Chicken co-creator Seth Green (Family Guy), Simpsons‘ producer David Silverman, and for no apparent reason but always welcome, Weird Al Yankovic.
The hour-long special includes a clip supposedly showing the cartoons auditioning for the roles back in ’69. That strikes just the right note of silliness and irreverence.
There’s a great story about the origin of the series in Joseph Barbera’s 1994 autobiography, “My Life in ‘Toons.” The Hanna-Barbera co-founder was trying to sell CBS on a Saturday morning animated series centered around teens and mystery. CBS executives balked when they saw some of the more-frightening concept drawings for the series, emphasizing the horror elements. Silverman was flying to LA and trying to relax by listening to music on earphones when Frank Sinatra’s bit hit, “Strangers in the Night” started playing. By the end of the flight, Silverman had shifted attention away from the teens and onto their dog and had a title for the series, “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?”
My own personal connection to Scooby-Doo? I once got to drive the van. Warner Bros. brought it north of the border back when I worked at The Toronto Sun and even lent it to me overnight. When Katie and Dan were in elementary school, I dropped them off in it, which was just as cool for me as it was for them.