More cowardly than Lassie and more cuddly than Deputy Dawg, a certain Great Dane has remained one of TV’s most popular crime-fighting forces for the last four decades.
It is over 40 years since canine hero Scooby Doo arrived on the cartoon scene along with pals Shaggy, Velma, Fred and Daphne, and he’s still entertaining children aboard the mystery machine.
The brainchild of animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Scooby Doo has featured in an ever expanding collection of series and one-off film specials based on his adventures.
But Scooby as we know him nearly did not make it on to the screen at all, as creator Joe Barbera explains.
“Originally we had planned to focus on the four human characters and the Great Dane was merely to be a pet and a non-speaking one at that.
“But the head of CBS children’s programming at the time, Fred Silverman, convinced us that as a character the dog had great potential and should be given a more central role in the series. From that moment on Scooby Doo was born.”
However, deciding on a name for the dog was no easy matter. In the end the inspiration came from an unlikely source, no other than Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.
Barbera says: “We wanted a unique name that would sum up the dog’s loveable and madcap personality. We couldn’t settle on anything ourselves that quite fitted the bill but Silverman hit up on an idea.
“He had been listening to Frank Sinatra’s Strangers In The Night and particularly his vocal improvisation at the end, which included the words Scooby Doo. After that the name just stuck.”
Barbera originally planned to call the show Mysteries Five or Who’s Scared but in the end settled on the title Scooby Doo: Where Are You?
The premise was to feature four hip teenagers and their dog travelling around in a mystery machine van stumbling upon a different haunted house or terrible monster each week.
There was bespectacled Velma who always had the crime solved before the rest of them, strait-laced Fred and Daphne, who always ended up splitting from the rest of the gang and Scooby and Shaggy who were the comic accident-prone duo more interested in eating than solving crime.
But by the end of each episode the gang would expose the real man-made forces behind each haunting accompanied by the villain uttering the now immortal phrase, “…and I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids”.
For Barbera and his partner Hanna, each episode took about a month to make and involved the duo thinking up endless scrapes and one-liners for the gang.
The half hourly episodes proved such a success that in 1972 the show expanded to an hour and became the New Scooby Doo Movies. In all, 24 movies were made, each of them featuring real life guest stars such as Sonny and Cher and Dick Van Dyke.
In 1974 the Scooby format was changed again, when the canine hero was joined by his nephew Scrappy Doo. The series now only featured Scooby, Shaggy and Scrappy with the rest of the gang seeking adventures on their own with the mystery machine.
By this stage the writing team on Scooby had increased and involved a team of animators and producers including Barbera who was still the main driving force behind the Scooby scripts.
Since then, various Scooby Doo series have been screened along with various feature films.
Despite being a dog, Scooby’s appearance has also been tweaked to reflect changing fashion tastes. His original blue neckerchief has now been replaced by a collar and identity tag while his facial features are now plumper than they were in the beginning.
Barbera believes the reason behind Scooby Doo’s continued success lies in his human failings.
“Unlike many cartoon characters he isn’t portrayed as a superhero. He is a rather greedy, cowardly dog.
“Adults love him because he has real human weaknesses and children love him because he is a big softie, a large protective dog who is completely non-threatening in nature.
“I’m always amazed by the effect Scooby has had on so many people. I remember meeting the Duke of Westminster a few years ago and while we were talking his dog ran out and jumped up at him.
“The Duke turned to the dog and said, ‘Get down Scooby Doo’. It was a fantastic feeling.”
10 SCOOBY FACTS
1. The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby Doo film inspired the blockbuster movie Ghostbusters in 1984.
2. Shaggy was the first ever vegetarian cartoon character. This was insisted on by American DJ Casey Kasem, the voice of Shaggy, who was himself a strict vegetarian and requested that his character adhere to the same diet.
3. William Hanna wrote the original Scooby Doo theme tune.
4. Shaggy’s original name was Norville Rogers.
5. Mike Myers, of Austin Powers fame, is a huge Scooby fan. He even paid tribute to the cartoon in his Wayne’s World film when one of the possible endings was called the Scooby-style ending and involved the heroes unmasking a villain.
6. Scooby Doo was not the first Hanna and Barbera success story. The pair were also behind Tom And Jerry, The Flintstones and Top Cat.
7. After the Scooby Doo gang broke up, Fred became a mystery novelist, Velma became a research scientist for Nasa and Daphne became a rich housewife.
8. A Scooby snack is made of oatmeal, cocoa, butter, sugar, vanilla and walnut extract mixed together and baked for 8-10 minutes.
9. Scooby’s ancestral home was Knittingham Puppy Farm, while Shaggy’s was Moonlight Castle in Austria.
10. Shaggy’s character was based on the beatnik icon Maynard G Krebs from American TV programme The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis.