Sunday, March 22, 2015

What I've been watching: Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated and the '70's Hanna-Barbera "teams"...

Clearly, the "Strike Up the Sand" review is taking longer than I'd forecast. It's still on its way. Because this long wait between reviews is typical, and to turn the blog away from being so Aladdin exclusive, I'm going to start keeping the blog active with updates -- not full reviews -- on what I've recently been watching and reading. This is the first of those.

Recently, Joe Torcivia and David Gerstein tipped me off that the most recent TV series in the Scooby-Doo franchise, formally titled Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated (2010-13) was exceptionally good, doing a new spin on the infamous format and tropes of the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969-70), parodying it but doing so respectfully, developing an ongoing continuity and a "mytharc", and giving the characters more ... characterization. It sounded up my alley, so I eagerly started watching.

I've definitely enjoyed it and have found much to appreciate and respect. However, a couple of days ago, I reached episode 14, "Mystery Solvers Club State Finals". In the teaser, we find Scooby clearly sick and bedridden. When Shaggy asks how he feels, Scooby sarcastically answers, "Never better." Not picking up on how Scooby's answers is obviously incongruous with his condition, Fred exclaims, "Great! I was worried there for a second we'd have to leave you behind!" "Fred!" Daphne responds, giving him a chastising dirty look. "What?" Fred protests. "The Mystery Solvers Club State Finals is tomorrow! Every team mystery-solving group from around the country will be there!"

At that, a bell went off in my head -- I was pretty sure what the episode was going to be. Wikipedia's description confirmed it: "Sick in bed right before the big Mystery Solvers Club State Finals, Scooby dreams about going to the competition and teaming up with fellow mystery-solver sidekicks Speed Buggy, Jabberjaw, Captain Caveman and J. Wellington Mudsy Muddlemore to rescue their friends from the clutches of the demonic Lord Infernicus." Further, "An episode-long homage to the golden years of Hanna-Barbera, this installment is almost entirely animated in the same visual style as Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!. All the "sidekicks" featured are from Hanna-Barbera Productions shows that copied the basic mystery-solving/sidekick formula that Scooby-Doo pioneered."  

I of course familiar with those series (I grew up when Cartoon Network was largely reruns from the Hanna-Barbera back catalog, after all!), but have never really watched of them regularly. While I'm sure that I could go ahead, watch the episode, and still completely "get" it, I prefer to brush up on the source material first when it comes to crossovers. So, this weekend, I've downloaded (shh!)...

... The Funky Phantom (1971-72) ...

... Jabberjaw (1976-78) ...

... and Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels (1977-80). (Especially excited about this one, as I loved this character as a child, from the Captain Caveman and Son segment on The Flintstone Kids. I only ever saw one episode of Teen Angels [maybe it was more than one, actually -- but for some reason, I remember it that way], on a Sunday morning as part of USA's Cartoon Express, and was thrilled to find out that Cap had his own, full half-hour show.)

Knowing that these shows tend to be repetitive, I figured that I'd only watching one or two of each, just to be freshly acquainted with them. However, despite all the continuity errors, logic gaps, and sloppiness, I found the first episode of The Funky Phantom enough to have watched a few more. It's nice to be watching "vintage" (perhaps that term should only applies to their works of the '60's) Hanna-Barbera again, warts and all.

I'm especially curious to see how the Mystery Incorporated episode's mimicking of the '70's Hanna-Barbera style came out. (It looks like the entire episode is going to be a dream sequence, conjured up in the ailing Scooby's mind, accounting for the change in aesthetics.) Also, I'm wondering why it was only these three mystery-solving, mascot-having H-B teams that join Scooby's gang? I was pretty sure there were a bunch more. And just a cursory Google search has yielded...

... Goober and the Ghost Chasers (1973-75) ...

... and The New Shmoo (1979). (There might be copyright issues -- not sure who owns the rights to Al Capp's comic strip creation.)

There's also mystery-solving rock bands, who tended to not have non-human mascots, like...

...(of course) Josie and the Pussycats (1970-71)

... and Butch Cassidy (1973) and his band.

I wouldn't be surprised, though, if some of the above groups (and others) do make visual cameos gathered at the competition, but just don't collaborate with Mystery, Inc. as part of the main plot like the featured guest stars do. (No spoilers!)

-- Ryan


  1. Ryan:

    Glad to see that it’s not really “Aladdin’s World, and we just live in it”!

    There mere fact that we’ve progressed to a time where a SCOOBY-DOO series can actually satirize the fact that, once upon an unpleasant time, H-B ground out Scooby-Clone series like bad sausage is a wonderful thing!

    With this series, and then the wonderful SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP comic book title, this may be the greatest time ever to be a fan of “those meddling kids and their dog”.

    You will LOVE the episode! It works in many wonderful ways, and could have been an issue of SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP! And, to anyone who has not yet seen the series and is expecting the “same old thing”, I’m here to sum up the series in one phrase: SCOOBY-DOO Meets LOST! It’s that kind of continuity, folks, wonderfully layered upon the traditional SCOOBY-DOO formula. Oh, and the final episode (no spoilers) is, in its own way, almost as controversial as the final episode of LOST. It certainly opens its own can of worms.

    Have you seen the YOGI BEAR cameo? Blink and you’ll miss it.

  2. Joe,

    I did catch the Yogi cameo -- it was at the end of what was hands down my favorite episode thus far!

    I haven't read Scooby-Doo Team-Up. I do remember the '90's DC Scooby comic doing a lot of self-parody, but Mystery Incorporated really turned it into an art form. Some of the satire is so dry and played so straight, it's hard to know if they're actually not meaning it to be a big joke, until you realize, "Oh, wait, they're pulling my leg!"

    Because of the high school setting and paranormal subject matter, the ongoing continuity/mytharc approach reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it still brings Lost to mind, too for that same type of format if not the same type of backdrop.

    -- Ryan