Welcome to Saturday Morning Scares, where we take a look at horror media for the younger fiends out there! Today we’re shining the spotlight on the massive Scooby-Doo franchise, which has been on TV for fifty years!
It’s Cops and Killers Month here at Nightmare on Film Street, so it only seems appropriate to cover the detective agency that’s been catching the bad guys and righting wrongs since 1969, Scooby-Doo! Turns out there aren’t that many kids’ shows about the Zodiac Killer, in case any TV executives are reading this right now looking for an easy billion dollars. But we can hash out the details of that later. For now, let’s change the channel and focus on Scooby-Doo.
Scooby-Doo follows the adventures of Mystery Inc. (the detective agency comprising leader Fred, fashionable Daphne, genius Velma, slacker Shaggy, and their Great Dane friend Scooby). They eat huge sandwiches, run away from monsters, and say things like “Zoinks!” so it’s basically a dream job.
The Secret Formula
Across fifty years of Scooby-Doo, the formula is pretty simple. Mystery Inc. pull up to an interesting location in their van, the Mystery Machine, a monster appears and terrorizes everyone, the gang puts together an investigation that ends with the monster being tied up or otherwise trapped, they pull off the monster’s mask to reveal a character from Act 1, and the crook says “I would’ve gotten away with it, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” Roll credits.
Normally I’d recommend some of the best episodes of the show here, but there are so many incarnations of this franchise that it makes more sense to just list off the major variants and explain them. I’m also going to put my theme song rankings here, using my patented Does is SLAP or is it CRAP system.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? (1969) This is the original, and it’s what you think of when you hear the word “Jinkies!” If you’re not familiar with this series, just turn your TV to one of the six channels that runs it in syndication for a couple hours everyday. Theme song ranking: SLAP. It’s a classic, and elementary school kids like to make parodies of it. It works because everyone knows the song, and it’s good.
Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo (1979) This spinoff largely eschews the human cast to follow the exploits of Scooby and his nephew Scrappy. Scrappy is also a talking dog, but he doesn’t share Scooby’s canine speech impediment. Also he’s pretty freakin annoying. This is my official warning to Scrappy-Doo: it’s on sight. Theme song ranking: CRAP. It’s not the most offensive thing you’ll ever hear, but it’s forgettable.
The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (1985) Breaking with the original formula, this series features actual monsters (as opposed to old men in costumes) and an overarching storyline. Also, Vincent Price!!! In this short series, the gang has to defeat the 13 ghosts from the title and return them to their imprisonment. Theme song rating: SLAP. I know I don’t have to tell you this, but having Vincent Price recite something creepy over your instrumental is a one-way ticket to every Halloween playlist.
A Pup Named Scooby-Doo (1988) Following the gang as elementary schoolers, this is the Muppet Babies of the franchise. Theme song rating: SLAP. It’s not my favorite of the cartoons by a pretty long shot, but that theme song just works.
What’s New, Scooby-Doo? (2002) A cartoon for the new millennium! This one follows the formula pretty closely, but with updated art and music. The Muffs are on the soundtrack of this one! Which brings me to my next point, Theme Song rating: SLAP. Simple Plan provided the theme song for this series (as well as appearing in an episode), which earns this the coveted trophy for Scooby-Doo Theme Song Most Likely to be Stuck In Your Head While You Lie to Everybody at Recess About Doing a Kickflip.
Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get A Clue! (2006) Similar to Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, this show follows Shag and Scoob instead of the entire gang. Shaggy inherits a mansion when his uncle vanishes, but an evil scientist has plans for them. Theme Song rating: SLAP. This one was written and recorded by Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO, which is pretty sick.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated (2010) Considered by many fans to be the best of any Scooby-Doo show, this one features an overarching story and darker tone in much the same way 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo did. Theme Song rating: SLAP. It’s eerie and science-fictiony.
Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! (2015) The biggest departure from the art style of the original (possible exception for A Pup Named Scooby-Doo), this series featured more hijinks and a lighter tone than Mystery Incorporated. Theme Song rating: CRAP. Another one that’s not bad, but it’s not memorable and it doesn’t feature scary narration. Scarearation. It sounds better than it reads.
Scooby-Doo and Guess Who! (2019) The most recent incarnation of the Dane and His Gang, this series features guest appearances by professional athletes, comedians, musicians, and other cartoons. Theme Song rating: SLAP. It’s basically the original song, which we’ve already decided is a slap.
In addition to these TV shows, there have been a number of live action films (some released theatrically, some made-for-TV, and one straight to DVD/VOD) and a plethora of straight-to-home video animated features. There is SO MUCH Scooby-Doo content.
Where Are They Know?
Let’s say, hypothetically, you’re trapped inside for the foreseeable future and you need to stream a few hundred hours’ worth of Scooby-Doo cartoons. You can find What’s New, Scooby-Doo? and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated on Netflix, and a GARGANTUAN selection of Scooby-Doo cartoons on the Boomerang streaming service.
For Scooby-Doo‘s cereal pairing, I considered choosing the Scooby-Doo cereal but I think it’s been discontinued, so if you eat it you might become an actual ghost. Instead, we’re gonna go with Rice Krispies. Like Scooby-Doo, it’s remained largely the same for decades, and there’s a mystery (why is my milk so loud, all of a sudden?)! Grab a box and have a Scooby Snack of your own!
Do you love Scooby-Doo? Of course you do! Tell us all about your favorite mystery-solving dogs over on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook page. For more horror picks than you can shake a treat at, stay tuned to Nightmare on Film Street.