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Scooby-Doo, Who are you?

A Through the Lens Companion Piece

This week on Through the Lens in the spirit of October Davis and Alex talked about the four famous direct to video Scooby Doo movies of the late 90s and early 2000s. To go with that episode, this article will give a quick rundown on the history of Scooby Doo and how it has had such a lasting impact. 

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36 years before I could ever dream of whacking my Scooby-Doo piñata or ever consider the idea of blowing out the candles on my Scooby-Doo cake, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were working on making one of the most iconic pop culture figures ever. Scooby Doo has been a mainstay of many peoples childhood, including myself. I watched all the shows, had all the DVDs, played with all the toys and wanted all the games. I was a product of Scooby-Doo, and because of that I can still recall plots from episodes and movies I have not seen since I was a kid. It has been over 50 years since the first episode of Scooby-Doo Where Are You? first aired, and there are still syndicated Scooby-Doo series on the air today, and it does not seem that they will be slowing down anytime soon. How has a talking dog and four teenagers been able to captivate the hearts and minds of audiences for so long? 

On May 30, 1966 Frank Sinatra released the album that completed his comeback into popular culture, “Strangers in the Night”. On the eponymous track of the album, Ol’ Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra sings the words “doo-be-doo-be-doo” Little did Sinatra know that the words he had envisioned as filler to end a track would take on a life of their own. The story goes that CBS’s head of daytime programming Fred Silverman heard the song and came up with the name for the great dane in a show pitch he had heard. Then character designer Iwao Takamoto came up with the design for Scooby-Doo after discussing Great Dane characteristics with a coworker who also happened to be a Great Dane breeder. Then on September 13, 1969 the first episode of “Scooby-Doo, Where are You” came out with the iconic episode of “What a Night for a Knight.” The original airing of “Scooby-Doo, Where are You” ran for two seasons and 25 episodes, a lot less than it seems based on the lasting impact Scooby-Doo has had. 

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Over the next twenty years there were seven other Scooby-Doo shows, with there being a break between “A Pup Named Scooby-Doo” and the next chapter of Scooby-Doo media. After “A Pup Named Scooby-Doo” ended in 1991 there was seven years before the start of the movies we reviewed on the podcast this week. After those four movies there have been five other shows that have come down the pipe, with the big reboot of “What’s New Scooby Doo” bringing new life to the show and other redentions like “Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc.” bringing a more serialized approach to the show. There have also been five live action adaptations of the characters, with the most recognizable being the early 2000s releases (which Through the Lens also has an episode on from earlier in the catalogue). There is so much Scooby-Doo media that it is difficult to touch on it all in one article, and new media does not seem to have a stopping point anytime soon. But the question still stands; why has it lasted so long? 

The question has to be asked why out of all of the Hanna-Barbera properties, Scooby-Doo has lasted the longest. While I do not think that the answer can be boiled down to one thing, I do have a few theories as to why it is still going so strong. The first two reasons I think are the marketability and the adaptability, after all it is very easy to market a fun loving talking dog and his friends. Also, the formula for Scooby-Doo is very easy to adapt to whatever setting you put it in, the monster of the week caper with hijinks ensuing. However, I think the main reason is how easy it is to produce for the studio. Hanna-Barbera was known for its cheap production of its cartoons and Scooby-Doo was no exception. The influx of Scooby-Doo media for the 20 years after its creation certainly helped to cement this cast of fun characters in the minds of millions of kids and adults. So it would not be a stretch to imagine that the immense amount of Scooby-Doo media, for better or for worse, had an effect on why it has been the longest lasting Hanna-Barbera cartoon. The producers and executives in charge of making shows today grew up with Scooby-Doo for a lot of their life, so they are more nostalgic and willing to reincarnate it again for the next generation of kids. While there are probably many more reasons why Scooby-Doo has had such a long legacy of entertaining families, those three reasons I mentioned are my theory on why it has stayed around for so long. It does not seem that there will be any slowing down of the Scooby-Doo train, so we will probably be seeing more of the talking Great Dane and his teenage friends solving mysteries. 

If you are interested in hearing more about Scooby-Doo, be sure to check out the Through The Lens episode on it this week. Just go to your podcast listening platform of choice and look for the camera logo. 

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