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With: Casey Kasem, Don Messick, Frank Welker, Stefanianna Christopherson, Heather North, Nicole Jaffe, June Foray, Keye Luke (voices)
Written by: Bill Lutz, Joe Ruby, Ken Spears, Larz Bourne, Tom Dagenais
Directed by: Joseph Barbera, William Hanna
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 916
Date: 09/03/2019

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

One-Snack Minds

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After it was first broadcast as a Saturday morning cartoon, but long before the days of the Cartoon Network and the world wide web, I grew up watching Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! in weekday afternoon reruns. Years later, my son has also grown up watching the same show, and even though he also had the slightly more sophisticated 2002 series What's New, Scooby-Doo? to choose from, he seemed to like both series equally. Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary now — and available in a new four-disc Blu-ray box set containing the entire series (41 episodes) — it has endured five decades of jokes about its repetitive nature and its shoddy production, but somehow it has endured. Perhaps it's because of the fun mix of characters, and because, despite their radical differences, it actually feels like they could be friends. Or perhaps it's because of the show's combination of humor, mystery, and horror. Or perhaps it's simply because it's a show about a really cool dog.

Animators Joseph Barbera and William Hanna both worked at MGM and teamed up to make the studio's highly acclaimed Tom and Jerry cartoons, which lasted from 1940 to 1957, racking up a number of Oscars, and Oscar nominations, for the studio. Then, when MGM began shutting down its animation division, Hanna and Barbera went into TV. They quickly developed a system for producing volumes of cartoons far more quickly and cheaply than their slick, gorgeous Tom and Jerry shorts had been. They had early successes with The Huckleberry Hound Show and its spinoff, The Yogi Bear Show, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Josie and the Pussycats, Super Friends, and so many others. But Scooby-Doo, which ran from 1969 to 1970 and then resurrected for a third season in 1978, was arguably their greatest TV production.

Each of the 41 episodes maintain a fairly even level of quality as the gang — apparently without any adult supervision or job or school responsibilities — head somewhere on vacation (or have a breakdown), learn about a haunted spot, investigate, are spooked by the ghost or monster, lay a trap, and unmask the offender. Shaggy (voiced by Casey Kasem) was the skinny hippie-ish one, easily frightened but with a massive appetite, and Scooby-Doo (voiced in guttural ruff-sounds by Don Messick) is his faithful companion, equally hungry and equally scared. They are usually the bait. Fred (voiced by Frank Welker) is the leader, the driver of the van, and the setter of traps. Daphne (voiced by Stefanianna Christopherson, and then Heather North) is the pretty one who frequently gets kidnapped. And Velma (voiced by Nicole Jaffe) is the smart, bookish one with a huge sweater; she usually knows something about what's going on but can't see a thing when she loses her glasses. (Additionally, the voices of June Foray and Keye Luke can be heard in certain episodes.)

Many of the monsters are fairly inventive, as are many of the backdrops, such as a creepy old carnival, castles, museums, or even a swamp. And, despite the jokes, it's not always totally obvious who the monster is going to be. In other words, these shows are still entertaining, all this time later. And even though my son has sort of outgrown them for now, I can't ever see a time that both of us wouldn't enjoy a good Scooby cartoon if it were to present itself, and doubly so if it were beautifully remastered. Released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the new Blu-ray set comes in a little cardboard haunted house, which contains the four discs in a folding case, a Scooby-Doo Encyclopedia, a Scooby Funko keychain, and a sheet containing a code for digital versions. Bonus features include a featurette on voice actor Welker (who has done Fred consistently for fifty years and eventually took over for Scooby as well), and two other features about the history of the franchise, as well as several older, previously released features (like how to draw Scooby-Doo, etc.).

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