"Scooby-Doo, Where Are You" Vol. 3: The Dane’s Still Got It
Scooby-Doo has graduated to one of Hanna-Barbera’s most enduring cultural icons, so there is really very little that one can say about the show that started it all: Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? The four episodes on Warner Home Video’s latest single-disc release of the series (Volume 3, “Hello Mummy”) follow the same formula that drove the most successful incarnations of the show: the ever-hungry, ever-scared Great Dane Scooby-Doo and the gang (pretty boy Fred, pretty girl Daphne, smart girl Velma, and beatnik Shaggy) drive around and get themselves into seeming supernatural trouble until they eventually suss out the true culprit and his venal motives. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids and their dog. The kids sure do get around, though, with settings in a creepy theater in “The Backstage Rage,” the circus of “Bedlam in the Bigtop,” the haunted castle of “A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts,” and the campus of “Scooby-Doo and a Mummy, Too.”
It has been quite some time since I’ve watched an episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? Like most kids in my generation, this was one of the shows perpetually in syndication after school, and I remember watching it religiously at the time. Rewatching the episodes now as an adult, I found it hard to not get caught up in the moment, even as I recognized how silly and formulaic they could be. Scooby-Doo was only one of several series that Hanna-Barbera premiered in the 1969 TV season, but it’s not too hard to see why it was such a hit at first and turned into such an enduring classic. There’s a high level of energy that infuses all the episodes on this DVD (despite its insistence on a laugh track, curiously muted in “A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts”), but most of all, it’s still just lightweight, reasonably creative silliness that goes down quite easily.
These episodes are from its first season, and perhaps the most interesting thing about them is how the formula is still recognizable, but the show and its characters still hadn’t fully ossified into their later roles, and can thus still surprise you occasionally. For starters, there’s only one “And I would have gotten away with it, too…” on the entire disc, which was a bit of a surprise to me, at least. It’s also a bit surprising to see Shaggy and Scooby being openly brave and innovative when they didn’t have to be, rather than turning tail and running at the first sign of danger, as you’d expect. The show was also not as reliant on slapstick comedy or gimmick guest stars, and seems to have worked a bit harder at being entertaining on its own merits as a result. Finally, while Hanna-Barbera was well-known for pioneering the “limited animation” techniques that made TV animation workable, they did manage to work in some surprisingly effective animation grace notes here and there. There’s some wonderful animation stretch in “Bedlam in the Bigtop,” for instance, as Scooby’s nose bends around a corner and then the rest of his body follows.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? Volume 3 presents the episodes in their original full-frame format with their mono soundtracks. The episodes all look like they’re in great shape, almost exactly as I remember them all those years ago on WPIX Channel 11, although I can’t say whether they have been notably improved on the complete Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? seasons 1 and 2 set. Soundtrack and subtitle options are available for English, French, and Spanish, and the only extra is an episode of the new Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue, which seems to capture the same sense of energy as the original, but still seems to be missing some of the fun. It doesn’t help that it’s impossible to watch the two henchmen in the show without thinking that The Venture Bros.‘ Henchmen 21 and 24 are slumming.
It’s always interesting to look back at the relatively early days of a popular show and see it discovering its footing, which may be the greatest value to this DVD. I must admit that this release is a bit of a rip-off, since it only has a skimpy 4 episodes and one can still get the full Season 1 and 2 set, usually at a price that’s only a little bit more than any 2 of these single disc releases. However, it’s a decent enough sampler platter for the kids who apparently still like Scooby-Doo and for the adults wanting to take a stroll down memory lane to find out if the show still holds up. The good news is that it does.