'A Pup Named Scooby-Doo' - More Mature Than 'Velma'
Second Chances #44
Hi, and welcome back to Second Chances, where the maligned, forgotten, and ignored get unmasked.
Over the past month, I lost count of how many people took to YouTube and other places online to trash Velma, the new R-rated take on the Scooby-Doo franchise. Now, I've never been a fan of the franchise myself; I always felt it was a bit too corny, especially during that point when celebrities started popping up constantly. However, I can see why fans were repulsed by Velma. Leaving aside the race-swapping of the characters, the gore and sexuality just felt extraneous to say the least. Also, for all the adult language, it wasn't funny. In an attempt to make the franchise more adult, it actually became more childish than ever. Funny enough, there was a more mature take on Scooby-Doo done back in the 80s, and it involved turning the characters into kids.
A Pup Named Scooby-Doo ran on ABC saturday mornings from 1988-1991. It came out during a time when Hanna-Barbera was making kid versions of a few of their classic franchises; I remember The Flintstones and Tom & Jerry getting the same treatment. This version of Scooby-Doo follows the same basic premise as the previous versions. Each of the 27 episodes has a child-friendly mystery that gets solved by the Scooby-Doo Detective Agency, consisting of Freddy, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy & the eponymous talking dog. (Thankfully, because of the kid premise, there is no sign of Scrappy-Doo anywhere! Hallelujah!)
The differences are why this is the only version of the franchise that I like. Unlike the version from the 70s which tried to ground the franchise in some kind of reality... well, as real as possible while still having a talking dog..., this version goes completely absurd with wild Tex Avery-style reaction takes and TONS of fourth wall breaks. On top of those, the familiar characters see massive exaggerations to their personas. Freddy is a believer who belts out alien conspiracy theories so often that even Agent Muldur from The X-Files would tell him to tone it down. Daphne is the definition of a spoiled princess to the point that, no matter where she is or what she's doing, she can always yell out for her butler Jenkins to pop in instantaneously to do something inane for her like provide a bridge for her to cross over a mudhole during the requisite monster chase. Velma keeps a supercomputer in her pocket. Shaggy and Scooby are constantly cowardly and hungry... and don't have the excuse that the adult versions are theorized to have.
Beyond the pint-sized characters, the gags have an appeal that can work for adults, too. That's understandable when you realize that the developer of the show was Tom Ruegger, the guy who would go on to create one of the greatest cartoon series ever, Animaniacs. One of the best recurring gags involves Freddy constantly being off the mark when he posits his theory on a mystery. His accusations almost always go toward the town bully who is actually named Red Herring. (I hope I don't have to explain the joke here.) Then there are the aforementioned fourth wall breaks. A common one involves the chase scene that pops up in every episode, complete with Scooby going off-set to get the music started up before the chase can start.
A Pup Named Scooby-Doo is a great example of how to take an established franchise in a new direction. The jokes are still funny, the animation is energized, and the characters feel familiar and fresh at the same time. It's certainly a lot more entertaining than Velma, that's for sure! If you want to watch it yourself, only some of the episodes are available on Prime Video, Vudu, and other streaming services. You'd have to hunt down the DVDs to see the rest. Jinkies!
What do you think? Remember this forgotten take on Scooby-Doo? Let me know, and enjoy!
About the Creator
Twelve years writing about games, movies, music, etc. and counting! At least one new article every month! I'm also writing movies, writing a children's book & hosting the gaming channel "Cool Media" on YouTube! Enjoy & find me on Twitter!
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