Mirror Magazine


Scooby Doo, where are you?
In a career spanning more than 30 years, the canine crime-fighter Scooby-Doo has faced many fearsome challenges, and has always prevailed.

This summer, though, Scooby confronts his most daunting test to date: that of shouldering a big-budget, live-action Hollywood movie. Featuring a computer-animated Scooby alongside such human stars as Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr., the film, called simply Scooby-Doo, cost more than £50m. That's quite a risky investment, given that live-action movies of television cartoons - from Robert Altman's disastrous Popeye (1980) to the more recent films of the Flintstones (1994) and Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000) - have never done fantastically well at the box office.

Yet if anyone can defy this ill augury, it's Scooby-Doo. After all, few cartoon characters are more in tune than Scooby with the pop-cultural spirit of our time, that spirit being to a great extent one of ironised nostalgia for the pop culture of times past.

Indeed, there's probably not a twenty-or thirtysomething in the land who hasn't, in their time, been part of a jokey symposium about Scooby and his sleuthing pals, Fred, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy (played in the film by Prinze, Gellar, Linda Cardellini and Matthew Lillard). The original cartoon series, first aired in America in 1969, lends itself perfectly to the current trend for flippant nostalgia: it's extremely memorable and immensely mockable.

The more you consider its setup, the more ludicrous it seems. At what strange point in their lives did Fred, Shaggy and co. decide to band together, acquire a van with "Mystery Machine" on the side, and drive around in search of seemingly supernatural wrong-doing? And why did every criminal in Scooby's world think the best way to divert attention from an underhand scheme was to dress up as a very ostentatious ghost?

It's so easy to poke fun at Scooby's adventures that even big-time comedians, who might be expected to aim a bit higher, have succumbed to the temptation, knowing that any Scooby reference will be immediately understood by audiences of a certain age. Mike Myers has a good claim to have got there first, ending Wayne's World (1992) with a send-up of the "unmasking of the villain" scene that concluded every Scooby-Doo episode. Since then, the great Great Dane's animated exploits have even been parodied in a very different television cartoon, South Park.

In fact, Scooby is so often remembered and joked about by those of us who grew up with him that the quaint silliness of his escapades is not, on its own, an adequate explanation for the character's cult status. The animation may have been rudimentary, the plot may have been exactly the same every week, but beneath our wisecracks about such things lies a great reserve of affection for himself. Whenever we laugh at the absurdity of the children's programmes we used to watch, we are recalling the innocence that once made that absurdity invisible. But we also have a specific affection for Scooby-Doo: for his big, happy grin; for his grunts and giggles; for his overriding to the demands of his stomach; for his unconcealed cowardice of course, he could always be relied to conquer at crucial moments).

Clinching proof of Scooby's lovableness is provided by his undiminished popularity among today's children. There may now be a whole generation of grown-ups who regard the ever-hungry hound as an icon of their childhood years. But they are not his only constituency. He belongs just as much to the young fans whose loyalty to Scooby sustains the production of all manner of merchandise, as well as brand-new cartoon specials. Available on video, these done-offs have updated Scooby's adventure with a sci-fi twist (in Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders), and have even introduced him to virtual reality (Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase), but the basic formula remains the same: Scooby and friends expose phoney phantoms and bogus bogeymen.

It is by appealing to all of Scooy's fans that the makers of this summer's movie hope to outdo the likes of the Flintstones film. For children, the film will be Scooby's biggest adventure yet, but there is also plenty of self-parodic humour, aimed at that generation of adults, whose collective consciousness is full of much-pondered questions about Scooby and his gang.

We will finally learn, for example, why Fred and Daphne always stick close together, and whether it's pure coincidence that Shaggy (a lethargic hippie, don't forget) has a constant case of the nunchies. Countless old men in ghost costumes may have been unmasked over the years, but only now are the really important Scooby-Doo mysteries about to be solved.

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