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.
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.
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
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).
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