‘Spooky’ Stories Just For Fun: Reliving the ‘Scooby-Doo’ Series

How parents helped shape this children’s cartoon in the ‘60s.
‘Spooky’ Stories Just For Fun: Reliving the ‘Scooby-Doo’ Series
The characters Scooby Doo and Shaggy Rogers in the 1969 TV series "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!" (CBS)
Adults who grew up watching “Scooby Doo, Where Are You!” likely have fond memories of the brown Great Dane who is scared of his own shadow and who, along with his human buddy, Shaggy, loves to eat pizza. However, it may not be as well known that parents actually helped shape the series when they complained about the violence in children’s shows in the ‘60s.
The show premiered on Sept. 13, 1969, at 10:30 a.m. on CBS, where it aired during the Saturday morning cartoon-time slot for two seasons. Viewers soon became familiar with Scooby-Doo’s gruff “Ruh-roh, Raggy” (“uh-oh Shaggy”) to his sidekick and partner-in-crime, Shaggy, with the latter’s signature rejoinder, “Zoinks!” These were uttered whenever they met an unexpected ghostly figure in one of their many mysteries, and the familiar lines have been repeated by enraptured youngsters in many households. The “scary” show continues to bring more laughs than chills.

How It All Began

Joseph Barbera (L) and William Hanna from a television special for the premiere of their television production "Secret Squirrel and Atom Ant," Sept. 12, 1965. (Public Domain)
Joseph Barbera (L) and William Hanna from a television special for the premiere of their television production "Secret Squirrel and Atom Ant," Sept. 12, 1965. (Public Domain)
Hanna-Barbera Productions was founded in 1957 by Joseph Barbera and William Hanna. They already had the success of “The Ruff and Reddy Show” (1957), “Huckleberry Hound” (1958), “The Flintstones,” (1960), and “Yogi Bear” (1961) under their belts.
The idea of a group of teens solving mysteries was an idea that stemmed from the success of “The Archie Show,” which debuted in 1968. Based on the very popular 1941 comic book series, Archie and his Riverdale High bandmates (Jughead Jones, Veronica Lodge, Betty Cooper, and Reggie Mantle) proved that a group of teenagers as main characters could be very appealing to young audiences. From there, television executive Fred Silverman figured that a formula of teenagers plus some amateur mystery-solving skills could equal success.
Creators Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, who worked for Hanna-Barbera, quickly developed the concept proposed by Silverman, creating a group of teens who travel around the country “solving supernatural mysteries.” When Barbera and Hanna first pitched the show to CBS, it was called “Mysteries Five,” with five teens and a bongo-playing dog named “Too Much.” When not playing gigs, these young crime-solvers were out chasing ghosts and zombies.
The top brass at CBS were not immediately sold on the concept, as they had just received criticism from parents over the violence in their superhero cartoons. Some examples included “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” (1966)—an interstellar crime fighter who travels on his “Phantom Cruiser” with his teenage sidekicks; “The Herculoids” (1967)—a group of monsters and heroes made up of Zandor, the space Barbarian and his family, whose mission was to protect their planet Quasar; and, probably one of the earliest Marvel comic adaptations on the small screen, “The Fantastic Four” (1967), which featured four astronauts who acquired superhuman powers after being exposed to cosmic rays. Because of parental concerns, CBS and Hanna-Barbera made tweaks to the Scooby-Doo show to make the series less frightening for its young audience.

Story Makeovers

Silverman, in an interview, expressed his disappointment: “I had always thought that kids in a haunted house would be a big hit. As a kid, I would go and [watch] ‘Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein’ and movies like that. I was convinced this was going to be the biggest hit that we’d ever had.” So instead of scary settings and spooky creatures, Silverman and Ruby worked on creating a more comedic take on solving mysteries.
Instead of a group of five traveling teen musicians, the human protagonists were now reduced to four: Fred Jones (leader of Mystery Inc.), Velma Dinkley (the “brains”), Daphne Blake (fashionista and “danger-prone”), and Shaggy Rogers (laidback best friend of the team’s mascot Scooby). By this time, “Too Much” had evolved from a percussion-playing quadruped to a cowardly, pizza-eating, anthropomorphic dog. Artist Iwao Takamoto, in an interview, elaborated that he sought the expertise of a dog breeder to find out “what made a prize-winning Great Dane and went in the opposite direction.”
The main cast of "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!" (L-R) Fred Jones, Velma Dinkley, Scooby-Doo, Shaggy Rogers, and Daphne Blake. (<a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/scooby-doo-illustration-print-ready-design-2311781349">Muza DS</a>/Shutterstock)
The main cast of "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!" (L-R) Fred Jones, Velma Dinkley, Scooby-Doo, Shaggy Rogers, and Daphne Blake. (Muza DS/Shutterstock)
With its knobby knees, a double chin, and oversized feet, he created a dog that was big and clumsy and would help provide comic relief in the children’s mystery series. The dog was given a more formal name, “Scoobert,” purportedly inspired by the “dooby dooby doo” part from the hit song “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra. Mark Evanier, another writer for the show, asserted that the name was from a 1963 doo-wop ditty called “Denise” by Randy and the Rainbows, who repeatedly sings, “Ooh, Denise, scooby-doo / I’m in love with you, Denise, scooby-doo.” 
The predictable storyline in every single episode also took away the fear factor for its younger viewers. Following a plotline in which their van, the Mystery Machine, has car trouble, they stop at a creepy-looking mansion to seek help. It’s a place that’s supposedly haunted by supernatural activity. The gang splits up to find clues, with Shaggy and Scooby together in one group. Daphne finds danger, while Shaggy and Scooby find food. Once the gang realizes they are dealing with a phony, they set a trap, usually with Shaggy and Scooby as bait. When execution of their plan fails, a chase ensues, with Shaggy and Scooby running away from a scary-looking creature. When the creature is finally apprehended, an unmasking takes place, with the bad guys proclaiming, “If it weren’t for these meddling kids ...”
The network executives accepted this now-lighthearted mystery and changed the title of the show to reflect the group’s mascot as the star of the show. When it aired, it was an instant hit with young and older audiences alike. It ran for two seasons with 25 episodes until 1970. It just goes to show what good things can happen if parents speak up for what they do or don’t want for their children and if TV executives actually listen to these comments.
Movie poster for the Hanna-Barbera Production "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!," in 1969. (CBS)
Movie poster for the Hanna-Barbera Production "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!," in 1969. (CBS)
Lynn Topel is a freelance writer and editor based in Maryland. When not busy homeschooling her sons, she enjoys reading, traveling, and trying out new places to eat.
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