Monday, November 15, 2010

Scooby-Doo, aren't we through with you?

I'm pretty amazed that the Scooby-Doo franchise is making a comeback and seems to be getting popular again. While the various series throughout the years were never any of my favorites, I understand its camp appeal and why people like the characters (I certainly do), and Cartoon Network used to play them A LOT so I was always seeing them. I have a certain fondness for the music of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and for the sheer craziness that is The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo- seriously, who doesn't like Vincent Price's role in that?

I recall that Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island made a big deal out of the monsters being real, and in hindsight it was probably a pretty big step. The monsters were real in 13 Ghosts and all those movies from the '80s, but Zombie Island made it clear that this was a shocker (or at least highly abnormal), and that the gang didn't have to always unmask some yokel in a costume. Since then, it seems like the gang has been able to switch back and forth between fakes and genuine articles with ease. And why not? The whole unmasking was getting kinda jokey.

The direct-to-video and TV movies seemed to breathe some new life into the franchise, and so after so many years of messing with the formula and having to put up with Scrappy, we got the '02 live-action film... which is basically a big wish fulfillment for long-time fans. This was an era of pretending that the gang had reunited after a dry spell (something that certainly appealed to me), and so the logical conclusion was to create a throwback series, which gave us What's New, Scooby-Doo?.

The franchise seems more popular than ever now, even going so far as having alternate continuities and reboots. I notice that The Mystery Begins doesn't mention anything about A Pup Named Scooby-Doo... It would seem that audiences have grown tired of pretending that the gang are continuing their adventures, and are more interested in them simply having new ones- so the universe has completely reinvented itself. Previously we had logical extensions of their base personalities, but now it seems as though WB wants to make them seem like they're real teenagers "just like you", de-emphasizing their outdated fashion sense and emphasizing romantic relationships.

I'm inclined to agree that starting with a clean slate is the best direction that Scooby-Doo can take, considering today's audiences. It was perhaps not the best idea to treat the series like an old fossil that needed cleaning up- as much as that has a certain ironic, nostalgic appeal- and that rather WB should peek at the subconscious decisions made by the original creators that show underneath the surface and expand on them- that is, use the basic personalities of the gang more realistically. Pre-teen and teenage TV viewers like relationships, it would seem.

It seems that Mystery Incorporated, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and soon Epic Mickey are heralding an era in animation built on reinvention- they're reinventing themselves by looking to the past and revitalizing what was already there but strangely overlooked. I think perhaps what gave these franchises their edge in the first place is what is often forgotten, and what audiences always wanted!

I certainly hope I can say the same thing about The Looney Tunes Show.
UPDATE: I can't.

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