Dear Straight Dope:
In the Scooby-Doo TV show, what is the relationship between Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo? The topic was raised on an episode of a TV show called Student Bodies and I would like your input.
SDStaff ScottInLA replies:
Nothing says “bad TV writing” quite like dipping into the Scooby-Doo well for the supposed amusing pop culture/cartoon reference. Judging from your question, though, the scribes behind Student Bodies took the slightly higher road and avoided the “Velma’s a lesbian/Shaggy’s a stoner/Fred and Daphne are getting it on” jokes, which seem to litter any “adult” discussion of this show, and are the basis for at least two Websites dealing in sophomoric Scooby humor.
Regardless, your question is easily answered by simply watching an episode of Scooby featuring Scrappy: You’ll hear Scrappy refer to the cowardly Great Dane as Uncle Scooby. From this we can deduce that Scrappy is Scooby’s nephew. Sure, there are problems: Why is Scrappy speaking the King’s English while Scooby is stuck with an impediment that forces him to pronounce everything as though it started with the letter ‘R’? Ah, sweet mystery of cartoons.
Watch enough Scooby-Doo (i.e., tune into Cartoon Network for half a day — they rerun the show’s countless incarnations endlessly), and you may just be lucky enough to see Scrappy’s first appearance (late 70s). He’s the same annoying dog all Scooby purists have come to know and hate, but he originally just barked. He returned the next season as a permanent fixture, now with a speaking voice. Hanna-Barbera explained this cast addition in the show’s opening sequence: On a dark, moonlit night, an old train rattles by a lonely whistestop and off bounces a wooden crate with two ominous eye-holes, frightening poor Scooby. Out pops the hyper little runt with the annoying voice, and immediately we all sympathized with with his parents for pushing him off on an uncle. Lennie Weinrib — a Hanna-Barbera fixture in the 70s, but more well-known to fans of kids TV as the voice of the Kroffts’ H.R. Pufnstuf — was Scrappy’s original speaking voice; he was eventually replaced by Don Messick.
Other stuff about Scooby you probably didn’t know:
- Scooby originally appeared as a minor character in a late 60s cartoon — supposedly as a contestant in a gameshow. This is according to Hanna-Barbera publicity materials I read some years ago, although to this day I have never seen this cartoon and have no idea what series it is in — and this is coming from a big H&B fan. So this aspect of the dog’s origin remains a mystery.
- Supposedly, he was christened Scooby-Doo by Fred Silverman, then the head of children’s programming for CBS, after hearing Sinatra’s scat ending to “Strangers in the Night” on a flight from LA to New York (“Scooby doobie doo … “).
- According to early model sheets, that big blonde lug with the penchant for ascots was originally named Harvey. Why Hanna-Barbera changed it to Fred — especially considering the studio already had its biggest success with a certain stone-age character named Fred — is anyone’s guess. A nod to Scooby-namer Fred Silverman? Who knows?
- Originally, the show was to focus on the crime-fighting exploits of the four teenagers of Mystery, Inc. (They’re always referred to that way in publicity materials, although again I have yet to see an actual episode where they call themselves “Mystery Inc.”) When it was clear (before the show debuted) that Scooby would probably end up being the star, the cartoon was retooled and the title was changed from Who’s Scared? to Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
- Scrappy wasn’t Scooby’s only relative. Appearing infrequently during the 1976-1977 was Scooby’s arguably in-bred country cousin, Scooby-Dum, who was even less coherent than Scoob. Veteran H&B voice artist Daws Butler modeled Dum’s voice after that of Edgar Bergen’s Mortimer Snerd. Even fewer episodes featured the lovely Southern-accented Scooby-Dee (no relation to the Doos) — a shapely bitch (sorry, couldn’t resist) who apparently was something of a canine movie star. Scoobies Doo and Dum both were gaga over her. And an episode or two featured Scooby’s grandparents.
- Though Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera are credited with being the main creative force behind this and, of course, all other Hanna-Barbera shows, it was really Joe Ruby and Ken Spears who created the show. They later went on to found their own studio, the output of which was, for better or worse, pretty indistinguishable from that of Hanna-Barbera. The fact that Cartoon Network apparently owns their library as well as Hanna-Barbera’s suggests that perhaps Ruby-Spears Enterprises was never entirely independent of Hanna-Barbera Productions. Hm, another mystery. The characters themselves were designed by veteran Hanna-Barbera layout artist and designer Iwao Takamoto, who has probably been with the studio the longest, aside from its founders. Amazingly, Takamoto, who started with the studio during the Flintstones’ original run in the mid-60s, still works for Hanna-Barbera (as of late fall 2000). And, believe it or not, both Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera still maintain offices at the company, and though they are essentially figureheads these days who spend most of their time signing limited edition cels, they both manage to come in on an almost daily basis. This is even more astounding when you consider their ages (upper 80s) and the persistent rumor that Hanna is suffering from Alzheimer’s.
- If you notice more than a passing resemblance between Fred, Shaggy, Daphne, and Velma to the teens on the late 50s-early 60s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, it’s no mistake — the cartoon characters were admittedly based on them. And Scooby’s sitcom ancestry doesn’t end there: Casey Kasem, the original voice of Shaggy, says he modeled the lanky teen’s voice after that of Richard Crenna’s character on Our Miss Brooks.
- For a long time, Scooby-Doo held the distinction of possibly being Saturday morning’s longest-running cartoon, depending on whom you asked. Technically, The Bugs Bunny Show (hitting Saturday mornings in 1962) had a seven year head start, but aside from short bridging animation, Bugs Bunny was all old cartoons, while Scooby was first-run animation. This argument gets even more confusing when you consider that some seasons no new Scooby episodes were produced — they were just repackaged under different titles. Regardless, Scooby was generally on the air every Saturday from 1969 to 1990, which is a pretty long run no matter what. Bugs-boosters will note, though, that the rabbit still resides on ABCs Saturday morning line-up while the dog days of Scooby are long gone.
- Despite Shaggy’s love of food, he stopped eating meat sometime in the early 1980s. Casey Kasem had become a vegetarian, and when he eventually requested that his animated character do the same, Hanna-Barbera graciously agreed. You’ll see Shaggy downing pizza, salads, cookies, cakes, and God knows what else in the later episodes, but not meat. When the cartoon gang was reassembled the a few years ago for two straight-to-video features, it’s someone else providing the scratchy, cracking tones for Shaggy, though. Rumor has it that Warner Brothers, who produced the movies, apparently weren’t as accomodating as their predecessors — the script called for Shaggy to eat shrimp gumbo, Kasem balked, and was let go. He apparently won’t be back.
- After 31 years, only one original cast member is still voicing the same character. Frank Welker has played Fred Jones from the start and does to this day. (Okay, technically, he had a two-year break when H&B did a pre-teen Scooby version in the late 80s. But still.) Frank is among the hardest working voice actors in the business — his name pops up everywhere. Next time you see a movie where you hear an off-screen cat screech, watch the credits and chances are it’s Frank. Among his latest work are the barks and growls of Max in the live-action Grinch film. A few different women have played Daphne, and even more have played Velma. And when Don Messick, voice of Scooby, died on Halloween in 1997 (no mystery there — it was, sadly, Alzheimer’s), his role went to Scott Innes.
And there ya go. All that, and not once did I have to resort to some tired crack about there being hash in Scooby Snacks.
SDStaff ScottInLA, Straight Dope Science Advisory Board
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