Scooby Doo, from a 1974 model sheet.


Original Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Hanna-Barbera
First Appeared: 1969
Creators: Fred Silverman, Ken Spears, Joe Ruby
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Fred Silverman, CBS honcho, was the impetus behind the creation of this long-running and very popular animated series. Feeling the superheroes had …

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… run their course, he was ready to move toward humorous adventure. He approached Hanna-Barbera about a half-formed idea he had, sort of a cross between the old I Love a Mystery radio series, which involved a lot of travel and mystery-solving, and the 1950s TV sitcom Dobie Gillis.

Ken Spears and Joe Ruby, then working as writers for Hanna-Barbera, fleshed out Silverman's idea, focusing on four young people (one of whom, Shaggy, was strongly reminiscent of the Gillis show's Maynard G. Krebs) and a large dog, traveling around the country in a van, solving mysteries wherever they went. Silverman added the finishing touches, making the dog the star and naming him after a nonsense phrase in Frank Sinatra's version of "Strangers in the Night" — Scooby-Doo. The half-hour show premiered on Sept. 13, 1969.

It was an instant hit. The formula — seemingly supernatural goings-on turn out to have mundane (but nefarious) explanation — may have seemed a little static. But nobody could doubt the appeal of the characters — especially that of the "cautious" Scooby himself, voiced by Don Messick, whose credits include Boo-Boo from Yogi Bear, Bamm-Bamm Rubble from The Flintstones, Hamton Pig from Tiny Toon Adventures, and many other familiar characters. (Nor was Scooby Messick's first pet dog character — he was also the voice of Bandit in Jonny Quest, Astro in The Jetsons and Pupstar in Space Kidettes.)

It was the formula, however, that Hanna-Barbera copied into many of their other 1970s half-hour cartoons, even those adapted from other media, such as Josie & the Pussycats to The Addams Family — no matter how bad a fit the formula made with other sets of characters.

Scooby made his comic book debut in 1970, from Gold Key Comics, and, through two changes of publisher (first to Charlton, then to Marvel), appeared steadily in that medium for almost ten years. Creators who worked on his comics include writer Mark Evanier (Blackhawk, DNAgents), artist Dan Spiegle (Crossfire, Space Family Robinson), and some of comics' other top names.

Scooby-Doo has proved one of Hanna-Barbera's most enduring and popular characters. In 1972, the show was expanded to an hour, and its budget was increased to accommodate guest stars from other TV shows. These included Batman and Robin, Jeanie (from the Barbara Eden sitcom about a bottle-dwelling genie — one of the few actual supernatural creatures Scooby and his pals ever met, by the way), Speed Buggy, and many others.

In 1976, Scooby was paired with a superhero pooch in The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour, and in '77 he played the lead in Saturday morning's first two-hour show — Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics. In this one, he joined such Hanna-Barbera stalwarts as Snagglepuss, Quick Draw McGraw, Huckleberry Hound and many others, in spoofing the Olympic Games. A more courageous nephew, Scrappy Doo (no relation), was added to the cast in 1979.

Since then, Scooby has appeared as a puppy, starred in feature-length films, helped launch such characters as Richie Rich as Saturday morning series, guest-starred on Johnny Bravo and in the Flintstones 25th anniversary special, and generally stayed very prominently in the public eye.

Which is more than can be said for Fred Silverman these days.


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Text ©2000-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hanna-Barbera.