Saturday, April 4, 2015

RR The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo

Scrappy, for the thousandth time, there's no such things as ghosts!

Scooby-Doo - where are you?! Right here:

Name: The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo
Created by Tom Ruegger
Original run 1985
Genre Comedy/Fantasy/Adventure animated series

Following several Scooby-Doo shows - which actually worked more as extensions to the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! such as The New Scooby-Doo Movies which recycled episodes only to offer a few new guest-starring episodes with the likes of Batman or The Scooby-Doo Show that used to rerun older material along new episodes - Hanna-Barbera Productions decided to finally produce some actual new material and experiment with the formula of the show.

While the 7th overall incarnation of the original Scooby-Doo series (and the ifnal run of this 1969 series therefore), The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo was actually the third different iteration of the Scooby-Doo cartoon. Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo was actually the second retooling of the show which added Scooby's infamous nephew, but I'm skipping that one for now (because of reasons, and because nobody likes Scrappy...).

By this point the show was now 16-year old and it was starting to show its age. That's one of the reasons why it ended completely revamped from scratch in 1988 with the later A Pup Named Scooby-Doo.

The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo was a complete reinvention of the show.  No repackaging of earlier episodes. It would sadly only last for one season of 13 episodes which aired on ABC in 1985.

The show revolves around adventures around the world while chasing ghosts, witches and monsters instead of mysteries. It's famously remembered for its more fantasy tone and the memorable addition of Vincent Van Ghoul.

The premise of the show is easily introduced and explained in the opening credits, which is basically  a retelling of the first episode.

It all began when the gang was originally going on holidays to Honolulu on their Mystery Plane. And yes, only Shaggy, Scooby, Scrappy and Daphne were heading to Hawaii, there's no explanation ever given to the absence of Freddy and Velma. My only answer would be that they were just on a holiday trip... then again, why didn't Freddy and Velma come as well? Did they hook up and leave the gang, or were Shaggy and Daphne ditching those two instead?! I have no idea...

Anyway, due to a mix-up, they ended up in the Himalayas (this just goes to show you shouldn't ever let a dog fly a plane). The gang arrives in this strange town. They find out the entire place's cursed. And a pair of goofy ghosts Weerd and Bogel trick Shaggy and Scooby into opening the legendary  "Chest of Demons" which houses 13 of the most terrifying ghosts and demons to have ever walked the face of the Earth!

Now they're the only that can capture the ghost back inside the chest, for you see only those that set them free are able to return them back. Even if they only accidentally set them free.

That's right. The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo saw the addition of real ghosts into the franchises! Along the way they meet this young con-artist, a street kid named Flim-Flam.

They also met this powerful sorcerer, Vincent Van Ghoul! The man would give his mystical help throughout this show, only communicating with them through a crystal ball most times (and getting annoyed whenever someone messes with it). Based upon Vincent Price, and voiced by Price himelf! Why doesn't he help them directly in the first place, that's another question the writers didn't come up with a good enough excuse for.

The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo doesn't take place on a road trip through North America this time. But instead all around the entire world!

Meanwhile the ghosts are either enjoying their new-found liberty... or trying to get rid of these annoying meddling kids because they're the only ones that can put a stop to their plans. Most of the times relying on Weerd and Bogel, who hoped to join the ranks of these evil ghosts but are instead now forced to work for them.

The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo features the return of part of the original cast, with Don Messick back as both Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, Casey Kasem reprising the role of Shaggy and Heather North as Daphne. With Susan Blu playing the voice of Flim Flam, Arte Johnson as the ghost Weerd and Howard Morris as Bogel.

The show only lasted for 13 episodes - which were all collected in this above DVD release "The Complete Series". They're 20-minute long episodes.

This first and only season saw the gang face all kinds of ghouls and monsters, like werewolves, haunted castles, classic horror film creatures (in the parody episode "The Son of the Bride of the Ghost of Frankenstein"), witches, vampires and many more.

What's left of the Mystery Inc. gang spends the series capturing those ghosts and demons in all kinds of various exotic settings thanks to their new vehicles like planes, etc. this time. While the ghosts were trying to get rid of the gang before they found them. Often capturing more than one ghost per episodes (do the minions count?).

The show also featured a few musical numbers, complete with lyrics on screen. Those scenes could be fun whenever they broke the fourth wall, but more times than enough they would be just plain childish and cheesy when played straight.

This marked the first new and properly different take on the Scooby-Doo cartoon format. It was a complete overhaul of the franchise. Most of these ideas and the concept came from story editor and associate producer (and future Tiny Toons creator) Tom Ruegger.

He wanted to play with the formula. And guess what was popular at the times, the likes of Ghostbusters which were using actual real ghosts instead of costumed masked criminals. Compared to previous Scooby-Doo shows, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo had a lot more fourth wall-breaking and a more comedic tone like his later cartoon Animaniacs.

It should have been a big success. It used more supernatural element which had been popularized by Filmation’s Ghostbusters and The Real Ghostbusters, both huge hits at the time.

But a lot of things would be against it though. For one, people were getting tired of Scrappy-Doo back then. Sure, he was perfectly fine at first, but over the last few years his gimmick was getting really annoying, fast. And the fact only Daphne and Shaggy remaining, Velma and Fred's absence was really noticeable. Also, while the original show was timeless fun, they tried a bit too much bringing it up to date. The cosmetic changes in the costumes, such as Daphne's new updated look definitively marked it as a product of the 1980s.

And the new additions weren't that great. Ruegger himself was not a big fan of the character of Flim-Flam, which was forced upon the show by the network (I think he could have worked better had the character been better thought off or written). While Flim-Flam felt forced as a more youthful character for children to look for who just happened to have annoying one liners and repetitive catchphrases, Vincent Van Ghoul was much better and offered a fun different perspective of an adult mentor of sorts. 

The show ditched crime-solving for fantasy adventures. Despite the lack of any real mysteries this time, they were able to still use some disguises, either Van Ghoul or the ghosts masquerading from time to time, but it was simply just not the same.

When it's all said and done, it feels like one of the lesser Scooby-Doo series, but it's not that bad. It's really cheesy and has badly aged, but it honestly remains one of my own personal guilty pleasures. I just love the tone and despite Scrappy-Doo and Flim-Flam, Vincent Van Ghoul more than makes up for those two.

The only really issues I have with the show... is where's the rest of the gang? I mean, couldn't they have thrown a quick line in the pilot or an explanation on the show. Or even a cameo like the much later Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue! did more recently?

The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo would be quickly canceled and replaced with more reruns. Because of the way it was quickly shut down, it would also end up being the last series to feature the infamous Scrappy-Doo so many fans seem to dislike to this very day.

Speaking of, at the time the series had its fair share of controversies. Mostly from family organizations and Christian fundamentalist groups that used to quote this show as an example of bad occult influences on children cartoons.

If anything, it forced Tom Ruegger and Hanna-Barbera to completely rethink the format and go back to basics for the new show. They would scrap the entire show and finally develop the first new proper separate animated series for the first time, which became the more successful A Pup Named Scooby-Doo in 1988.

Overall, the Scooby-Doo gang is back with supernatural this time, and some more fun hijinks. It's perhaps more childish in tone and features easily less thrills than the original slightly darker Where Are You! But it more than tries to make up for it with more jokes and laughs. Some of the better moments from the 13 Ghosts involves whenever the show becomes almost meta breaking the fourth wall.

This marked the first time the Mystery Inc. gang investigated actual ghosts and demons, the only real aspect that makes this show stand-out compared next to the other Scooby-Doo series.

It certainly feels more dated. While it's not much remembered these days, it still has some fans. I personally still remember watrching these episodes back when networks used to air reruns in the early 1990s.

It completely left behind the core Scooby-Doo formula for this ghost hunting around the world. As such it feels more aimed at children, I do have fond memories of it as a kid. I can only truly Recommend It for a younger audience and the show needs to have some kind of nostalgic value to you if you're part of the older crowd.

It's really cheesy and campy at times. The artwork wasn't as dark and creepy as the original Scooby-Doo, and the concept of these ghosts here is often just plain silly. But despite its shortcomings, lack of any real plot and annoying sidekicks the only undeniable redeemable quality his in the form of the great Vincent Van Ghoul character, the cartoon caricature of Vincent Price mixed with a part of Marvel's Dr. Strange. Such a terrific character, only elevated by his fantastic over-the-top performance.

Due to the cancellation, the gang never got to recapture all the ghosts, they only officially got eleven of the 13 ghosts.

The franchise would be properly revived for a new generation with A Pup Named Scooby-Doo two years later.

I give it:
2 / 3 Felixes!

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