In 1969, Hanna-Barbera launched one of the most seminal cartoon series ever produced. This show was, of course, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and not only did it give the world one of the most beloved animated characters of all time, it also gave kids cool mysteries in spooky settings, making everyone’s Saturday morning just that much better. That show only lasted two seasons before being rebooted in 1972 with The New Scooby-Doo Movies — a rather strange title when you consider there were no “old” Scooby-Doo movies nor can anyone honestly consider an hour-long cartoon (40 minutes minus commercial breaks) to be a movie — and in this series, the focus would shift to goofy guest stars. Each week, Scooby-Doo and the gang would run into the likes of Phyllis Diller and Jerry Reed or characters from other Hanna-Barbera cartoons such as Speed Buggy and Josie and the Pussycats, which is the element that makes this particular incarnation of Scooby-Doo look very dated as I doubt many kids today would have a clue as to who comedienne Phyllis Diller or singer/songwriter Jerry Reed was. Hell, even back in the 70s, most kids would have been asking their parents, “Who in the blue blazes is Cass Elliot?”
The formula for each episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies was very similar to the original show, with Scooby-Doo and the gang driving around in the Mystery Machine before encountering a mystery in need of solving, the big change here would be the “Guest Star” of the week being the focal point of the mystery. No longer would they be helping out Joe Average to uncover crooks that were using fake ghosts to execute their lame criminal plots, now they would be assisting the likes of Don Knotts and Davey Jones to uncover crooks that were using fake ghosts to execute their lame criminal plots. So, not exactly reinventing the wheel here, but this was the 1970s and if we kids had Scooby-Doo and Shaggy running from a gaggle of ghouls we were pretty much happy. Now, looking at it with adult eyes and nostalgia blinders removed, the show is problematic at best. The New Scooby-Doo Movies also gave kids hour-long Scooby adventures, and when you consider how padded these episodes feel, it’s not surprising that this format was ditched.
The quality of the guest appearances ranged greatly; we got three rather fun episodes with the Harlem Globetrotters, a nice Sherlockian Holmes episode with Don Knotts, and the gang’s team-up with Josie and the Pussycats and Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie were really quite enjoyable. Sadly, the two seasons were overbalanced with less than stellar entries, which included the likes of comedy legends Laurel and Hardy and the aforementioned Three Stooges, whose comedic styling the show’s writers failed to capture but to make matters worse, the hour format made the repetitive nature of the show even more egregious. If you don’t enjoy the particular antics of whichever guest star appears that week, then an hour of it will be even more painful. Easily the two best episodes of The New Scooby-Doo Movies were the ones that included Batman and Robin, with Scooby-Doo and the gang teaming up with the Dynamic Duo to spoil whatever dastardly plot the Joker and the Penguin had going on. Though one has to admit, that Batman being okay with a group of teenagers aiding in the apprehension of two of Gotham’s most dangerous criminals seems a bit odd.
Another classic episode was “Wednesday is Missing,” where Scooby-Doo and the gang end up becoming “housekeepers” for The Addams Family, and what I found particularly interesting here is that Fred recognizes Gomez Addams and his family from their television show. Was this implying that the ABC Addams Family series was a reality television show and that viewers tuned in each week to watch the goofy antics of the real-life Addams Family? I’m not sure if that is meta or just stupid. Regardless of that, this is an excellent episode and despite the “villain” turning out to be a couple of neighbours who kidnapped Wednesday to force the Addams Family to move, our heroes have a rare encounter with actual supernatural events. The villains may have been wearing masks but the Addams Family mansion was just chock full of ghostly organs, weird monsters, and animated skeletons.
Note: The animators took their character designs from the style of the original Charles Addams “Addams Family” cartoon strip rather than doing caricatures of the actors who played them in The Addams Family (1964).
Aside from the occasionally dated guest star and the hour-long format that made episodes drag at times, the biggest criticism that I can level at this show would be towards the sloppy animation on display. At times poor Daphne Blake looked like a dude, characters would randomly have elongated sausage-like fingers and other varying anatomical proportions, and worst of all, the backgrounds no longer had that gothic horror vibe that animation legend Iwao Takamoto had developed for the original series. This is far from the worst incarnation of Scooby-Doo, but it does lack some of the fun and flair of the other versions, and the idea of Mystery Incorporated teaming up with celebrities still continues to this day, with such adventures as Scooby-Doo! and the Gourmet Ghost — where the gang help out celebrity chef Bobby Flay — and Scooby-Doo & Batman: The Brave and the Bold that once again has our heroes teamed up with the Caped Crusader.
The New Scooby-Doo Movies may come off as rather dated, and the hour-long format clearly was a poor decision, but fans of Scooby-Doo will still find a lot of fun and charm with this outing, just maybe avoid binge-watching and instead catch it in smaller doses.
You can find all my reviews of the various Scooby-Doo shows and movies collected here: The Wonderful World of Scooby-Doo.
The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972-1973)
Show Rank - 5.5/10
With The New Scooby-Doo Movies the guys over at Hanna-Barbera were clearly trying to mix things up, what with the episode length extension and the weekly guest stars, but they more often than not gave viewers a misguided mess that tended toward the boring and not helped by some rather piss-poor animation.