Once you become an adult (and especially if you have children), you begin to realize that a child's world is very small and that children are easily impressed. As a child, I thought that Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was the greatest show ever. And now, looking back on that innocent time, I can say...I was right. You can't go wrong with a show that mixes a talking dog with monsters! Warner Home Video has now released The Complete 1st and 2nd Seasons of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! to DVD so that we may re-live those fond childhood memories.
Just in case you've been "away" for the past 35 years, here's a quick re-cap of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and "Scooby-Doo" in general. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! premiered as a Saturday morning cartoon in late 1969. The show introduced the "Mystery Inc." gang (Although, I must say that I never remember hearing the words "Mystery Inc." uttered until the late '90s.) -- Freddy (voiced by Frank Welker), the ascot-wearing leader of the group; Daphne (voiced by Stefanianna Christopherson), the beautiful, but vapid girl; Velma (voiced by Nicole Jaffe), the brains of the group; Shaggy (voiced by Casey Kasem), a hippie who's always hungry; and Scooby-Doo (voiced by Don Messick), the talking dog who is usually a coward, but can be a hero if the situation calls for it. This group travels the country in a flower-covered van labeled "Mystery Machine" and are constantly stumbling across mysteries which involve ghosts or monsters of some sort. Using ingenuity and luck, they solve the mysteries and save the day. Following Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, these characters appeared in a series of TV shows, and then made a comeback in the late 90s in a series of direct-to-video animated movies. This revival was capped-off by the atrocious live-action movie which debuted in 2002. This Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! boxed-set arrives just in time for the second live-action film.
This 4-disc set contains all 25 episodes from the show's first two seasons. As the plot of each show is essentially the same (more on that in a moment), I'll simply identify each episode by the monster which appears on that show. The episodes included are:
"What a Night for a Knight" -- Black Knight
"Hassle in the Castle" -- A Ghost
"A Clue for Scooby-Doo" -- Captain Cutler (Glowing Diver)
"Mine Your Own Business" -- Miner '49er
"Decoy for a Dognapper" -- Witch Doctor
"What the Hex Going On?" -- Blue-faced Ghost
"Never Ape an Ape Man" -- Ape Man
"Foul Play in Funland" -- Runaway Robot
"The Backstage Rage" -- Phantom
"Bedlam in the Big Top" -- Ghost Clown
"A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts" -- Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein's Monster
"Scooby-Doo and a Mummy Too" -- Mummy
"Which Witch is Which" -- Witch, Zombie
"Spooky Space Kook" -- Glowing Alien
"Go Away Ghost Ship" -- Redbeard the Pirate
"A Night of Fright is No Delight" -- Green Ghosts
"That's Snow Ghost" -- Snow Ghost
"Nowhere to Hyde" -- Mr. Hyde
"Mystery Mask Mix-Up" -- Chinese Ghosts
"Jeepers It's the Creeper" -- The Creeper
"Scooby's Night with a Frozen Fright" -- Caveman
"Haunted House Hang-Up" -- Headless Ghost
"A Tiki Scare is No Fair" -- Mono Tiki Tia
"Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Werewolf" -- Werewolf
"Don't Fool with a Phantom" -- Wax Phantom
As you can see, Scooby and the gang tangled with a myriad of baddies over the years. Yet, variety was never a strong-point with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, as every episode was essentially the same. The group would be going somewhere and would stumble onto a mystery. From there, they would gather clues and then unmask the villain in a finale which typically made no sense. The villain's motivation was usually greed and everyone, even the authorities, allows took the odd proceedings in-stride. The animation was repetitive and often crude.
However, none of those elements can detract from the show's innate charm and magic. As someone who was destined to become a huge horror movie fan, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! planted the seeds of that love affair, as it presented me with a parade of monsters, some of which were quite scary at the time. Even today, it's easy to see how the infamous Green Ghosts, the glowing alien from "Spooky Space Kook", or the Ghost Clown could scare children. (Hell, that clown is still pretty scary.) Add to that the fact that Scooby-Doo could talk! Even today, I wish that I had a pet who could talk! That was coupled with a group of characters who were called upon to use logic and intellect to solve a problem, as opposed to the violence which was often displayed on other shows. (And, I'm sure that my young mind somehow comprehended the fact that these people never worked and found that aspect attractive as well.) Yes, the show comes off as dated today, especially when one looks at the fashions or music, but the magic that is Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! will always be dear to me, and these episodes show why Scooby is still popular 35 years later.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete 1st and 2nd Seasons comes to DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. This 4-disc set contains all 25 episodes of the show's first two seasons. Although, there is no indication of where Season 2 begins. (For the record, it starts in the middle of Disc 3.) The shows are all presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio. The transfers presented in this set are slightly disappointing, as the episodes clearly show their age. The images are clear, but there are visible defects from the source material in every shots. Hair and dirt from the original animation cels can be seen in every scene. It's understandable that Warner couldn't go back and re-shoot every episode, but it stands to reason that some efforts could have been taken to remove some of these elements. For the most part, the colors are very good, although some scenes do look slightly washed out. Aside from revealing source material defects, the digital transfer shows where some animation lines weren't completely erased and some shots look slightly blurry. The episodes here look good, but they could have looked much better.
The episodes in this set each carry a Dolby Digital Mono audio track. These tracks provide clear dialogue and musical reproduction and display only trace amounts of hissing. There is no distortion to the audio on these tracks. The audio is quite serviceable, but otherwise unremarkable.
The special features in the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete 1st and 2nd Seasons set are quite disappointing and many of them were culled from other "Scooby-Doo" DVD releases. Disc 2 offers "Scooby-Doo's Ultimate Fans" (12 minutes), which provides us with tours of three fans who have devoted their lives to collecting "Scooby-Doo" memorabilia and have crammed their houses with it. It's like "MTV Cribs", but with a lot less Scarface. There is also a 2-minute segment called "Get the Picture: How to Draw Scooby-Doo and the Gang". This should have been called "Watch Someone Else Draw Scooby-Doo and the Gang Very Quickly, So As to Teach You Nothing." Disc 3 has "Funky Fashion", a 5-minute featurette which explores the individual style of each character. Next up is a music video entitled "America Loves Scooby-Doo", although the on-screen title for the song is "America's In Love with Scooby-Doo". Either way, the song is awful and the video is made up of clips from the newer "Scooby-Doo" movies. Disc 4 includes "Scooby-Doo Street Smarts" (3 minutes) in which passers-by are asked about Scooby. Finally, we have "Take the Scooby-Doo Challenge" Trivia Game. There are no extras which address the origins of the show or its history. Actually, you've learned more from reading this review than you would from the extras on the DVD. Maybe the next set will have more.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! remains an integral part of TV history and its Saturday-morning roots shaped the childhoods of many Gen X'ers. The show may be dated now, but it's lost none of its charm. This DVD set may have some technical issues and contain lackluster extras, but the memories are as sweet as ever.