Ageless Scooby still the top dog

CAROLINE CULOT Those pesky kids’ and the Great Dane with a love of snacks are back – this time on stage at the Norwich Theatre Royal. So just what is it about Scooby-Doo that we all love after more than 35 years?

CAROLINE CULOT

For thirty and fortysomethings, Scooby-Doo was part of growing up. You would come home from school on a Thursday to sit in front of the telly with a pile of toast to watch the antics of that loveable canine with his own penchant for piles of sandwiches.

And even though it was all about ghosts and ghouls and set in eerie mansions, somehow it wasn't scary because there was always silly old Scooby and his hapless pal Shaggy desperately trying to have fun and eat but being forced to face their very worst fears.

And now, if you're a parent, you probably relive those halcyon Scooby days watching the reruns of the cartoons with the next generation of Shaggy fans.


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So what could be better for loyal Scooby fans than the fact that the cartoons are still going strong and being shown on TV, and there has been a live action movie and a sequel? Well, you might not believe it, Scooby-Doo is now coming live to the theatre.

Following a tour in the States, the first UK tour of the Warner Bros production complete with a real Scooby, Shaggy and a monster called Spectre has begun with a week in Norwich starting on Monday February 21.

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The show, Scooby-Doo in Stagefright, takes the form of a 'long-lost episode' in which the loveable canine and friends solve the mystery of a supernatural ghost wreaking havoc at the old Clawhammer movie studio. The gang faces one hilarious situation after another as they hunt for clues on the set of a scary movie directed by Daphne's uncle.

The show boasts lots of special-effects and a real-life Mystery Machine and has appeal for both adults as well as children.

It's hard to believe but the cartoon actually first appeared in 1969 (so it's as old as I am) and last year was awarded a Guinness World Record for notching up the most episodes of any cartoon comedy series.

The show was created by US animation company Hanna-Barbera Productions following the antics of Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Fred and Daphne and, of course, the ghostly ghouls who always turn out to be the janitor or some elderly lady disguised as a janitor or someone else disguised as an elderly lady disguised as the janitor disguised as a ghoul. I mean, who can ever forget those end scenes with the ripping-off of the faces? They go down in animation history.

The other great thing about the cartoon is that the characters never really changed – Scooby, real name Scoobert, remained seven years old throughout and the cast never got any new outfits. Velma was forever stuck in that orange polo neck and A-line skirt with her thick black-rimmed glasses, Shaggy in his olive v-neck sweater, Fred in his white jumper with the necktie and Daphne with the hairband.

Perhaps the only time the characters diversified was when the brave move was made to bring Scooby-Doo truly to life in 2002 and make a live action movie which featured a computer-generated version of the crime-fighting canine.

Last year, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, the sequel, was released.

The idea for Scooby-Doo began when CBS's head of children's programming, Fred Silverman, wanted to bring a new look to Saturday morning TV.

He was prompted to think of something new following criticisms of the allegedly violent content of programmes such as Superman. William Hanna and Joe Barbera had years of cartoon success behind them, but wanted to try something different – a series that would incorporate contemporary human characters.

But the show – under the working titles Mysteries Five and Who's Scared? – was rejected at first, when TV executives thought that the haunted houses, monsters and eerie locations were too scary for children.

So Scooby was born as an attempt by Silverman to soften the tone of the show and introduce a fun character children could identify with.

The show launched in the US on September 13, 1969 with a cast of cartoon teenagers – the sensible, all-American leader Fred, bespectacled and brainy Velma, pretty Daphne and the bumbling, hippy Shaggy.

The gang travelled throughout the country in their van, the Mystery Machine, on the trail of supernatural adventures and almost every episode followed a certain formula.

The team would arrive in a scary location to challenge a ghoul ruining things for everyone else.

After chases, accidents and scares – but no actual violence -– the team would unravel the mystery, usually helped by Scooby-Doo chancing on a lucky clue.

And it would always turn out that the 'ghost' was actually a real person trying to scare others for his or her own gain.

As the villain was led away, they usually stated that they would have succeeded “if it weren't for those pesky kids”.

After 10 years, a new character was introduced –Scooby's cheeky nephew Scrappy – in Scooby and Scrappy-Doo. Then, in 1982, there was the introduction of a Wild West cousin, Yabba-Doo in Scooby, Scrappy and Yabba-Doo.

Other experiments included The 13 Ghosts of Scooby, which added characters and a more action-adventure format, and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, which reinvented the original gang as hip-hop 12-year-olds solving mysteries around Coolsville.

In 2002, a new series featuring the classic cast – What's New Scooby-Doo? – began, bringing the gang into the modern age with mobile phones and new technology.

And now the phenomenon is back – live on stage. t

t Scooby-Doo in Stagefright is on at the Theatre Royal in Norwicy from Monday to Saturday, February 21-26. For tickets call the box office on 01603 630000. Further details at www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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