BOOTLEG FILES 754: “The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries – Wednesday is Missing” (1972 episode of the animated television series).
LAST SEEN: On DailyMotion.com.
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.
REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A rights clearance issue is preventing its release.
CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Unlikely at this time.
In September 1969, Hanna-Barbera premiered its animated series “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” on CBS. The show placed four teenagers and a talking oversized dog in wacky mysteries that involved a supposedly supernatural element. The series was immediately popular and attracted a large following among the Saturday morning cartoon-absorbing kiddie audience.
After two seasons, Hanna-Barbera decided to spice up the formula by having animated versions of celebrities plus characters from other Hanna-Barbera series as guest stars who helped Scooby and his human pals in their mystery solving work. This was a gimmick that the studio perfected one decade earlier when Tony Curtis and Ann-Margret voiced animated versions of themselves on “The Flintstones.” Hanna-Barbera managed to snag some interesting stars for the rebooted show, now dubbed “The New Scooby-Doo Movies” – Cass Elliott, Sonny and Cher, and Dick Van Dyke were among those who participated. There were a few odd choices, such as Laurel and Hardy (never mind that both men were dead for years) and the Three Stooges (the act disbanded two years earlier after Larry Fine had a stroke and other voice actors filled in for the trio).
Since the Scooby-Doo adventures often involved haunted houses, the producers decided to bring in pop culture figures who resided in a creepy and kooky mansion – the Addams Family. Four of the stars of the beloved 1960 sitcom “The Addams Family” were recruited to give new voice performances to their old characters: John Astin as Gomez, Carolyn Jones as Morticia, Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester and Ted Cassidy as Lurch. Nine-year-old Jodie Foster, who was hired by Hanna-Barbera as a voice actor on “The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan,” was tapped to voice the few lines given to Pugsley, the Addams’ young son.
Strangely, the Hanna-Barbera animators did not choose to create animated caricatures of the sitcom actors, but rather duplicated the original character designs drawn by Charles Addams for his series of single-panel cartoons in The New Yorker. Young viewers back in 1972 were unfamiliar with this depiction of the characters, and having the sitcom actors’ voices coming from drawings that didn’t resemble them was strange. What the audience of the time did not know was that the presence of the Addams Family in “The New Scooby-Doo Movies” was to introduce a new incarnation of the characters, who were going to be featured in an upcoming Hanna-Barbera series. (That endeavor debuted in 1973 and only lasted half of a season.)
“The New Scooby-Doo Movies” episode was titled “Wednesday is Missing” and it finds Scooby and his friends driving through a foggy swamp. Everyone is terrified and Fred winds up driving their van into a ditch. Lurch, the Addams’ Family butler, brings this gang to the mansion where Gomez and Morticia mistake them for housekeepers who will watch the domicile and its children while they are vacationing in the Okefenokee Swamp.
During the course of their stay in the Addams’ house, Wednesday abruptly disappears during a meal and a giant vulture begins to menace the house. A search through the mansion finds a dungeon, weird laboratory experiments, hidden rooms and flying carpet. Since this is Scooby-Doo and not Agatha Christie, it is not difficult to guess who is responsible for the mayhem – and it is not a spoiler to declare that Wednesday’s recovery comes far ahead of the closing credits.
I will declare that I enjoyed “The New Scooby-Doo Movies” as an eight-year-old when they were first-run in 1972. I have not seen these episodes since then and only just made a reacquaintance with them in researching this column. To my astonishment, I couldn’t believe how terribly animated this series was – while that aspect of quality control apparently was not a priority for the childhood version of me, the adult version was wincing in viewing some of the crappiest looking animation in television history. A mild laugh track to fill the void between the supposedly funny lines did not help make the experience less painful.
But the charm in these cartoons comes on strong with great voice actors who help sell the so-so material, especially Casey Kasem as the cowardly slacker Shaggy and Don Messick as the easily frightened Scooby. To Hanna-Barbera’s credit, they rarely had the most artistic animators, but they always packed their cartoons with great voice performers.
Only 24 episodes of “The New Scooby-Doo Movies” were made, and they were originally broadcast from September 1972 to October 1973 before being rerun in syndication. With the rise of the digital home entertainment era, Warner Home Video (which acquired the rights to the Hanna-Barbera television output) originally sought to package the series into a DVD anthology, but ran into trouble clearing the licensing rights to characters that appeared in nine episodes. (The episode was issued as a standalone offering on an Australian VHS label.) A 15-episode anthology was released on DVD in 2005, and in June 2019 the series was reissued on DVD with 23 of the 24 episodes – “Wednesday is Missing” remained missing because the label was unable to secure the licensing rights to the Addams Family characters from the Charles Addams estate. Oddly, the label had no problem issuing a DVD of the brief “Addams Family” animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera that also involved the same characters.
Scooby-Doo completists and those who are nostalgic for their 1970s childhoods can see this elusive title can find it on DailyMotion.com. You won’t be bowled over, but there are worst ways to be amused.
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