No matter how classic or profitable a series or franchise is, studios are always in the market of appealing to a younger audience with a new version of the property. With the success of shows like Muppet Babies and The Flintstone Kids, Hanna-Barbera decided to revisit the formula in 1988 for Scooby-Doo. It was their attempt to win over a new generation of fans while dusting the cobwebs off of the franchise that’d begun to show its age thanks to misguided spin offs and introductions of grating additions like Scrappy Doo and Flim Flam.
As many already know, the animated mystery series created by Hanna-Barbera in the 1969, centered on a group of teenagers and their brown Great Dane as they travel the world in their van solving crimes and visiting a variety of haunted places like carnivals, factories, and mansions. Every case almost always ends in the group uncovering their monstrous or ghostly foe is just a criminal looking to steal gold, land, or money of some kind. With short-lived attempts to revive Scooby-Doo all throughout the late seventies and early eighties, Hanna-Barbera had the bright idea to completely re-imagine the franchise for the eighth time.
For this iteration, we meet the Mystery Machine gang as adolescents, as they solve crimes from their high tech tree house. Much like Tiny Toons, “A Pup Named Scooby Doo!” had no effect on canon or the mythology of the franchise in the long run, but in many ways it’s better than the original. Not only is the animation better, but the stories are more entertaining, and theme song (by composer John Debney) is infinitely catchier. Sometimes they receive requests to solve cases, but more often than not a situation they’re in becomes a bonafide mystery. In one episode, Scooby Doo is at risk of being replaced by a robotic canine while his family’s priceless collar is stolen by a killer chef. In another episode Scooby is chased by a psychotic artist intent on capturing him.
The only exaggeration is Scooby’s love for Scooby Snacks; every episode features a scene where someone bribes Scooby with Scooby snacks inspiring a massive reaction of pleasure and euphoria. Working as a tribute and satire, the series’ writers often poke fun at the absurdities of the original series quite often. Most comical is the alteration of Freddy (with a great performance by the late Carl Steven), transformed into a massive conspiracy theorist who forms wild, often goofy allegations, during every case. Clearly he’s not a boy that subscribes to Occum’s Razor.
As for the other characters, Daphne is written as a fashionista Valley Girl, Velma is a meek and quiet genius who often solves the cases quietly while everyone is running around getting in slapstick misadventures and Shaggy and Scooby are… still just Shaggy and Scooby. Interesting additions to the cast include Shaggy’s parents and baby sister, Daphne’s rich mom and dad and her loyal butler Jenkins, Scooby’s rich parents, and the gang’s nemesis Red Herring (as voiced by Scott Menville). Herring is often the suspect of the many cases the gang tackles, mostly by Freddy as he blames Herring for everything, only for him to break the fourth wall and declare his innocence.
He’s also the butt of many of the gags spouting his catchphrase “That’s not very funny!” Unfortunately the series could never really figure out what it was until mid-way through its four season run. For instance, the writers would often hint that the Shaggy we saw in this show was the son of the Shaggy from the original series, and sometimes the writers indicated it was the genuine Shaggy but as a little boy. Either way, despite its confused intent “A Pup Named Scooby Doo!” was often a silly, but fun, memento of the late eighties’ obsession with adding a younger twist on cartoon series and is still considered a classic animated series by many Scooby fans and nineties kids.
And I dare you not to sing along to the theme song. It’s a shame Hanna Barbera pretends like the series never existed quite often, and has instead pushed forward with the normal Scooby Doo series. It’s a shame, as the animated series is a rare spin off of the franchise that is a lot of fun and doesn’t destroy all the ground work laid before.