Has there ever been a longer-running TV cartoon series than the "Scooby-Doo" animations? Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera, and DC Comics have even made several full-length features with the gang, plus a pair of partly live-action, partly animated theatrical releases. Starting in the late Sixties and continuing almost without interuption until this day, the series has gained a worldwide reputation and a legion of loyal followers. Is it any wonder that WB repackage the material as often as possible?
This double-feature DVD presents "Scooby-Doo Meets Batman" on one side of the disc and "Scooby-Doo Meets the Harlem Globetrotters" on the other. Turns out, the studio already issued both movies on separate discs some years ago (2002 and 2003), so what they're doing now is offering the two movies for the price of one. Furthermore, each of the movies is made up of two episodes of the old "Scooby-Doo" show that ran in 1972 and '73. So, we have four television episodes repackaged as two movies released for the second time around, this time on one disc. Maybe I should use diagrams.
Scooby-Doo Meets Batman:
The first movie is eighty-two minutes long and consists of two episodes from the 1972 TV series, "The Caped Crusaders Caper" and "A Dynamic Scooby-Doo Affair." As these are among the earliest of the "Scooby-Doo" cartoons, they probably have among the biggest following of any "Scooby-Doo" episodes. Connoisseurs of such things say the earliest "Scooby-Doo's" were the best, so who am I to argue.
All of the episodes included on the disc feature the original voice talents of Don Messick as Scooby, veteran DJ Casey Kasem as Shaggy, Frank Welker as Fred, Heather North as Daphne, and Nicole Jaffe as Velma. Remarkably, these same actors would continue in the roles for the next thirty or forty years.
In "Scooby-Doo Meets Batman" Scooby and his detective-agency pals meet Batman and Robin when the two teams simultaneously spot a suspicious airplane unload what looks like contraband cargo, which turns out to be a trunk load of counterfeit money. While investigating the situation, the culprits manage to steal the Batmobile, and that leads our heroes on a merry chase. Then, wouldn't you know it, who do the villains turn out to be than the Joker (Larry Storch) and the Penguin.
The movie actually spends most of its time with Batman and Robin, with Scooby and his crew doing some light cleanup work. But that's only the half of it. As it happens, the Joker and Penguin are not the real bad-guy brains behind the operation at all. But who is? Or, who cares?
In the second part of the movie (really a separate episode), Scooby and the gang are camping out in the woods when they meet up with the Joker and Penguin yet again, and the fun begins anew as Batman and Robin, a dryad (a tree spirit), and an inventor enter the scene.
Produced and directed by the celebrated team of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera ("Tom & Jerry," "The Jetsons," "Huckleberry Hound," "Johnny Quest," "The Flintstones," etc.), the "Scooby-Doo" series may have been more of an acquired taste than I suspected. The animation looks primitive by today's standards, the characters moving in brief, jerky motions, with mainly their mouths moving for dialogue. Although there is some nice work in the background art, the characters and animated objects in the foreground don't integrate well with what's behind them, looking too obviously superimposed and artificial. Worse, the laugh track, that necessity of any television comedy, proves an annoyance.
No doubt when the shows first appeared, it was a simpler, more-innocent age. These days, perhaps because I was never a "Scooby-Doo" fan, I found the cartoons slow and tedious. However, I did appreciate hearing the voice talents not only of the folks mentioned above but others like Daws Butler, Ann Jillian, Pat Harrington, and Ted Knight.
Scooby-Doo Meets the Harlem Globetrotters:
On side two, the second movie is eighty-seven minutes long and consists of "The Mystery of Haunted Island," which originally aired in 1973, and "The Loch Ness Mess," which aired in 1972. In the first segment, the team is in the van on their way to Picnic Island when they discover that Scooby has eaten all the picnic food. So, they stop at an old deserted shack, where they find the Harlem Globetrotters practicing in the cellar. OK, that's a leap.
The gang invites the basketball players to joint them in their picnic, primarily because the players have their own food, and they are willing to share with the heroes. Little do they know, however, that evil no-goodniks are up to evil no good, sidetracking all of them to a scary island and a haunted house. This episode shows a little more creativity than the previous movie, as does the second of side two's segments, which also features the Globetrotters.
In part two Scooby and his friends are traveling through New England when they come upon the basketball players eating lunch. They invite the players to accompany them to Shaggy's uncle's mansion, where the whole crew immediately encounters a bevy of ghosts and the Loch Ness monster.
Well, you can't say you don't get your money's worth with this disc: two full-length movies in four "Scooby-Doo" episodes, 169 minutes of entertainment in all, and an assortment of extras. While it wouldn't be enough to entice me to buy the disc, it does make an attractive proposition for the fan.
Given that these cartoons are over thirty-five old, they look in decent shape, all of them retaining their 1.33:1 television broadcast aspect ratios. The colors are excellent--bright, rich, and deep, with fine black levels--and the image shows relatively little grain. Unfortunately, there are also numerous white flecks involved, minor but noticeable, and what looks occasionally like serious video noise.
The sound gets reproduced via Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, and it's about what we might expect. There is nothing here but a center-channel midrange signal, with little treble or bass, restricted dynamics, and, of course, no surround. The pleasure is in the quality of the midrange, which comes through clearly, cleanly, and without background hiss.
There is certainly no want of extras on the two sides; it's just that none of it adds up to very much. On side one, "Scooby-Doo Meets Batman," we get a game called "It's No Joke!" that requires the user to navigate through a series of screens with the remote and find a few fairly easy clues to solve a puzzle. Next, there are two music videos, the original "Velma Dinkley" music and another titled "Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase." After those items are two "Get the Picture: How To Draw Scooby-Doo" segments that ostensibly show you how to draw several of the cartoon characters; a "Mystery Inc. Yearbook" that takes a six-minute look at the history of the "Scooby-Doo" cartoons; trailers for other "Scooby-Doo" favorites; and some DVD-ROM PC features. The spoken languages and subtitles come in English, French, and Spanish.
On side two, "Scooby-Doo Meets the Harlem Globetrotters," we find an "Assist & Score! Challenge" game that requires the user to help the Globetrotters win a basketball game. Only it's not actually a basketball game; it's a fairly easy puzzle. After that is a music video, "Scooby-Doo Gone Hollywood," followed by a "Krazy Karaoke: Sing-A-Long With Scooby-Doo and Shaggy" where you follow the bouncing ball and sing along with the "Gone Hollywood" tune. Things wind down with more sneak peeks at other "Scooby" products and some DVD-ROM PC features. Finally, the disc contains English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese spoken languages and subtitles.
I think you need to have grown up with television cartoons like "Scooby-Doo" in order to appreciate them. Otherwise, coming at them from the prospective of an adult many years later, they tend to look rather simplistic and juvenile, stilted, corny, unimaginative, and largely unfunny. Yet, I can also see the charm in these old creations. The characters are endearing, the camaraderie is touching, the friendships inspiring. What's more, I'm sure that over the long haul, viewers would see the bigger picture and come to have the series grow on them. In smaller bits and pieces, however, as we have here, the "Scooby-Doo" movies seem mainly like entertainment for the youngest of youngsters or the most hopelessly nostalgic of oldsters.