Since 1969, a Great Dane dog named Scooby (full name Scoobert), his loyal human companion Shaggy, and three of their teenaged friends have been on TV in many configurations, using a vehicle called the Mystery Machine to solve mysteries. The first series, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, aired Saturday mornings on CBS and lasted two seasons and 25 episodes. In 1972, the show returned as The New Scooby-Doo Movies.
Ken Spears and Joe Ruby created the Hanna-Barbera show and have watched it go through more than a dozen different series, including A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, and Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!. Besides all of the TV shows, the show spun off into several TV specials, two live-action movies, 25 direct-to-DVD movies, and more than 20 video games. Here are some facts about Scooby-Doo, which made its original premiere on September 13, 1969.
1. Abbott and Costello were a major influence on Scooby-Doo.
TV executive Fred Silverman told Emmy TV Legends that “I had always thought that kids in a haunted house would be a big hit. As a kid, I would go and look at Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and movies like that.” Silverman pitched CBS a show called Who’s S-S-Scared?, but the dog was in the background. “I was convinced this was going to be the biggest hit that we’d ever had, even though nobody knew what the hell it was,” Silverman told Emmy TV Legends.
He pitched then-CBS president Frank Stanton, who told him, “We can’t put that on the air. That’s just too frightening.” Silverman had to rework the concept of the show and made it more about Scooby. “And our Abbott and Costello will be Scooby-Doo and Shaggy,” Silverman said. “In a matter of two hours we had revised the concept and it worked great.”
2. Scooby-Doo's name came from Frank Sinatra's "Stranger In the Night."
Silverman told Emmy TV Legends how he was on a red eye flight to L.A. and couldn’t sleep. CBS had just rejected his idea of a group of teens and a dog trying to solve mysteries, so he was in the middle of coming up with new ideas. “As we’re landing, Frank Sinatra comes on [the PA], and I hear him say, ‘Scooby-doo-be-doo.’ [Note: Sinatra actually says “doobie,” not “Scooby.”] I said, that’s it—we’ll call it Scooby-Doo.”
3. Iwao Takamoto created Scooby-Doo's features.
Japanese-American artist Iwao Takamoto got his start working on Disney films before he segued to the Hanna-Barbera world. Takamoto drew the original sketches for Scooby—along with the human counterparts—and based the dog on inverting a Great Dane. “There was a lady that bred Great Danes at Hanna-Barbera,” Takamoto told the Cartoon Network. “She showed me some pictures and talked about the important points of a Great Dane—like a straight back, straight legs, small chin and such. I decided to go the opposite and give him a hump back, bowed legs, big chin and such. Even his color is wrong.”
4. Frank Welker has voiced Fred Jones for more than 50 years.
Legendary voice actor Frank Welker has more than 850 acting credits on his IMDb page, but at 23 years old he received his first voice acting gig as the ascot-wearing Fred Jones. “I could barely read the copy and didn’t know which end of the mike was electrified, which explains why shock therapy has no effect on me,” Welker told Verbicide magazine in 2006. “Joe Barbera was fantastic and really gave me a chance; he would give me the opportunity to read for all the characters, not just Freddy, and that really opened things up for me.” Welker has voiced Fred in every Scooby series except A Pup Named Scooby Doo, and he’s provided Scooby’s voice since 2002.
5. Casey Kasem voiced Scooby-Doo's Shaggy for nearly 30 years, but exited the show due to his veganism.
Radio host Casey Kasem voiced Shaggy from 1969 to 1997, left the show, then returned in 2002. In real life, Kasem was a vegan and he wanted Shaggy to be a vegan as well. When Kasem was asked to voice Shaggy in a Burger King commercial, he protested and quit the show. But in 2002, Kasem convinced the producers to allow Shaggy to become a vegetarian.
“Shaggy is one of my claims to fame,” Kasem told The New York Times in 2004, a decade before his death, “but I think Casey surpasses him a little bit. However, one will last longer than the other, and Shaggy will go on forever.”
6. ABC thought Scrappy-Doo was a "bad role model."
In 1979, Joseph Barbera and Mark Evanier developed Scrappy-Doo, Scooby’s nephew, to prevent ABC from canceling the series. Sixteen episodes of Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo aired during the 1979-1980 season, but ABC’s Standards and Practices felt Scrappy was not a positive influence on kids. Evanier wrote about the experience on his blog: “Shortly after the last of many recordings of 'Mark of the Scarab' (that first script), it dawned on ABC Broadcast Standards that maybe Scrappy was a bad role model for the kiddos. He was—and one person in that department actually used this term to me—‘too independent.’” The network also thought Scrappy was “too rebellious.”
“Mainly, I pointed out that Scrappy, as written, was an effectual character,” Evanier wrote. “He got things done, always (eventually) for the better. Our heroes, Scooby and Shaggy, fled from danger, panicked, hid, trembled, etc. If they contributed to the resolution of the problem and catching the villain, it was only by accidentally crashing into him. ‘Why,’ I asked, ‘do you want to make that the role model Scrappy and our viewers should emulate?’” That seemed to be good enough for Standards, who allowed Scrappy to be left as-is. “Scrappy did exactly what he was supposed to do: He got Scooby-Doo renewed for another season,” Evanier wrote.
7. Jodie Foster voiced a character in The New Scooby-Doo Movies.
Guest stars became a part of the new iteration of Scooby-Doo, from the Harlem Globetrotters to Don Knotts. On the 1972 episode “Wednesday Is Missing," a pre-Taxi Driver Jodie Foster supplied the voice of Pugsley Addams, in an Addams Family/Scooby crossover episode.
8. The live-action Scooby-Doo movie commented on speculative sexuality and drugs.
The 2002 live-action movie Scooby-Doo, written by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, played upon Shaggy’s insinuated stoner vibe and Velma’s rumored homosexuality. But because it was a family film, some of those themes had to be toned down.
“If you ask me if Shaggy is a stoner, I’ll say no,” Matthew Lillard, who played Shaggy, told the Seattle Times. “That’s what's funny about him: He just seems like that. He acts a little goofy and high. He’s lovable and scared—and just happens to have the munchies.” However, Gunn thinks Velma is definitely gay. “So we had a couple little nods to that in the movie and in the end, again, they were things that kind of (detracted from) the scenes,” Gunn said.
9. Characters from Scooby-Doo are found in amusement parks all over the world.
Many of the amusement park rides in which characters from the show appeared no longer exist, including Scooby-Doo and Shaggy’s cameos in The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, the simulator ride operated at Universal Studios Florida from 1990 to 2002. Australia’s Warner Bros. Movie World created the Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster in 2002 (it still exists), featuring lasers and sound effects—though the ride doesn’t seem to be very spooky. And if you find yourself in Madrid, visit the Scooby-Doo spinning cups and a Scooby-Doo Haunted Mansion, which opened in 2002 at Parque Warner Madrid. Canada’s Wonderland, Carowinds, and Kings Dominion dismantled the mansion ride in 2009, but Six Flags Fiesta Texas houses a similar version called Scooby-Doo Ghostblaster.
10. Scooby and the Mystery Inc. gang are now apocalyptic detectives.
In May, DC Comics released Scooby Apocalypse #1, with a revamped image for the gang. Fred looks like a hipster, and Scooby looks like a cyborg dog. “It’s a multigenerational obsession at this point, and we just thought it would just be really interesting to take the cartoon version of these characters and see where they would be if we took what existed in the very first iteration of the cartoon and moved it into this day and age,” Jim Lee, the book’s co-writer and artist, told Entertainment Weekly about the new line of comics.
11. The Scooby-Doo universe is still expanding.
With the exception of a stream of straight-to-DVD videos, Scooby hasn’t appeared in movies since 2004’s Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. In 2015, The Hollywood Reporter announced that a new Scooby-Doo feature film was in the works. The film was scheduled to be titled S.C.O.O.B, and was supposed to be the first in a new line of Hanna-Barbera Cinematic Universe movies for Warner Bros. In 2019, Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?—a new series that has featured a ton of A-list stars like Ricky Gervais, Mark Hamill, Sia, Kenan Thompson, and Halsey premiered on the Boomerange streaming service.
12. A woman with a Mystery Van of her own got into some trouble with the police in 2016.
Sometimes art imitates life. In California, a woman named Sharon Kay Truman decked out her 1994 Chrysler Town & Country minivan to look just like the Mystery Machine. In 2016, when she was wanted on suspicion of violating her parole, police attempted to pull her over, but she slammed on the gas and led them on a high-speed chase through Redding, California. “You can’t really get caught up in the cartoon, because it’s a serious business,” Redding police corporal Levi Solada told the Los Angeles Times.
This story has been updated for 2020.