Friends, let me take you back a little bit into my blog’s archives. In July 2007, I ranted about the lackluster quality of the Scooby Doo films and how Hollywood was poised to adapt another childhood favorite of him (Alvin and the Chipmunks) into a terrible movie. I postulated that The Smurfs were next in line for a bad reboot. In June 2008, that bad reboot was announced and I scribbled the likely storyline out for it. Sure enough, in April 2010, the film’s plot was announced at it was exactly as I had foretold.
Now, word has come down that Hollywood can’t stop itself. They are going back to the beginning of the cycle and re-re-booting Scooby Doo. The new film comes to you via the guy who brough you that classic film Doctor Doolittle: Tail to the Chief. Ugh. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to head this off at the pass and submit my own pitch for the new Scooby Doo film. Are you listening, Hollywood?
Scooby Doo Re-Boot Film Pitch
A group of teenagers just out of high school are brought together to form a team of independent private investigators. Together with their great dane Scooby Doo, they take on their first case: the apparent haunting of a house belonging to the eccentric aunt of one of their own.
The tone will be a bit of a throwback to the days of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Lots of funny “scared reactions” from Shaggy and Scooby alongside some “level-headed” bits from Fred, Daphne and Velma. Shaggy and Scooby and Lou Costello and the other three as But Abbott. A small supporting cast, only a few locations and you’ve got a fairly cheap movie. This is all about the main characters and the atmosphere.
Shaggy: fun loving, but insecure and fearful. Devoted to his dog Scooby above all else.
Scooby: loves Shaggy and mirrors some of his insecurities, but has courage when he is called upon. Silly much of the time.
Fred: confident, perhaps overly so. Alpha male, clear leader of the gang and always has a plan.
Daphne: curious to a fault, extroverted, has a journalist’s knack for talking to people and getting information.
Velma: scientific and introverted, always looking for clues, not always listening to those around her.
Daphne’s Aunt: kind, grandmotherly, absent minded and rather eccentric.
We on a small house in the country at twilight. A skinny 8 year old boy is sitting in the living room drawing with crayons and listening to the radio when his mother enters the room. She reminds him that he still needs to finish packing since they’re moving into town the next day. The boys complains that he’s not going to like it in town and he won’t have any friends. She says that she knows of at least one friend that he’ll have and produces a puppy in a basket. The boy is ecstatic and scoops up the puppy. His mom asks “What will you name him, Norville?” just as “Strangers in the Night” comes on the radio. The boys says “How about, Scooby Doo?”
Title Card: Scooby Doo: Where Are You?
(that’s right, we’re keeping the original title!)
10 years Later
Now we’re at a high school graduation ceremony and a girl in glasses is giving her valedictorian speech. Velma states that the graduating class of 1969 is ready to participate in a rapidly changing culture and launch the age of science. In the crowd, we see Fred – the class president and Daphne – the head cheerleader – sitting together. The crowd throws their hats and we cut to Shaggy (previously Norville) working at the drive-in burger place with Scooby sitting just outside the window. Shaggy says to Scooby that he doesn’t mind spending another year in high school. He doesn’t want to go to college and leave Scooby anyway. Scooby, in his signature voice agrees. Plus, Shaggy makes a mean octuple-stack burger! He doesn’t have a care in the world.
Back at the graduation festivities, a older person is asking Fred where he plans to go to college in the fall and whether he has a football scholarship lined up. Fred says, actually, he’s not enrolled anywhere yet because he’s hoping to start his own business. This sounds impressive to the older man and he asks if he’s going to sell insurance like his father. No, says Fred, he’s hoping to open a detective agency. The older man’s face falls and he excuses himself. Daphne walks up and asks what that was all about. Fred says that most people don’t think a detective agency is a good idea, but he’s confident they can pull it off. Daphne agrees, as long as they can convince Velma to join them as their science consultant. Through a series of circumstances, Velma agrees to join them and they set up “Mystery Inc.” However, they don’t have a real office and must work out of the basement of Fred’s father’s insurance office.
After 2 weeks of no cases, the 3 detectives are eating lunch at the drive-in when they get hired by a woman who has lost an expensive bracelet in the nearby park and asks if they can find it. The park is huge and the 3 detectives aren’t sure what to do, but they see Shaggy and Scooby having a burger eating contest at a picnic table. They ask if Scooby has a good sense of smell, which of course he does. Scooby smells the woman and then easily finds the bracelet. The 3 detectives ask if Shaggy and Scooby would join their team, and they agree. The gang is complete. Fred says, “I guess we’ll need a bigger company car.” Shaggy says, “How about a company van?” Slow opening of a garage door to reveal: a ratty van – the unpainted Mystery Machine.
Later, Daphne’s aunt calls the gang and asks for their help. Strange things have been happening at her old house in the country. She lives there alone, operating a bed and breakfast, and for the last two weeks all her guests have been running away screaming in the middle of their first nights there. She herself hasn’t seen anything, but she’s been hearing noises in the night that have her worried that the place is haunted. Fred, Daphne and Velma immediately agree to take their new van out to her house, but Shaggy and Scooby and very uneasy with the idea of visiting a haunted house. Velma tells Shaggy that ghosts are not real and this is probably nothing more than a pest control case where they will have to get rid of roaches or bats. So they begin the 3 hour drive, but not before Daphne reveals that she’s given the van a new paint job. The Mystery Machine is ready.
They miss their turn and get lost on the way. They flag down a car and ask directions. The scary looking man is cagey and tells them he thinks their destination is still a few miles ahead, even though they’re sure they passed is somewhere. He quickly drives off again. After driving around in the dark for an hour they meet another man, a kinder man, who directs them. They find their turn and enter a thick woods on a narrow gravel road. Shaggy and Scooby incredibly scared in the back of the van while the other 3 are eager in the front seat.
They arrive at the house and it’s very dark. Only 1 light is on inside, upstairs. No lights outside. They get out of the van and the upstairs light clicks off. A downstairs light clicks on and then off. As they are heading for the door, a woman with a lantern appears out of nowhere next to them. Daphne’s aunt. She says she was in the barn finishing some work and didn’t hear them arrive because she’s hard of hearing. The gang tells her about the lights and she is baffled. Shaggy and Scooby’s fears are rising.
They agree that it’s too late to investigate tonight and they’d better all sleep there and get started in the morning.
From there, some standard Scooby action ensues. The gang is awakened in the night by ghouls of some kind popping into their rooms and scaring them. The meet up and decide to split up and search the house. Shaggy and Scooby believe in ghosts while the rest do not. Plenty of goofy stuff happens while they search, but in the end Fred, Daphne and Velma don’t meet back up with Shaggy and Scooby. They’re gone without a trace. Shaggy and Scooby have a decision to make: leave and try to contact the authorities or take matters into their own hands, confront their fears, find their friends and solve the mystery.
Shaggy and Scooby are hiding in the van, trying to decide if they should leave or go out looking for their friends, who have disappeared. They worry that they never should have joined the team because they aren’t much help. They haven’t eaten in hours and are famished, which they realize is affecting their judgement. They refuse to go back in the house to the kitchen. Then, Shaggy remembers he has a box of dog treats in the glove compartment. He and Scooby each eat a few and feel invigorated. They decide that it’s up to them to solve this case.
They go back into the house and decide that they need to start where their friends were last seen: the cellar. They light candles and head down into the dank cellar, which is a vast and cluttered room full of junk. Scary shadows are everywhere as the make their way through the mess. As they shakily walk, a draft blows out their candles. They are about to run when they hear voices, but it isn’t their friends. Two men are talking about being “so close that they can’t mess up now”. In the back of the cellar, they see a faint light coming from inside an old wardrobe. Shaggy carefully pears through the crack in the door and sees two of the ghouls talking to each other while Fred, Daphne and Velma are bound, gagged and blindfolded in a corner. The wardrobe is a covering a secret door into a back room. The ghouls head down a tunnel dug into a wall of the back room and are gone, saying they’ll deal with the teens later. Shaggy and Scooby sneak in and free their friends. The gang races back upstairs quietly.
They agree that these are no ghouls, but dangerous criminals. But what are they up to? Fred says he overheard the men saying that they would be gone by sunrise, which is only 2 hours away. Velma says she has a pretty good idea of what’s going on, but she needs proof. Then Scooby’s tail knocks over an end table and makes a noise. The gang freezes listening for noises from the cellar, but hear nothing. Shaggy puts the table back and replaces a picture that had fallen to the floor – an ancient photograph of the house with a man standing in front of it holding a large rock. Daphne recognizes the photo, it’s a copy of one from the town library back home. It’s the founding father of their town and the picture was taken almost 100 years ago. Fred and Velma say they know what’s going on, now they need to get the police.
They wake Daphne’s aunt (who has slept through all of this because she’s hard of hearing) and tell her it isn’t safe and she needs to go get the police. She agrees and leaves in her car. The rest of the gang gets to work setting a trap for the ghouls. The elaborate trap is almost thwarted by Shaggy and Scooby, but in the end, the 2 ghouls are captured just as the sheriff’s car arrives and the sun rises. The sheriff turns out to be the scary looking man from the road, who says he was worried about them going to the house because he’s very protective of Daphne’s aunt and some rowdy teens sometimes come out to the house and make trouble. So he tried to throw them off.
They unmask the first man and he is a stranger to them, but Daphne’s aunt says he tried to buy the house from her last year. The second man, however, is the kind looking man from the road! It turns out that this man uncovered some documents saying that the house had a secret vault that housed a cache of gold from the gold rush. The gold had belonged to the man from the picture, but they didn’t know where the house was until they noticed the picture in the library with the founder holding a large gold nugget with the house in the background. When Daphne’s aunt wouldn’t sell the place, they hatched a scheme to make everyone think it was haunted. Once everyone had been scared off, they could search for the vault. They didn’t count on a gang of investigators. The men are taken away. Case solved. Almost.
Scooby and Shaggy are back in the kitchen cooking breakfast for everyone when Shaggy realizes they don’t have any jam for their toast. Scooby says he smelled some in the cellar, so they go down to find it. It’s then that they find a fruit cellar room and a secret compartment inside. Opening the door, they reveal the cache of gold nuggets. The gang gives the gold to Daphne’s aunt and she says she will use to fix up the house and make it a grand B&B again.
As the gang is driving away in the Mystery Machine, Fred says that their first real case was a big success and he can’t wait for more. Shaggy says as long as there are no more ghosts or ghouls, he could get used to mystery solving. When they get back to town, they find a note on the door of their “office” in the back of Fred’s dad’s insurance office. Besides a phone number, all it says is – “I’ve got a case and I need your help. Please call me as soon as you get this note. My life may depend on it.” The stationary letterhead is from an old shut-down amusement park called “Funland”, whose logo features a robot with an almost-chilling grin.
So basically, what I’m proposing here is a faithful adaptation of the series, not a lazy romp through the tropes of the series that basically amounts to an irreverent parody. An actual feature-length episode of the original cartoon. By keeping the 1960’s vibes and the characters’ ages intact, you can truly honor the original spirit of the show. I’m thinking of a vibe similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer here, or something akin to the new animated Scooby show on Cartoon Network “Mystery, Incorporated”, which itself is heavily influenced by Buffy and is better than it has any right to be.
In reality, there’s no way this movie would ever get made today. Studios have been taught that loud and lazy adaptations can still make them lots of money and are easily replicated and cranked out year after year. They don’t care about the actual property they’re working with. All they care about is the fact that a known commodity is being repackaged and sold and that known commodities are what people tend to pay for these days. So I expect the new Scooby film will be most comparable to the new Alvin and the Chipmunks and Smurfs movies, which are total garbage.
Honestly, I think part of the problem with these adaptations is that everyone seems to think that the “simpler” time that was depicted in the original shows was a sham and should be made fun of at all costs. Think of the Brady Bunch adaptations from years ago and even the Beverly Hillbillies movie. They spent so much time pointing out who ridiculous these shows were compared to modern life. But what’s wrong with doing only slight updates to the original premises of these shows? Why do we have to fill them with double entendres, fish out of water tropes and fart jokes? Does those things make them more identifiable to audiences who wouldn’t understand the nuances of a 50 year old cartoon?
Anyway, I’ve spent way too much time thinking about this Scooby Doo movie and what I want it to be. Time to move on…to my pitch for a Hardy Boys movie set in the 1940’s!!