Friday, September 10, 2004

Fans still pant for 'Scooby-Doo'

By Chris Wadsworth
Fort Myers News-Press

Michelle George sounds like a walking, talking encyclopedia of Scooby-Doo lore. The 21-year-old grew up in Puerto Rico and watched the show every morning. Now living in Fort Myers, Fla., she remembers the cartoons and the characters clearly.

"They all had their own ways," says George. "There's Fred - he's conceited. Daphne ... doesn't like getting dirty. Velma is a genius. Scooby and Shaggy - they're always running away."

Now, married and raising a family of five children who love Scooby, George has plenty of opportunities to stay current with the cartoon gang.

"They're hilarious," she says. "They're good for the kids, good entertainment."

Entertainment that has endured 35 years (or 245 years in dog years).

Magic moment

The moment that would leave a mark on millions of American kids happened at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 13, 1969. That's when CBS first aired a Saturday morning show about a silly Great Dane and his four human friends who traveled around in a van and solved mysteries. Today, a generation later, Scooby-Doo and his pals are still going strong on television as well as in movies, toy stores, video games and more.

"I think he's as popular as he's ever been without a doubt," says Khaki Jones, a vice-president with the Cartoon Network. The network went on the air in 1992, but hit the big time in two years later when they obtained the rights to air Scooby-Doo repeats.

"The excitement around Scooby arriving at this network was palpable," says Jones. "He's been on the air in some sort ever since."

And drawing viewers for the channel where officials say more than 10 million people tune in to Scooby-Doo each week.

From the original Scooby-Doo series of the 1969 season, the Scooby universe has continued to grow. In the last 35 years, there have been at least a dozen different television shows, a dozen TV and direct-to-DVD movies, plus two Hollywood movies.

Merchandising marvel

Then there's the merchandising. Scooby-Doo-related products fill store shelves everywhere. From toys to sleeping bags to birthday party decorations, Scooby is big business, bringing in millions of dollars a year. A recent search on the eBay auction Web site turned up more than 1,600 Scooby products for sale. Among the oddities - original Scooby-Doo animation cels, a Scooby bobblehead and Scooby boxers.

"He had become a cultural icon," says Ronn Webb, a graphic artist from Connecticut who created a Scooby-Doo section at his Web site. It includes an episode guide, details on the main characters as well as the villains, plus information on the many Scooby-Doo products the collectors covet.

"I caught my first glimpse of Scooby-Doo back when I was about 3 years old," says Webb, 38. "I ... will forever cherish my Saturday morning TV viewing."

So do millions of parents who have found fond memories and common ground by watching Scooby-Doo with their kids.

The Cartoon Network and its sister network Boomerang, along with the WB network, continue to air old and new Scooby-Doo cartoons. Their parent company, Time-Warner, bought the entire Doo library from Hanna-Barbera, the original creators. Besides releasing collections of the classic episodes on DVD, new cartoons are being made all the time. From the recent What's New, Scooby-Doo? series to the direct-to-DVD movie Scooby-Doo and the Loch Ness Monster out earlier this year, the Scooby gang's adventures are as popular as ever.

"Scooby is the perfect storm of cartoons," says Jones. "Everything came together to make a really great show."

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