With the recent news of Scooby-Doo co-creator, Ken Spears, passing away less than three months after his partner, Joe Ruby’s passing, we at Horrorfacts wanted to pay tribute to their creation and showcase the work that went into creating such an iconic show.
In 1968, Saturday morning cartoons would come under fire by concerned parents who felt that the cartoons being presented to their children were too violent. As a result, CBS started shopping around for more family friendly content and CBS Executive, Fred Silverman, would be in charge of finding these new shows.
His first success would come in the form of ‘The Archie Show,’ a cartoon based on the ‘Archie’ comic book series. Along with the show being a hit, so were the songs performed each episode by Archie and the gang. The song, “Sugar, Sugar,” performed by “The Archies” would become the most successful Billboard number-one hit of 1969.
Wanting to capitalize on the concept of a rock band, Silverman contacted William Hanna and, Joseph Barbera about bringing another cartoon to their Saturday morning line up. Silverman, inspired by the ‘I Love a Mystery’ radio serials and the 1959 television series, ‘The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,’ pitched the idea of a teenaged rock group who also solved mysterious.
The task of creating a show based off Silverman’s idea would be given to writers, Spears and Ruby, along with artist Iwao Takamoto.
This cartoon would see many incarnations before becoming what we know today.
The first idea came in the form of a show called ‘Mysteries Five.’ This original idea centered around a rock group of five teenagers – Geoff, Mike, Kelly, Linda, and Linda’s brother, W.W. – and their bongo playing Sheepdog, named Too Much. The concept for the show was that, in between playing shows, ‘The Mysteries Five’ would go around solving mysteries.
This initial version was presented to Silverman, who immediately rejected it. He wasn’t satisfied with the idea of the show and was especially not pleased with Too Much, as it too closely resembled Archie’s dog, Hotdog.
The duo of Spears and Ruby decided from the start they wanted the character to be a large, cowardly dog, but struggled with the breed. They originally wanted to make Too Much a Great Dane but feared that it would be closely related to the character of Marmaduke. The duo settled on making the character a Sheepdog instead but, after Silverman’s rejection of the character, they approached Barbera with their original idea. They explained their apprehension about making Too Much a Great Dane, but Barbera, feeling like it wouldn’t be an issue, gave Spears and Ruby the green light to change Too Much into a Great Dane.
With the decision to make Too Much a Great Dane, artist Takamoto would next consult a studio colleague who happened to also be a breeder of Great Danes. After learning the characteristics of a prize-winning Great Dane, Takamoto proceeded to break most of the rules and designed Too Much with overly bowed legs, a double-chin, and a sloped back.
Now that they had a design for Too Much, Spears and Ruby would switch their focus to their cast of teenagers. Moving away from ‘The Archie Show’, the duo decided to take more inspiration from ‘The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis’.
This would see the members of the group cut to four and it would see them receive name changes. The character once named Geoff became Ronnie, Kelly was now Daphne, Linda was renamed Velma, and W.W. became Scooby’s best pal, Norville “Shaggy” Rogers. The character of Mike was scrapped completely. Along with the name change, each character would also receive a personality change based off of a character from ‘The Many Loves of Dobie Gills’: Ronnie was based off of the titular character Dobie, Daphne off of Thalia, Velma off of Zelda, and “Shaggy” off of Maynard.
This new concept was pitched to Silverman, who liked the changes to the characters but still wasn’t too keen on the name. He decided to change the name from ‘Mysterious Five’ to ‘Who’s S-S-Scared.’ Along with the title, Silverman would also change the character of Ronnie to Fred Jones before presenting the show to the executives at CBS.
Silverman and the animators at Hanna-Barbera prepared a short presentation for their show, including story boards, presentation boards, and a short animation clip. The idea was that this new show would be a centerpiece of CBS’s new 1969-1970 Saturday morning cartoon block. The executives at CBS, however, didn’t feel the same; they felt the show would be frightening for children and decided to pass on it.
Silverman, not giving up on the show, enlisted Spears and Ruby to help him retool it. Together they would work to make the show less frightening and more comedic. Silverman, who had been a fan of the Abbott and Costello movies growing up, decided to change the characters of “Shaggy” and Too Much to resemble the comedy duo. The show would tune down the horror elements, drop the rock group concept, and would shift its focus to center around “Shaggy” and Too Much.
Before presenting this new version to the network, Silverman would be influenced by Frank Sinatra’s scat, “doo-be-doo-be-doo,” at the end of the song, ‘Stranger’s in the Night.’ Hearing this would inspire Silverman to change Too Much’s name to Scooby-Doo. From here, he would also drop the title, ‘Who’s S-S-Scared,’ and call his show, ‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!’
This new version was presented to the board at CBS, who loved it and approved it for production.
This original run of Scooby-Doo would last two seasons, with the first episode airing September 13, 1969 and the last on October 31, 1970. Of the original twenty-five episodes, Spears and Ruby would be credited for writing seventeen episodes.
This, of course, would only be the start to Mystery Inc. and their continued adventures. Scooby-Doo and the gang have continued to live on over the generations through cartoons, animated films, comics, and even live-action movies.
We are Horrorfacts will be forever thankful to Ken Spears and Joe Ruby for giving us that group of meddling kids. Scooby-Doo and the gang have had an impact on so many and will continue to do so for generations to come.