In 1969, Hanna-Barbera Productions hit paydirt when they aired the Joe Ruby/ Ken Spears-created cartoon Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? The show was such a hit that the formula would be copied again and again, often by Ruby and Spears themselves.
We all know everything there is to know about Mystery Inc., so I’m going to reminisce about the lesser-known copycats (or dogs, in most cases). Following are brief synopses and categorized comments on how well each cartoon follows formula. All aboard the USA Nakatomi Cartoon Express!
The Funky Phantom (1971)
There’s something seriously effed up with the timing belt.
Holy crap, this one has it all. William Hanna and and Joseph Barbera pulled out all the stops with this attempt to give cartoon audiences a new spin on teen sleuthing.
Jonathan Wellington “Mudsy” Muddlemore and his cat Boo attempted to escape the British during the bloody Revolutionary War by hiding in a tall grandfather clock. But they couldn’t get out, so they DIED. Wait, wait… this is where the fun starts!
200 years later, the ghost of Mudsy and his cat (who also wears a tri-corner hat) finally escape their time-keeping tomb when three teenagers break the thing. Why they were trying to set the time on a clock in a house they broke into, I’ll never know. It’s a good thing they did, though, because the Spirit of 1776 was free to join in their wacky breaking-and-entering adventures. They even had a dog to pal around with the cat specter. To get from place-to-place, they all hop into a sweet little buggy, the preferred vehicle of all good cartoon mystery gangs.
They recycle a lot of the background score from Scooby Doo. This cartoon may be the most shameless self-rip-off of all of them. They even find a way to have the dog play charades in most episodes.
The star’s annoying habits: I’d say Mudsy’s complete rip-off of Snagglepuss’s mannerisms and lines were annoying, except for the fact that they were both voiced by Daws Butler, even. Okay, it’s pretty irritating when he says “Heavens to Delaware.” It just doesn’t have the same ring.
Goofy Best Pal? Skip is voiced by Mickey Dolenz! Boo’s “friend” is Elmo the dog, but they usually just antagonize the hell out of each other.
Squares? Augie is a musclehead type, which makes him infinitely more interesting than the straightlaces that usually do the driving.
Group Babe? April is a groovy blonde that isn’t into deep thinking.
Sweet Ride? The Looney Dooney. I’m pretty sure they stole the Dragula from Grandpa Al Lewis and painted a dumber name on the side.
Gh-gh-ghosts? They use the same normal-guy-in-a-cheap-mask ploy that Scooby’s gang faced. Which is stupid, considering they’ve already established GHOSTS EXIST.
Drug-influenced Twist? I’m just glad cocaine wasn’t big until the 80s. These burn-outa would have made the dog, cat, and the damn car talk, too.
The Scrappy Factor? What the hell else could you possibly squeeze into this cartoon? A pint-sized British vampire that only drinks juice?
Speed Buggy (1973-75)
The Speed Buggy crew shows the Wacky Racers what direction they can stick it.
A hillbilly known only as Tinker built a car with incredible artificial intelligence. He also made it incredibly annoying. Thus Speed Buggy was born. Two other human friends joined along in a cross-country trip where adventures and fun ensued, ad nauseum.
Like real life, the car in this show needed constant repairs. Unlike real life, Tinker didn’t overcharge the ever-lovin’ shit out of anyone to do them.
The star’s annoying habits: Speedy (voiced by Mel Blanc) belts out an affirmative “Rodger-dodger!” and revs up with a “Vroom-a-zoom-zoom!” he putters between most words. Plus, his driving sounds like he has the worst squirts of all time. We’re talking ass-splosion of legend.
Goofy Best Pal? Tinker is his mechanic pal-slash-Maker. He’s like a Gomer Pyle – Shaggy combination, but with a valuable job skill.
Squares? Mark is an Indian, but you could only tell by watching the Scooby Doo crossover episode.
Group Babe? Debbie is a less slutty Daphne. So she’s alright. The driving duds help, though.
Sweet Ride? Do you have to ask?
Gh-gh-ghosts? Nah, they’re major foils are mostly humans looking to rip someone off. Humans that occasionally have robots at their disposal.
Drug-influenced Twist? This one’s pretty straight-forward. They might have done a little huffing in the garage. Hey, it worked for Knight Rider.
The Scrappy Factor? The creators were pretty lucky with kids buying into one talking car. A little motorcycle sidekick would have been too much strain on suspension of disbelief.
Just when you thought it was safe to get back into indie rock.
Jabberjaw is an amphibious shark drummer for the band The Neptunes. His otherwise-human band continues to find themselves in the middle of adventures taking place in high-tech underwater cities that usually have the word “Aqua” in their name.
The cartoon has a lot of fun song breaks, proving that even a hundred years in the future there is a market for bubblegum pop rock.
The star’s annoying habits: Frank Welker combined the best elements of Curly Howard, Rodney Dangerfield, and Jaws. The man is a damn voice artist genius.
Goofy Best Pal? Clamhead is the Shaggy of the Sea. But with worse catchphrases, like “Abba-abba-abba!” and “Wowee-wow-wow!”
Squares? Biff is the straight man. Well, as straight as you can be while wearing that diving suit and not having three-ways with gorgeous bandmates.
Group Babe? Bubbles is a sweetly-retarded hottie with a grating voice. Shelly is pretty much a bitch, but I’d still go deep-diving.
Sweet Ride? They all cram into a little underwater buggy. Yes, the shark does, too.
Gh-gh-ghosts? The Neptunes skeedaddle into the plans of human enemies like dictators and mad scientists, most of whom have lots of underwater monstrosities
Drug-influenced Twist? The whole thing takes place in future underwater cities. Yes, I’m quite sure they were doing bong rips until their eyes were trying to leap from their ocular cavities.
The Scrappy Factor? Blessedly, no.
Ruby Spears? Yep.
Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels (1977-80)
Our prehistoric friend just heard that legal age of consent is 16. Unga bunga!
Oh yeah. Borrowing more from Charlie’s Angels than Scooby Doo, Captain Caveman’s adventures led to the first boners of many a late 70s bloomer.
Three teen female sleuths (the best kind, Sherlock Holmes be damned) free a caveman that has been preserved perfectly in a block of ice. The original Encino man has the ability to pull helpful stuff out of his manly body hair. Yet not once did he haul out his REAL club. Stupid television standards. Then again, his nose is practically a penis, which comes in handy in those ménage-a-quartet scenarios.
The club that he did produce had a number of fantastic abilities, mostly generated from little dinosaurs that live off of the crumbs that get caught in the Captain’s pubes.
The star’s annoying habits: Not annoying in any way is the Captain’s battle cry of “Captain CAAAaaaAAAAAAaaAAVEMAAAaaAAAAAAaaaAAAAN!” I still yell it out when I climax. Thanks, Mel Blanc! And the lovely ladies that have been kindly enough to sleep with me thank you, too.
Captain Caveman also introduced “Unga bunga” into my lexicon, butchers correct pronoun usage, and eats clues.
Best Pal? Who needs one? The Captain is surrounded by teen sexpots.
Squares? None to speak of. The show plays Captain Caveman up as a dumbass, but he’s the only one of these cartoon superstars that doesn’t hang out with some frat asshat that will undoubtedly steal the babe(s) away. Who’s the Neanderthal now, suckas?
Group Babe? Brenda is the chicken-shit brunette, Dee Dee is the brainy black girl, and Taffy is the non-too-bright blonde that yelps out “Zowie!” They all like hairy guys, so I’ve spent most of my life searching for their real-life counterparts.
If that’s not enough, Captain Caveman was later re-worked into a Superman pastiche in which he worked at the Daily Granite along with Betty and Wilma. So he was plowing Fred and Barney’s wives in the Stone Age before waking up to Hustler Barely Legal models! This is why I wear a Captain Caveman shirt to this day.
Sweet Ride? They travel around in a trippy van with a mini-cave strapped to the top. So you can bet your ass that if that van’s a rockin’, those Angels are taking care of all their flossing needs.
Gh-gh-ghosts? They come across the tried-and-true formula of mundane criminals enacting elaborate occult hoaxes. The real mystery here is why “Cavey” even bothers with him when he could be hosting sexy shaving parties.
Drug-influenced Twist? Copious amounts of Spanish Fly were imbibed in the creation of this cartoon.
The Scrappy Factor? The cartoon was re-worked as Captain Caveman and Son as a “show-within-a-show” in Flintstones Kids in the 80s. And that begs the question: which Teen Angel got knocked up? Cavey Jr. was much smarter than his dad, therefore annoying.
Ruby Spears? Their finest work.
I wonder which one she’s going to let touch her boobs.
Sherman “Fangs” Fangsworth is the unlucky descendent of a clan that is stricken with the curse of lycanthropy every 400 years. For those of you that have never played Dungeons & Dragons, that means he’s a werewolf.
Whenever Fangs sees the moon (or an image of it!), he turns into the dental tragedy Fangface. The two personalities don’t know the other exists, though they do both have the irritating habit of exclaiming “Ooh! Ooh!” before every single damn thing they say. Fortunately, he has his friends there to help him cope with… oh wait. No, they usually trigger the transformation whenever they need a dopey wolf in a backwards ball cap to knock down a door, which is all the time.
His best friend is the oddly-shapen Puggsy, who has a tendency to make up bullshit words like “extinctified” and “stopify.” Basically, he adds “-ify” to every third word. I’d despise him if I didn’t think his hat was so freaking cool. Plus, Fangface wants to eat him whenever he’s reminded of food, and that is a gag you can get a lot of mileage out of.
The star’s annoying habits: Fangface (again, Frank Welker) constantly does a growl like he’s working over a chew toy while talking, mixed with a heaping helping of “Ooh! Ooh!”s.
Best Pal? Puggsy, if you can be buddies with someone who wants to devour you.
Squares? Biff is as square as it gets. Man, your stripey sweater is an eternal game of “Ring around the asshole.”
Group Babe? Kim looks like a cross between Daphne, Velma, and Mila Kunis. I don’t even feel bad about imagining her while I masturbate.
Sweet Ride? The very sleek Wolf-Buggy. Biff can also fly a plane whenever they need to be flying.
Gh-gh-ghosts? Unlike most of their fellow toon detectives, the Fangface gang meets up with the real deal. No old perverts in glowing sheets here.
Drug-influenced Twist? The schemes of the bad guys are pretty far out. In one episode, aliens decide to film a disaster movie of Earth exploding. In another, a scientist creates a brain-swapping machine to put a stupid-but-human brain into a swamp goon so that it can help him dig up gold.
The Scrappy Factor? Fangpuss, Fangface’s baby cousin, may be the only tacked-on sidekick more annoying than Scrappy Doo.
Ruby Spears? Oh, you know it.
So what have we learned today?
- Driving a dune buggy is a sure-fire way to get a hot girl to put out when your freak friends are out of the room.
- Lesser, baby versions of yourself are always lame. Flush ’em.
- Old guys get off on dressing up in kooky costumes and tormenting teenagers. I’m really looking forward to my golden years.
- Necessity may be the mother of invention, but re-using one good idea will guarantee you are remembered by nerds long after you stop putting out relevant material. Look any of these cartoons up on YouTube, and you’ll find full seasons.
- It’s okay to have filthy thoughts about barely-detailed animated girls as long as you pretend it’s a joke. Right?
- You can’t unsee what you find if you have SafeSearch off while doing a Google image search for Jabberjaw.