A Media Entry – Random Thoughts: First Random Part II

Apologies for missing Wednesday. I intended to post, but thought I’d get some quick demon-slaying in. However, I was distracted by a portal I’d never seen before and ended up basically robbing Gringott’s. Oh, well, these things happen.

Continue reading A Media Entry – Random Thoughts: First Random Part II

Fifteen-minute TV Series – Scooby Doo

It’s October, and my favorite holiday is coming up. So in the spirit of the season, I present a fifteen-minute version of every classic “Scooby Doo” episode ever.

Continue reading Fifteen-minute TV Series – Scooby Doo

A TV Entry – First Impressions

Many modern TV shows have lousy introductions. I understand that as the demand to add more commercials to every hour of TV has increased, some parts of the actual show itself need to be decreased. But the introduction is important to pull potential audiences into the show. Older shows had elaborate intros and slick theme songs. More modern ones have a 30-second bit of music and some relevant shots. Kind of lame. If the premise is a bit odd, I think an intro should try to inform the audience of that premise. And if the premise is pretty typical (like yet another sitcom), then the intro should at least be memorable.

Cartoons in general have not forgotten the importance of a good intro. This may be because a lot of cartoon producers think children are stupid and/or easily drawn to bright flashy lights. Even if the reason may be condescending, some of those intros still stick with me.

Honorable mention – Sailor Moon. I’m going to stick with traditional Western animated shows for the rest of this list because anime has its own introduction conventions. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention this because “Moonlight Densetsu” as performed for “Sailor Moon S” (third intro) is my favorite introduction(s) (this song had a lot of iterations). While I had a lot of issues with “Sailor Moon Crystal,” I did like “Moon Pride” a lot as well. I am a sucker for electric guitar.

Honorable mention 2 – Kim Possible. This intro was set up as a music video and while I didn’t care too much for the actual song, I appreciated the effort.

10) Thundercats – This show is in the unique position of not only having a kick-ass introduction, but having an introduction that is ten times better than the show ever was. Like many shows of the ’80s, the production values of the opening animation were better than that of the show. With a rapid ’80s backbeat, we are introduced to each character via a few seconds of seeing them in action and see some of the villains. Gets the blood pumping for the show, which sadly could not live up to the intro.

9) Scooby Doo, Where are You? – Anyone who didn’t see this entry coming is obviously new to my blog, so welcome! While this show has had several iterations as well, I prefer the original song from the original show (Season 1 and 2 both work for me; incidentally, the video of all intros is a trip through musical history as well). I didn’t welcome having Shaggy sing parts of the intro in later versions, and “Scooby Doo Movies” had little going for the intro anyway. But I like the peppy ’60s pop beat and the fast-paced montage of series scenes which at least gave some idea of what was going on (although not the most thorough explanation of the premise).

8) The Real GhostbustersThis intro benefits from the cinematic theme song sung by Ray Parker. It’s ’80s pop but damn catchy. The first intro of the series (my favorite) briefly shows a day in the life of the Ghostbusters: Janine gets the phone call, rings the bell, Slimer is obnoxious, and the guys get to show off the relevant parts of the show (Ecto 1, the packs, the traps, and a whole bunch of ghosts).

7) Beetlejuice – I don’t know who thought this movie was something to adapt to a kids show, but it was the ’80s and this seemed to be a popular thing to do. This is another that benefits from using the movie’s theme (by Danny Elfman) as the music. I like both intros, because they are both absolutely insane. The idea of Lydia being taken on this wild rollercoaster ride/crazy circus tour through the afterlife is conveyed perfectly and the characters are quickly introduced as part of this crazy ride. It sure builds up energy and makes the viewer excited to see the show.

6) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The original ’80s intro. Like Thundercats, the animation of the intro was much smoother and better than the show itself. With fast ’80s pop and a frentic pace, the lyrics introduced the turtles and Splinter by name and with a little description before closing on that synthetic and oddly catchy “Heroes in a Half-Shell” tagline. Unlike the Thundercats, the actual show was as good as its introduction except for the animation quality. For those who are curious about the answer to life’s most important question, I’m Raphael. This should surprise nobody.

5) X-men – Fox wasn’t about to miss out on opportunities to sell kids stuff they didn’t need in the afternoons, so they tried a bit of a superhero line-up (and once upon a time, Fox handled its Marvel properties pretty well). This was my first introduction to comic books, no pun intended. The way the intro ramped up and increased pace combined with the name of each character and a quick demonstration of their power all leading up to a confrontation with all the bad guys was just really well done. I had no clue what this show was about, but I knew I definitely wanted to find out.

4) Ducktales – When Disney decided to get back into the afternoon animation game, Disney did not pull its punches. This theme is insanely catchy (whoo-ooo!). The intro features mostly scenes from the five pilot episodes (which are a much better Indiana Jones-esque romp than “Crystal Skull“) but also shows other scenes from the show including Scrooge leaping into the Money Bin and some of the villains that would plague them. Whoo-ooo indeed.

3) Tiny Toon Adventures – Disney’s competition for the afternoon animation game came from Warner Brothers, who attempted to revive their classic cartoon characters with younger characters that were similar but not quite the same. Babs and Buster Bunny (no relation) sing the introduction song which explains not only the premise (they are in school learning from the original characters) but also introduces pretty much every character that shows up. In a bit of a meta-twist, it’s clear the characters know they’re singing the theme song to their own show.

2) Animaniacs – Perhaps the best WB cartoon to come out in the modern age. The amount of talent assembled was fantastic. “Tiny Toons” was good, to be sure, but by the time this show came around, the good from “Tiny Toons” was made better and the bad (not that there was much) had been worked out. Like “Tiny Toons,” the introduction of Animaniacs explains the premise (via a narrator; which I cannot find a clip of), introduces the main characters, and then goes into the actual song, which introduces many of the other characters. And again, because the creative teams likes meta-humor, at one point the Warners look directly into the camera and sing, “and now you know the plot.”

1) Batman: the Animated Series – This one is kind of a ringer because the theme music is taken directly from Danny Elfman’s cinematic composition. But the animation helps make this theme so memorable. The intro is essentially a night in Gotham City; it’s dark, it’s gritty, it introduces the main character, captures the essence of the show and Batman perfectly, and not a word is spoken. Amazing. This is absolutely my favorite intro.

Of course, there may be other amazing introductions in the future. I hope so. Some of the cartoons are getting a bit lackluster in the introduction department as well. But I hold out hope there will be more investment in the part of the show specifically designed to draw viewers in.

A Media Entry – Hole in my Soul: Scooby Doo

I am on record as absolutely loving “Scooby Doo.”  I know, I know, the show was formulaic and cheaply animated.  And yet I’ve loved almost every incarnation (I really liked “A Pup Named Scooby Doo” because it was a good parody of the rest of the franchise).  So imagine how excited I was in 2001 when I saw trailers for a live-action “Scooby Doo” movie.  Well, ‘excited’ probably wasn’t the right word.  Intrigued, maybe, or worried.  I thought how could Hollywood turn a 22 minute (or 44 minute if we’re talking about the “Scooby Doo Movies”) television show into a 90 minute full-length movie?  But then again, several direct-to-DVD full-length animated movies had already been made, so how hard could it really be?  I had watched a few and even enjoyed them, with several employing the twist that the supernatural was in fact real (to be fair, that ceased to be much of a twist pretty quickly).

You may wonder if I don’t like this movie why I’m not working on a “Storytelling Failures” for it.  Well, it’s just not worth that kind of effort.  This was mindless summer blockbuster entertainment fun.  Yes, it could be argued that’s what Man of Steel was, but that movie was trying to tell a story if for no other reason than to get people back for the sequel.  Scooby Doo was more like, well, Transformers.  The movie was meant to capitalize on a successful TV franchise and nostalgia; it was meant to be disposable.  Frankly, expecting a story that was anything but lazy and/or contrived was expecting too much.

Anyway, I wasn’t expecting too much.  I was expecting, I think, a high-budget version of one of the animated movies.  The casting choices seemed good.  I figured with all the advances in CGI technology that a CG great dane would be a fairly easy creature to render.  And I figured that since “Scooby Doo” was such a long-running franchise that adapting it to live-action couldn’t be that hard.  Even knowing this movie was disposable, I did not actually expect it to be bad.

And I was wrong.  So wrong.  While the casting choices were fine, and some of the set design was really pretty good, most everything else was completely wrong.  Here is all the movie required:
a) four friends and their talking dog stumble across something weird
b) they investigate by splitting up the group with Shaggy and Scooby (and sometimes Velma) inevitably finding the monster and Fred and Daphne (and sometimes Velma) not finding the monster
c) hijinks ensue, perhaps with a musical chase scene and a celebrity guest star
d) the monster is caught and the mystery solved
e) also, the CG dog should look like a dog

So instead I end up watching a movie that immediately splits up the group in a bout of spitefulness, doesn’t seem to have any idea what the show was about, or how the characters act, or what the hell foreshadowing means (seriously, if they’re going to get Fred and Daphne together, then why the hell was the whole movie practically spent with Fred and Velma hanging out) and to top it all off, the dog looks awful!  Good grief, the toons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit were better integrated into the movie, and they were supposed to be toons!  Also, Tim Curry declined to be the villain because of Scrappy Doo.  While Rowan Atkinson did as good a job as could be expected, well, Tim Curry is just so perfect to be a Scooby Doo villain (and has lent his voice to an animated movie) I’m sorry that didn’t happen.  Oh, Scrappy Doo, is there nothing you don’t ruin with your very existence?

There were scenes that certainly didn’t belong (like a flatulence contest between Shaggy and Scooby), but what really put the hurt on me was the spitefulness.  Freddy thumps Scooby on the nose (even though in the shows no one really treated Scooby like a dog), Scooby punches Freddy in return, they all abandon Scrappy Doo by the side of the road, Shaggy suggests abandoning Fred and Velma to the monsters, and at the end Scooby smacks Scrappy into a wall.  I hate Scrappy Doo.  I really do.  Scrappy Doo puts the hurt in my soul he’s so terrible.  But Scooby was Scrappy’s uncle, and Scrappy was just a puppy.  No one in the Mystery Machine gang was cruel enough to abandon Scrappy or cause him physical harm, no matter how annoying he was.  And Scrappy is not so awful as to actually be a villain (seriously, though, how could they screw that joke up).  Hell, I wouldn’t actually abandon Scrappy Doo by the side of the road and I feel nothing but loathing for that trope-naming hound.  The gang’s behavior all around was spiteful and unnecessary, and just makes me sad.

I theorize that because this movie was meant to be disposable that no care was given to it.  Zero [expletive]s were given about this movie, and it showed.  Even disposable media should be watchable that first time, and this just wasn’t.  Ultimately, there wasn’t much fun about this movie and some scenes were downright painful to watch.  Really, what is Scooby Doo if not fun?  In this rare case, the sequel is actually superior to the original.  Is the sequel good?  It’s passable, and more than that, it doesn’t hurt to watch.

A TV Entry – Why I Hate Scrappy Doo

When I use the phrase, “I hate X nearly as much/as much/more than Scrappy Doo,” that means whatever X is in context is really awful. But to understand just how awful X is when compared with Scrappy Doo, you must understand how much I hate Scrappy Doo.

I love Scooby Doo. I don’t know why, but I just do. Perhaps it’s the campy charm of the show, or the absurdity of villains using crazy costumes to scare people away instead of conventional and probably more effective methods, or the convoluted and illogical explanations of how the villain managed to create a complex and totally believable hologram using a movie reel and some shadow puppets. I love it without out all the subtext about what was really going on. I love all of the early incarnations and like some of the more recent ones. I love the cowardice of Scooby and Shaggy and the irony that they always found the monster. I love Fred’s Rube Goldberg-esque traps. I love Velma’s patient, logical thinking. I even love Daphne’s tendency to do the wrong thing at the wrong time (although to be fair she’s been accidentally caught in fewer of Fred’s traps than Scooby and Shaggy). To me, Scooby Doo is just a fun, silly show.

But it spawned Scrappy Doo. I didn’t really mind the expansion of the Doo family, as such. Scooby Dum was probably a caricature of a mentally disabled person (frankly I don’t think Scooby Dum is close to the most offensive stereotype I’ve seen portrayed in that show, but it was the 1970s…), and wasn’t too annoying. But despite the success of Scooby Doo for Hanna-Barbera, which spawned at least seven or eight clones, eventually the ratings of the original slipped and Scrappy Doo was introduced to try to interest younger viewers. This is why he behaves pretty much the same as an obnoxious hyper-active six-year brat (at least in my opinion; your mileage may vary). Also, executive meddling seldom works out well, and this case was no exception.

His bravery was not endearing. His catch phrase was not catchy. I really hated it when he did something stupid, which was often, and that worked out fine. Then, inexplicably, Fred and Velma were removed from the gang, and soon Daphne was gone as well, leaving Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy, and mostly Scrappy. There is not much good to say about the movie Scooby Doo except that the writers made it clear they also hated Scrappy Doo.

I know, cartoons are littered with other characters that may be equally as annoying as Scrappy Doo. Orko from “He-Man” was pretty awful. His magic either didn’t work or backfired horribly, he was always going where he shouldn’t and messing with things he shouldn’t, and yet everyone thought he was adorable. I understand why one might think Orko is worse. But I don’t think Orko ruined the show. Orko was an annoying distraction. Also, the episode Orko got a girlfriend was cute. Snarf from “Thunder Cats” is another candidate to oppose Scrappy Doo. However, Snarf tried to keep Lion-o out of trouble.

I could go on and on, but the point is such characters are not, to me, as bad as Scrappy Doo. These characters did not take over and ruin the show they were in (Slimer in “Real Ghostbusters” came the closest). Scrappy Doo ruined Scooby Doo for me. Maybe if he had been used sparingly, like Scooby Dum, he might not be so bad. But I simply can’t watch the later episodes because of Scrappy Doo. I don’t care if his introduction actually did boost ratings. He somehow just sucks all of the silly fun right out of the show. That’s some puppy power, indeed. I am grateful that all the more recent incarnations of Scooby Doo, despite their flaws, have demonstrated the good sense to leave out that annoying little dog.