The Mystery Machine’s been running for 50 years and it’s gone down many roads. Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby stumbled their way into our hearts and childhoods the same way they stumble upon a mystery. Most of the world grew up with Scooby and the gang — or at least some version of them. I watched the series “What’s New, Scooby-Doo?” and the generation before me had the show that started it all: “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” Generations after us have “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated” and “Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!”
But no matter the quality and style of the animation or the color of Shaggy’s shirt, the heart of the stories stays the same: a group of friends and their dog encountering monsters and solving mysteries. With that trusty engine in the Mystery Machine, the group could go anywhere and they have. Fifty years blur in the rearview mirror of the iconic van, but just where have they gone?
Where haven’t they? The legend, the dog himself, has appeared in about 14 TV series, 43 films, 5 plays, 12 comics and 21 video games among other shorts and specials. With so much content under his collar, there have been great heights and painful flops.
Below are highlights, just a brief glimpse of some of the best, worst and strangest places this groovy gang and their beloved pup have ended up. These have remained in my mind and the minds of those around me for years.
“Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School”
As one of the few films that didn’t go straight to DVD and one of the few to only feature Shaggy and Scooby, “Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School” took a new approach to monsters and mysteries. The monsters in this 1988 film were not some greedy businessmen in masks, nor were they the villains in the story. Shaggy and Scooby unwittingly take a teaching position at the Grimwood School, a boarding school for the girls of famous monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster. As the new gym teachers, the girl ghouls hope that Shaggy and Scooby can help them beat the cadets next door in a game of volleyball. The duo, along with the human boys, learns to love the girls and venture to save them after they get kidnapped.
The refreshing take on the classic monsters mixed with the iconic fun antics of Shaggy and Scooby makes “Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School” one of the best movies in the animated franchise. It runs along the same vein as “Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf,” where Shaggy gets turned into a werewolf and must compete in the annual Monster Rally, a driving race, if he wants to become human again.
“Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase”
Once Scooby and the gang entered the 21st century, the mysteries did too. “Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase” enters the wonderful world of video games when they face off against a villain made of electricity, the Phantom Virus, and get sucked into a computerized world based on their adventures. The only way to escape the game is to play the game. The new Mystery Inc. comes face to face with the classic versions of themselves and must work together on the final level to not only stop the Phantom Virus but other classic monsters as well.
The classic versions of the gang mixed with the new makes “Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase” one of the best Scooby movies. This 2001 film marks the last of the Hanna-Barbera-produced content and highlights the end of an era while opening a world of possibilities. It’s all the fun of video games and Scooby-Doo antics with a well-crafted mystery.
“Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost”
Speaking of well-crafted mysteries, “Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost” layers the mysteries. It not only features the typical crook in a mask but also adds in actual witchcraft. Plus it rocks. Literally. “Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost” marks the first appearance of the Hex Girls, an eco-goth rock band. While the girls start as their main suspects for the witch sightings in town, they become reoccurring characters, reappearing in “Scooby-Doo! and the Legend of the Vampire,” “What’s New, Scooby-Doo?” and “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated.” The Hex Girls make the movie one of the best around.
“Scooby-Doo” and “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed”
Like any content made for children and made decades ago, not everything holds up over time. But sometimes they become so bad they’re good; that’s the case with these live-action Scooby movies. Made back in 2002 and 2004, these movies replaced the fun of Scooby-Doo as best they could without animation, but live-action cannot compare. In 2019, the early 2000s effects manage to convey the ridiculousness.
“Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins”
This live-action movie isn’t so bad it’s good. It’s just bad. In an effort to answer how the gang got together, 2009’s “Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins” drags them all back to high school. In a very “Breakfast Club” way, they meet in detention and all match high school stereotypes they never really break. With a mystery happening at their school, they have no choice but to team up together. Scooby-Doo didn’t need an origin story. The more two-dimensional characters work because the episodes or movies focus on the mysteries and the humor. “Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins” doesn’t break the stereotypes and doesn’t have the same humor as the others.
The strangest content comes from their crossovers.
“Scoobynatural” — An episode of “Supernatural” where light-hearted Mystery Inc. meets the gore and death of “Supernatural”
“Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania” — Shaggy and Scooby win tickets to WrestleMania and a ghost bear disrupts the match
“Scooby-Doo Meets the Harlem Globetrotters” — Scooby and the gang team up with the Harlem Globetrotters when the ghost of Paul Revere and a fire-breathing sea serpent appear
Whether Scooby and Mystery Inc. are unraveling the case of the Zombie Island or the Loch Ness Monster, the groovy gang’s heart and humor allow it to survive the test of time and to keep going for the next 50 years.