I've always been a huge fan of Scooby Doo. He was comfort food. I remember, one of the first things I did when I was hired at Hanna-Barbera, was buy a bottle of Scooby Snacks from the company store. For most people, it was a glass bottle of Cookie Crisp cereal with a Scooby Doo label slapped on it, but to me, it was a trip to my childhood.
So for this blog entry, I thought I'd start with a mystery!
You may have noticed that I was able to complete my autograph collection of the Scooby gang above. What's so mysterious about that you ask? Well...
I didn't work with all of them on our show! DUHN DUHN DUUUUHN!
Okay, so it's not so much of a mystery as it is a kooky way of creating a segueway to the rest of my blog entry. But mark my words, I will help solve the mystery for you as you read on...
During my first few weeks at Hanna Barbera, I remember walking through the halls, peering into a conference room, and seeing Don Messick all by himself reading over a script for "Droopy, Master Detective." I thought to myself, "Nah-ah! Really?" At the time, I was a huge autograph collector, so I immediately ran to my office and pulled out a black and white glossy of the Scooby Doo gang that I bought for an occasion such as this.
I came back and asked Mr. Messick if he could sign it. He was very nice as I didn't freak out and ask him to do Scooby's voice for me or anything. Even when he wrote, "Scooby Doody Dooooo!!!" I didn't ask him to correct his typo. It was a pleasant exchange. By now, the rest of the cast was gathering in the conference room for a table read. I left the room, but sat outside and eavesdropped as the cast read through the script. It was the first time I ever heard voice actors actually perform. It was one of those moments that made me feel like I had the greatest job in the world.
So, did you see it! In the first paragraph, we've solved the mystery of Don Messick's signature! But what of the rest of the cast? Read on... if you dare...
When I first got the green light for the first season of Johnny Bravo, I immediately asked our head of production if I could do an episode where Johnny Bravo meets Scooby Doo and the gang. I wanted to do it right, so I sought out the talents of Joe Barbera and Iwao Takamoto to give authenticity to the short. In the writer's room, with Joe Barbera's help, we threw out every cliche we could think of and tried to figure out how we could turn it on it's end. Our writer, Michael Ryan, did an excellent job of turning out a really great script from all of this.
On the drawing end, we used the original designs done by Iwao Takamoto, the designer of Scooby-Doo, who also helped us style the backgrounds for this particular episode. Julian Chaney, who had also been working at Hanna Barbera for a number of years in the model department, designed the Ghostly Gardener in Iwao's style.
We also combed through files of music, model sheets (we had to have the Mystery Machine!), and stock animation because we wanted it to have the look and feel of an old episode from the first season. So much so, that we had to go into numerous retakes on the walk cycles because they insisted on animating something new instead of xeroxing the stock animation and applying it to the scene.
Unfortunately, we were unable to use Don Messick in our episode because he had recently suffered a stroke when we got the green light. On the positive side, we were able to use Casey Kasem (Shaggy), Frank Welker (Fred), and Heather North (Daphne). We were unable to use Nicole Jaffe because she had retired from acting and performing, so BJ Ward filled in nicely in her role as Velma. And after a long and exhaustive search, we finally found our Scooby in Hadley Kay.
My favorite time in the booth was directing Casey Kasem as Shaggy. Actually, I wouldn't call it directing, so much as me saying, "That was perfect. Can we just get another one for safety?" Every line he said was spot-on the way I would've wanted him to read it. And usually, you don't want to look at the performers as they say their lines, but I couldn't help but stare at him as Shaggy's voice came from his mouth. He completely embodied Shaggy with his facial expressions and body movements.
More signatures revealed! Oh, this is too easy! But wait! What of Nicole Jaffe? If I couldn't find her, how did I get her autograph? Oh, wouldn't you like to know...
Because we wanted to stick in so much stuff, we extended the episode from 7 minutes to eleven minutes so we could keep all our gags in the show. But even with that, we were still a few minutes short. So, we ended up padding the chase sequence. Since our storyboard artist, Don Manuel, was knee deep in another show, our director, John McIntyre retooled the chase sequence while we had one of our writers, Seth MacFarlane, freelance new storyboard sequences in his spare time.
FUN FACT: This particular episode also marked my first foray into writing song lyrics with "The Happy Haunted Sunshine House."
When all was said and done, I went downstairs to Mr. Barbera's office and held a private screening where it was just me and him sitting in front of his TV. It was really nerve racking showing someone something that they created in a whole other light. As we sat there staring at the screen, I tried to subtly stare at Mr. Barbera and watch him react to the gags. My favorite moment was when he looked over at me and said, "You got the walk cycles."
Now I don't know if it was because it was after lunch or because the chase scene went on a bit too long, but as I looked over at Mr. Barbera, I noticed him fighting to stay awake. I tried laughing to startle him awake, but by the end of the chase scene, his eyes were completely closed. The best part was, when the gang unmasks the villain and yells, "Joe Barbera!" Mr. Barbera quickly woke up as I turned to the TV to pretend I didn't notice. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him look around and then politely laugh at the screen for my benefit. As the "The End" sign came up, he turned to me and said, "Thank you for keeping the integrity of the character. Are you going to do any more?" I was just gleaming.
After that, I took the video upstairs for a private viewing with Mr. Hanna. He also thanked me for keeping the characters alive and later wrote me a nice note of congratulations saying, "I want you to know that I did like it and thought it was very well done. I'm sure it will do well."
We were able to use Scooby Doo one last time in our 1st season episode, "Twas The Night."
Also, in a popular interstitial on the network "The Cartoon Network Mole," Johnny has a fling with Velma. I didn't work on this Shortie, but I did enjoy it.
So then, what about Nicole Jaffe's signature?
In 2003, Nicole Jaffe reprised her role as Velma in two Scooby Doo movies, "Scooby-Doo and The Legend Of The Vampire" and "Scooby-Doo and The Monster of Mexico." Since I was friends with the casting director, she graciously brought my black and white glossy over to the record and got it signed for me.
Cue Hoyt Curtin end music.
What was that? You noticed that there's no signature next to Scrappy Doo? Curse you meddling kids!
All right. I didn't get Lennie Weinrib, the original voice (who also played Time For Timer and H.R. Pufnstuf), but he only played him for the first season and was subsequently played by Frank Welker, who signed the photograph on the far right! Conundrum overcome!
Until next time, in the words of Casey Kasem, "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars!"