Column by Steve Bennett
Posted by Steve Bennett on March 12, 2020 @ 2:24 pm CT
I have a “complicated” history with the Scooby-Doo franchise. While America could, quite literally, never seem to get enough of it as a kid I was mostly immune to its appeal, at least partially because I used to blame its massive popularity and many, many imitators for killing off Space Ghost and The Herculoids. But growing up I was always a huge Hanna-Barbera fan so DC’s Scooby-Doo Team-Up, which had clever crossovers with relatively minor DC and H-B characters (everyone from The Atom to Atom Ant), had unironically become one of my favorite comics.
I was, however, pretty indifferent to Scoob!, the CGI feature film arriving in theaters May 15, in spite of knowing it was intended to be “the first installment in a series of films set within a Hanna-Barbera shared cinematic universe.” Having your own SCU has always seemed like a relatively easy way for a film company to make an unimaginable amount of money, but actually creating one has proven to be a lot harder than just about everyone has thought; 5 Failed Attempts at Cinematic Universes (& 5 That Could Still Succeed). But that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from keep trying; Vin Diesel Thinks Bloodshot Will Kick Off A Valiant Comics Cinematic Universe.
Then I saw the final trailer, embedded below, and along with being an "origin story" for the Scooby Gang, the plot involves Scooby and Shaggy getting shanghaied by The Blue Falcon and Dynamutt, inexplicably dragged into his battle to stop villain Dick Dastardly from ushering in "a global ‘dogpocalypse.’" All of the Hanna-Barbera characters shown look great rendered in three dimensions and when changes have been made they’ve been improvements. The Blue Falcon has been given an overly complicated but impressive redesign (which to me it looks vaguely Alex Ross-ish) and along with having been given a substantial upgrade, Dynomutt no longer appears to be an incompetent idiot. A lot of H-B comic relief characters can be, well, a lot to take even in small doses, but when it comes to unfunny irritations, Dynomutt belongs in a class all his own.
Of course, the first attempt to do an HB shared universe was 2016’s Future Quest from DC, a series that featured all of the H-B action/adventure heroes from my youth, including Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, Dino Boy (but sadly not his caveman companion Ugh), The Impossibles, Birdman, The Mighty Mightor, The Herculoids, The Galaxy Trio and Frankenstein, Jr. Conspicuously absent from that roster, Moby Dick, the super whale (no relation to the character from Herman Melville novel of the same name) presumably because he was too “silly,” as if such a thing was possible. Given how well, and how well done, the DC Universe Animated Movies have been (the latest, Superman: Red Son, came out February 25, with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War set for a May 18 release), the part of me that’s still an eight-year-old boy hopes one day there will be an animated version of Future Quest.
As to whether the H-B Shared Cinematic Universe will be a success, I haven’t a clue, but the trailer makes the movie look good to someone who still isn’t the world’s biggest Scooby fan. It’s not that I still hold any animosity towards the property, it’s more like I’m forever mystified why this is the one America (as well as the rest of the world, apparently) seems to have an insatiable appetite for, not the Flintstones, Jetsons, Yogi Bear or Huckleberry Hound. I’m not what you’d call an Easter Egg hunter, but after seeing a shot from the movie where the Mystery Machine is parked outside Peebles Pet Store (home of Magilla Gorilla) I want to see it if only to find out which other H-B characters will be making cameo appearances.
Confessions of a Comic Book Guy -- This Just In”), but I neglected to mention something they somehow didn’t object to. That being in the first episode our heroes Luz and Eda break into a prison, free the prisoners, and instigate a riot and mass escape, which is exactly the kind of subversive, anti-authority activity you would think an organization named One Million Moms would be on the lookout for.
And the strangest thing about that was this wasn’t even the first time that has happened in a Disney cartoon. I’ve written before (see “Confessions of a Comic Book Guy-Non-Toxic”) about the 2016 episode of Star Vs. The Forces Of Evil," St. Olga's Reform School for Wayward Princesses," where Star and her friend Marco go undercover to break one of their friends out of a royal reform school, which for Marco meant wearing hair extensions and a flattering purple gown. This led to a lot of media attention, Disney XD gets a male princess in Star vs. the Forces of Evil, but what often went unmentioned was how also Marco underwent Clockwork Orange style "reconditioning" (torture) after which he and Star led the students in a riot/revolt against the administration leaving them in charge.
The idea of institutions existing to repress and suppress kids’ natural enthusiasm and individuality seems to be a theme in Disney TV animation which, probably because of the fantastic settings, seems to have slid under the radar of parents groups and mass media. As to whether this should be considered “social justice” posturing or just plain pandering to kids, I couldn’t tell you.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
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