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Friday, 18 March 2016

Retro Review: The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo (1985)


The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo
Country of Origin: U.S
Hanna-Barbera Productions
Number of Episodes/Seasons: 13, 1 season
Characters: Scooby-Doo, Scrappy-Doo, Daphne Blake, Flim Flam, Vincent Van Ghoul, Bogel, Weerd
Ran from September 7 - December 7
Episode length -22 minutes (minus ads)
Aired on ABC, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, USA Network

'The Black Sheep of the Scooby Doo Family' 

I am not one of the biggest Scooby Doo fans out there, but I have appreciated what the previous incarnations have achieved. 

Scooby, Shaggy, Daphne, Scrappy with new additions, Flim Flam and Vincent Van Ghoul (standing in for Fred and Velma) set out to recapture the 13 ghosts - which have escaped, after Scooby and Shaggy were tricked into opening the chest of Demons - and to put them back in the chest. 

The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo is the first (and arguably only) serialised version of Scooby Doo with a continuous plotline that was established right from the first episode to the last, although it was eventually cancelled, and thus not all 13 ghosts had been captured. 

I enjoyed 'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo' very much because not only did it distance itself away from the earlier shows, the additions of characters such as Vincent Van Ghoul, Flim Flam and Bogel and Weird, as well as the additional plot-line and story-arc in capturing 13 ghosts they have unleashed made this incarnation of Scooby entertaining and amusing at times. It was the much-needed injection that the Scooby franchise deserved, which for decades was mostly reduced to capturing monsters and ghouls and unmasking the perpetrators behind those crimes. Had The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo continued this same exact trend, it would be too samey and identical to all of its previous and latter incarnations of the franchise

For the first time, because of the added story-arc, the show had a clear goal, even though it wasn't thoroughly achieved - no thanks to the abrupt ending and cancellation. Replacing the masked villains masquerading as ghosts and monsters with actual monsters and ghosts and making the show more supernatural, horror-themed in tone was a good move by the creators. 

That is why I couldn't understand why this rendition wasn't as successful and as positively received as other Scooby Doo predecessors. It tried something new, something different - but for many fans, it wasn't good enough according to them. 

The stories and episodes were varied, well written and scripted; each one had different narratives, themes, ghosts, even though the show's objective was virtually the same throughout the series. I really liked the direction they took with this show; making it completely different from the other Scooby Doo cartoons was a blessing, as opposed to a curse. This added twist put off die-hard Scooby fans, yet it also helped gained a new generation of fans. 

There was also a light-hearted tone to the series, along with sight gags and jokes, which weren't really present in the other Scooby shows, despite the presence of the serious Vincent Van Ghoul, that I enjoyed. This made the show slightly more comedic and humourous and though it did turn a lot of fans off like I mentioned, I enjoyed '13 Ghosts' even more

With the casting, I had no qualms with it whatsoever; Scooby and Shaggy were their usual selves, same with Daphne - with one slight change in her hairstyle, but she looked good with it. Both Daphne and Shaggy have an '80s look to them; Scrappy was less annoying than before (which was a relief) and pint-sized mischievous boy, Flim Flam and his con artist antics didn't really bother me. I understand a lot of fans didn't take too kindly to him and found him annoying, but I digress. Vincent Van Ghoul (the late Vincent Price) was a good addition to the crew. He was a true authoritative figure who had a heart of gold underneath that dark, brooding, mysterious exterior. Didn't care much for Bogal and Weird, though, other than to see them screw up.

The absence of Fred and Velma didn't affect how I viewed this show; it was still entertaining and enjoyable and a really good series. Funny, maybe a little predictable, but this is a refreshing take on Scooby Doo, veering away from the traditional format of the series and yet, it goes to show that even without 2 of the main characters of the Scooby franchise, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo can still hold its own. 

Final Verdict:

Had the series ended on a proper note, it would have made The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo as equally memorable as say 'Scooby Doo, Where are you?'. But the intriguing story arc gave the series and franchise a much-needed boost. 

One of my favourite and under-appreciated Scooby shows that were short-lived and deserves another look. 


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