It’s October, so you know what that means, TREEHOUSE OF…no, wait, this isn’t Talking Simpsons…it is October though so let’s look at some more nostalgia Halloween this month beginning with The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby Doo:
The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo is the seventh incarnation of the Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon Scooby-Doo, and the final first-run version of the original 1969–86 broadcast run of the series. It premiered on September 7, 1985 (1985-09-07) and ran for one season on ABC as a half-hour program. Thirteen episodes of the show were made in 1985. It replaced Scary Scooby Funnies, a repackaging of earlier shows; another repackaged series, Scooby’s Mystery Funhouse, followed. The series used to air in reruns on USA Network in the 1990s, then later on Cartoon Network, and from time to time on Cartoon Network’s sister channel Boomerang until 2014.
In the initial episode, the gang are thrown off course on a trip to Honolulu in Daphne’s plane, landing instead in the Himalayas. While inside a temple, Scooby and Shaggy are tricked by two bumbling ghosts named Weerd and Bogel into opening the Chest of Demons, a magical artifact which houses the 13 most terrifying and powerful ghosts and demons ever to walk the face of the Earth. As the ghosts can only be returned to the chest by those who originally set them free, Scooby and Shaggy, accompanied by Daphne, Scrappy-Doo, and a young juvenile Latino con artist named Flim-Flam, embark on a worldwide quest to recapture them before they wreak irreversible havoc upon the world.
Assisting them is Flim-Flam’s friend, a warlock named Vincent Van Ghoul (based upon and voiced by Vincent Price), who contacts the gang using his crystal ball and often employs magic and witchcraft to assist them. The 13 escaped ghosts, meanwhile, each attempt to do away with the gang lest they be returned to the chest, often employing Weerd and Bogel as lackeys.
Yeah, definitely a huge step away from the traditional Scooby Doo formula. Here’s a better understanding of what happened.
Scooby Doo first premiered back in 1969 and by that the mid 80s, the series had been on for 16 years through CBS and ABC’s Saturday morning lineups in different incarnations such as The New Scooby Doo Movies, The Scooby Doo Show, Scooby Doo & Scrappy Doo, they even did pairing with other shows such as The Richie Rich Scooby Doo Show and The Scooby & Scrappy Doo/Puppy Hour.
So by 1985, Hanna Barbera and ABC came to the realization of what was popular at the time, supernatural comedies, two of the most successful movies of that time were Ghostbusters & Gremlins so they figure “let’s bring in that Ghostbusters/Gremlins style humor into Scooby-Doo,” what was also popular at the time? Michael Jackson’s Thriller, with Vincent Price’s famous evil laugh at the end and so, Vincent Price was also thrown in there too.
Story editor and associate producer Tom Ruegger led the overhaul of the property, and the irreverent, fourth wall breaking humor found in each episode would resurface in his later works, among them A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Tiny Toon Adventures, and Animaniacs. Of The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, Ruegger recalls not being fond of the Flim-Flam character (“Definitely the product of network focus groups”) or the other added characters in the cast. As with most of the other early-1980s Scooby-Doo entries, original characters Fred Jones and Velma Dinkley do not appear.
Yeah, that was another strange thing they did, Fred and Velma were, for some reason, cut from the series in the 80s for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense. Fred would show up in The Nutcracker Scoob, a Scooby Doo Christmas episode from 1984 but other than that, Fred and Velma were both axed from the series at that time and really, I don’t get why.
And also, yeah, Flim-Flam was clearly a character made strictly for network focus groups. In fact, the description of his character on Wikipedia is literally “a young juvenile Latino con artist”…how do you even respond to that, even as I wrote that down, I’m thinking “how do you even respond to something like that?” And sure enough, Flim-Flam was a lame character, he was an even lamer character than Scrappy Doo, that’s how bad he was, at least Scrappy Doo was always willing to get in there and duke it out with the monster, he was at least the opposite of Scooby Doo but yeah, Flim-Flam was just there to be the likeable kid character that kids can relate to….or at least, that’s how the network felt back then.
Flim Flam makes a cameo as a wax museum figure in easily the best of the Scooby Doo shows, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. Daphne asks Fred if he remembers him, but Fred reminds her that he wasn’t with them at that time.
13 Ghosts was canceled and replaced by reruns of Laff-a-Lympics in March 1986, before the end of the season. They didn’t even let the reruns run until the new fall lineup the next season like with most networks and shows that were cancelled did back then, that’s how much of a failure it was seen by ABC at the time.
At the time of the cancellation, eleven of the 13 ghosts were recaptured, although it is unknown if some of the ghosts captured in the two episodes “Ship of Ghouls” & “A Spooky Little Ghoul Like You” where more than one of the 13 ghosts were captured, are part of the originals. The show didn’t even have a conclusion to its’ storyline and it was a good storyline and twist to the Scooby Doo storyline where you didn’t have people dressed up in monster costumes but it never executed itself to a good enough idea to convince people to stick with it.
It was another example of a TV series that was past its’ prime trying to find new ways to change its’ structure to keep kids tuning in as what happened with Alvin & The Chipmunks and The Smurfs among many others that we’ve talked about in the past.
It wouldn’t be until 13 years after this series where the change of the Scooby Doo formula would lead to success with the previously reviewed Scooby Doo On Zombie Island, which was marketed as the official first Scooby Doo project where “the monsters were real.”
The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby Doo was an interesting concept of trying to blend Scooby Doo with supernatural comedy but a botched execution, there was nothing about the rest of the series to change the formula to get people to stick with the show and it’s now just an interesting piece of forgotten Scooby Doo history.
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