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"The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo": The Complete Series DVD Review

Buy The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo: The Complete Series on DVD from Amazon.com The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (1985)
Series & DVD Details

Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera / Producer: Mitch Schauer / Story Editor/Associate Producer: Tom Ruegger

Supervising Director: Ray Patterson / Animation Direction Supervisor: Chris Cuddington / Directors: Art Davis, Oscar Dufau, Tony Love, Don Lusk, Rudy Zamora, Alan Zaslove / Story Direction: Cullen Blaine, Scott Jeralds, Bob Nesler, Mitch Schauer, Bob Taylor, Roy Wilson

Regular Voice Cast: Casey Kasem (Shaggy), Don Messick (Scooby-Doo, Scrappy-Doo), Susan Blu (Film Flam), Heather North (Daphne), Vincent Price (Vincent VanGhoul), Arte Johnson (Weerd), Howard Morris (Bogel) / Additional Guest Voices: Bob Arbogast, Gay Autterson, Hamilton Camp, Vicki Carroll, Peter Cullen, Marshall Efron, Patricia Elliott, Dick Erdman, Bernard Ernhard, Linda Gary, Joan Gerber, Phil Hartman, Alice Hirson, Bob Holt, Marilyn Lightstone, Kenneth Mars, Edie McClurg, Sidney Miller, Pat Musick, Alan Oppenheimer, Bob Ridgely, Michael Rye, John Stephenson, Russi Taylor, Les Tremayne, B.J. Ward, Frank Welker

Running Time: 307 Minutes (13 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital Mono 1.0 (English, French, Spanish, Thai)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, Thai
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled in Spanish and Thai
Original Airdates: September 7, 1985 - December 7, 1985
DVD Release Date: June 29, 2010; Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase; Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)

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Hanna-Barbera Productions had no shortage of hit animated television series in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. None of their worlds seemed as enduringly popular, though, as that of Scooby-Doo. The lovable largely intelligible dog was introduced back in 1969 via the mystery comedy series "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!". While only 25 half-hour episodes were produced of that original cartoon, they remained a fixture of CBS Saturday morning programming for three years. The young sleuths didn't disappear then; the fall of 1972 brought "The New Scooby-Doo Movies", an hour-long series that relied heavily on animated renderings of celebrity guest stars like Don Knotts, Batman & Robin,
The Harlem Globetrotters, The Three Stooges, and Dick Van Dyke. "Movies" lasted the same two seasons as its predecessor, reruns of which returned in 1974.

Hanna-Barbera would continue to create new adventures for Scooby and the gang, under a variety of titles, including "The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour", "Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics", and "Scooby's All-Stars." Fans consider all these different names for one 40-episode run given the blanket title "The Scooby-Doo Show" in syndication. By that same count, "Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo" is considered both the franchise's fourth and fifth incarnations (the former being a half-hour show, while the latter were 7-minute shorts sharing time slots with Richie Rich and something called "The Puppy's New Adventures"). One-season "The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show" (later retitled "The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries") was the sixth distinct Scooby experience.

And that brings us to this review's subject, "The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo". This, the franchise's seventh program, ran for a single season, airing on ABC from 1985 to 1986. It would mark the end of Scooby's presence on Saturday morning television for two years, until "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo" provided a new infantilized take. Since that disappeared in 1991, two 21st century productions have served up new Scooby adventures for a new generation of kids and a third is set to premiere this summer.

Flim Flam, Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Daphne, and Scrappy-Doo appear with the Chest of Demons in the "13 Ghosts" opening title sequence. You might suspect otherwise, but Vincent VanGhoul (modeled closely after his voice, Vincent Price) is actually one of the good guys of this series.

Any television property that can remain relevant for over forty years has something going for it, and Scooby-Doo's longevity is especially impressive when you remember that it has always targeted kids, a demographic that generally gets programs retired after just a few years. If my history of Scooby-Doo television didn't scare you off, I salute you. The characters' legacies are a lot to wrap one's head around, but many are willing to do that because Scooby, his scraggily-goateed slacker owner Shaggy, and their friends are cool enough to merit the effort. Similar to "Sesame Street" (which coincidentally debuted two months later), liking Scooby-Doo cartoons is rarely in question. What distinguishes the fans is how much they like the Scooby gang and how wide their appreciation of the franchise stretches. Even the most devout draw the line somewhere, whether it's an aversion to Scooby's plainly-speaking nephew Scrappy-Doo, invented in 1979, or, more likely, the rancid recent live-action movies directed by Raja Gosnell and starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, and Linda Cardellini.

Personally, I absolutely enjoy Scooby and his friends, but I've never been passionate enough to know the different series and have opinions on them. When I saw The Complete Series of "13 Ghosts" on Warner's DVD release schedule, I checked the air dates and episode count, then decided I would definitely be glad to make time for a review. After all, I find it a lot easier to get into 1980s cartoons than today's didactic or obnoxious fare and even a terrible show couldn't induce too much pain with just thirteen episodes.

Fortunately, not only is "13 Ghosts" not terrible, it is pretty good.

Though fairly harmless on their own, goofball ghosts Weerd and Bogel are often in cahoots with more menacing specters. This is not the only time that Shaggy and Scooby-Doo grab canes and hats to perform a stage act on this short-lived show.

By the mid-1980s, Scooby-Doo's well-known four-teenager dynamic hadn't been complete in some time. With the growing attention devoted to Scrappy-Doo, Shaggy's friends Fred (the ascoted blonde) and Velma (the bespectacled brunette) had been phased out. So was Daphne (the redheaded girl), but she returned as a regular in the sixth incarnation ("New Scooby..."), which also treated Fred and Velma (who had been absent even longer) to guest appearances. "13 Ghosts" keeps the boy-girl-dog-dog dynamic of "New Scooby", never welcoming Fred and Velma back.
A fifth core cast member is had in an archetype that was popular in the 1980s, that of the streetwise Asian boy. Flim Flam, introduced as a potion salesboy in the first episode, fits that bill like a glove. His mystic friend Vincent VanGhoul, a Vincent Price caricature voiced by the man himself, serves as the group's spiritual advisor of sorts, often appearing in a crystal ball. Rounding out the regulars are Bogel and Weerd, the two mischievous but fairly harmless ghosts who con Shaggy and Scooby into releasing the eponymous spirits as only the living can.

"13 Ghosts" is pleasantly story-driven, especially in its premise-establishing premiere episode. It takes Shaggy, Daphne, Scooby, and Scrappy to the Himalayan Mountains, where locked in a chest hidden inside a temple are the titular baker's dozen, the world's scariest ghosts. When Shaggy and Scooby inadvertently let them out, the series' design becomes clear. The gang will have to capture these fearsome ghosts and return them to the chest. Each episode involves a different ghost, without too rigid a structure. (Sadly, a title revision may be in order, because only eleven are retrieved by series' end. Wikipedia's listing has information on two purportedly "lost" episodes.)

Aspects of the series seem inspired by then-recent hit films Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. As the former blockbuster does much more skillfully than the latter, comedy here tempers what could be dark or frightening. "13 Ghosts" is livened up by a loose form, which sees it briefly adopting the stylings of game shows, a news editorial, a used car commercial, and bouncing ball sing-alongs. Experienced young cartoon writer and story editor Tom Ruegger, who assumes associate producer duties for the first time here, would bring similar comic sensibilities to Warner's 1990s free-for-alls "Tiny Toon Adventures" and "Animaniacs." The technique would be better honed in the latter, but it provides some spunk and distinction here along with costume changes, gentle cultural parodies, and some self-referential bits. "13 Ghosts" also includes the occasional performance of old standards ("Me and My Shadow", for example) fitted with some new lyrics to serve the situation.

Unlike the franchise's first four incarnations, "13 Ghosts" does not feature a laugh track, which television animation moved away from in the 1980s. The signature Mystery Machine van occasionally becomes the Mystery Flying Machine (a plane), but is mostly replaced by a nondescript 6-wheeled red van. This program is not entirely removed from Scooby's past ones, however; joining the unmistakable Vincent Price in the voice cast are Casey Kasem and Don Messick, who still provide the familiar voices of Shaggy (who now wears a red shirt instead of his customary green) and Scooby, respectively. (Messick also voices Scrappy.)

Like much mass-produced TV animation from this era, "13 Ghosts" boasts simple but sufficient limited animation. Also common, the show borders on tedious when watched at a speed conducive to timely reviewing. I've come to find losing interest in a yesteryear cartoon series is almost the norm when revisiting in bulk, which even a modest 13 episodes qualified as here. As always, a pre-existing preferably childhood attachment to the show is invaluable here.

See a clip from "The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo" episode "Coast-to-Ghost":

Synopses follow, with red stars () denoting my three favorite episodes.

Awoo! Shaggy and Scooby meet some werewolves of the Himalayas (including a transformed Daphne) in the first episode. Scooby discovers the powers of what he thought was a stirring spoon, as Zagraz's Wonder Wand shoots out a rainbow. Ghosts are out in large numbers at Befuddle Manor, including Chest of Demons escapee Queen Morbidia.

Disc 1

1. To All the Ghouls I've Loved Before (23:32) (Originally aired September 7, 1985)
Intending to visit Hawaii, the gang winds up crash-landing in the Himalayas,
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in a town of cursed werewolves. There, they meet Flim Flam and establish the series' premise.

2. Scoobra Kadoobra (23:33) (Originally aired September 14, 1985)
Powerful black magician Maldor longs for The Wonder Wand of Zagraz, which Scooby inadvertently finds in a castle.

3. Me and My Shadow Demon (23:43) (Originally aired September 21, 1985)
When the Chest of Demons goes missing on the night when monsters are strongest, the gang must endure a shadow demon, Queen Morbidia, and other spooks in Befuddle Manor.

The journey inside a mirror takes the gang to a strange place where Scooby gets bigger, towering over Shaggy and Daphne. Scooby sees a different side of Daphne when they assume color roles in a black & white horror movie in "That's Monstertainment." No glasses are required for the kind of 3-D Scrappy-Doo experiences in the "Ship of Ghouls" theater.

4. Reflections in a Ghoulish Eye (23:34) (Originally aired September 28, 1985)
At a Marrakesh hotel during a paranormal convention, the gang is targeted by Bogel, Weerd, and their mirror monster. One character is transparently modeled after Martin Short's nerdy Ed Grimley character, I must say.

5. That's Monstertainment (23:36) (Originally aired October 5, 1985)
Scooby and friends are sucked into their television set and have to act in the old horror film The Son of the Bride of the Ghost of Frankenstein. While they're there, Zomba looks to unlock the Chest of Demons.

6. Ship of Ghouls (23:36) (Originally aired October 12, 1985)
Bound for Bermuda, the gang learns they're on a ghost ship.

The enchanting Nicara puts a love spell (and a tan?) on Vincent. The homely, inept Brewster Sisters are given a spell book and directions by Marcella in "When You Witch Upon a Star." Like, without Scooby by his side, Shaggy would go bananas, as this trip to the unsightly future reveals in "It's a Wonderful Scoob."

Disc 2

7. A Spooky Little Ghoul Like You (23:36) (Originally aired October 19, 1985)
At a Friday the 13th gathering of warlocks, Nicara uses her eyes and kisses to drain magical powers. She sets her sights on Vincent.

8. When You Witch Upon a Star (23:37) (Originally aired October 26, 1985)
Three sister witches with a spell book try to do the bidding of an escaped demon, while the Scooby gang tries to stop them.

9. It's a Wonderful Scoob (23:40) (Originally aired November 2, 1985)
Sent back and forth through his past by Time Slime, a frightened Scooby gives up ghost-catching, leaving his friends to hire an unpopular replacement for him.

Scooby et al. wind up in Kwackyland and other funny page universes. Flim Flam learns there is a catch to Professor Fantazmo's free Dooville circus: he's evil and so is his hypnotic calliope. The series ends with the gang appearing on Boris Kreepoff's television show, where things get a little strange.

10. Scooby in Kwackyland (23:36) (Originally aired November 9, 1985)
The gang finds themselves inside the worlds of the newspaper's funny pages, where comic strip characters help them try to evade Demondo.

11. Coast-to-Ghost (23:30) (Originally aired November 16, 1985)
Ghosts, including Bogel and Weerd, look to get accepted into the Spooks and Poltergeist Society on the group's Initiation Night.

12. The Ghouliest Show on Earth (23:38) (Originally aired November 23, 1985)
On a visit to Scooby's hometown Dooville, Film Flam gets lured into joining a free circus run by Professor Fantazmo, a ringmaster who is secretly an evil ghost.

13. Horror-Scope Scoob (23:36) (Originally aired December 7, 1985)
When the Chest of Demons goes missing during an appearance on Boris Kreepoff's TV show, the gang seeks to track it down.

Two by two, the stars of "The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo" get sucked into a television in the show's entertaining fifth episode. Time Slime is one of the eleven or so featured escaped ghosts whose bidding Bogel and Weerd do.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Appropriately presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, "The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo" exhibits some minor specks, scratches, and smudges on screen. The show looks pretty good overall, though, and better than you might expect for a frugal production a quarter-century old.
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The closer or larger your viewing experience, the more prominent visual shortcomings become, some attributable to the DVD but more to the original animation. Still, it's clean enough and colors are very vibrant.

The monaural sound is more than satisfactory; Vincent Price's opening narration sounds thin, as do certain other deliveries, but the experience is no doubt comparable to the original broadcast and not particularly taxing or disappointing. English subtitles are kindly provided, as are more foreign language options than you'd expect on a 1980s cartoon. Dubs are offered in French, Spanish, and Thai, with the latter two translations also featured as subtitles.

Not really an A/V issue, but something worth mentioning: a "we now return" title screen turns up randomly on one episode. It's the only time we get specific writing credits on the show.

Shaggy and Scooby try to rescue endangered rainforest marmosets in the bonus 2006 "Get a Clue!" episode "Don't Feed the Animals." The 13 Ghosts gang (minus Scrappy) consults their mystic advisor Vincent VanGhoul on Disc 1's Episodes menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Just a single bonus feature is found here, but it's a substantial and appropriate one. "Don't Feed the Animals" (22:36, first aired February 17, 2006) is the seventh episode of "Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!", Hanna-Barbera's tenth and most recent Scooby series.
Fueled by pizza sticks and specifically useful Scooby snacks, the two title characters solve mysteries on their own.

Here, they travel to the South American rainforest to find a missing doctor and endangered marmosets whose disappearances are believed to be the work of Dr. Phibes and his quest for eternal youth. Phibes' henchmen hackers are caricatures of Napoleon Dynamite and his brother Kip. Although I don't find the distinctly 21st century styles as charming as vintage Scoob, this single taste of the recent Cartoon Network program isn't bad. The episode is presented in 1.33:1 and Dolby Surround (English only).

The 16:9 menus adhere to Warner's norms, with static character images placed against a consistent backdrop and an instrumental theme (the end credits music) attached to the main screen. The colorfully-labeled discs arrive in a plastic-saving black Eco-Box case, with no inserts or slipcover.

Disc One opens with a trailer for Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare, Disc Two loads with a preview of Cartoon Network's forthcoming series "Scooby-Doo!: Mystery Incorporated", and Disc 2's "Features" menu holds an ad for upcoming video game Scooby-Doo! First Frights.

This is not the only time that lyrics appear on screen, inviting you to sing along with the gang! Like many episodes, the final one ends with the titular dog uttering his signature catchphrase and nickname,  "Scooby Dooby Doo!"

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I enjoyed discovering and contextualizing this 1980s Scooby-Doo incarnation, although its appeal diminished after a few episodes and it became a mild chore to finish. In a small dose, this horror comedy cartoon series is quite a bit of fun. It isn't great television and it certainly doesn't carry the significance of the original "Scooby-Doo" mysteries, but its place in the still-thriving franchise's canon and different approach lend it some interest. Unsurprisingly, "13 Ghosts" will be best enjoyed by those who remember liking it as '80s kids, but with a pleasing presentation and a low price, the DVD is pretty easy to recommend to anyone interested.

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Reviewed June 23, 2010. Scooby-Doo boxers are available from WebUndies.com

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Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1985 Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. and 2010 Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.