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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Meddling Kids + Sidekick + Mysteries = Series: 13 Hanna-Barbera productions that recycled the iScooby-Doo/i format

1. Josie And The Pussycats (1970-1971)
Throughout the majority of the 1960s, Hanna-Barbera Studios had several significant successes on the small screen, capturing the imaginations of viewers with animated series revolving around funny animals (The Yogi Bear Show), families both prehistoric (The Flintstones) and futuristic (The Jetsons), and action heroes fighting the forces of evil under the sea (Moby Dick), in outer space (Space Ghost, The Herculoids), and even in the days of the Arabian Nights (Shazzan). When Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! made its debut as part of CBS’s Saturday morning lineup in September 1969, however, the adventures of a quartet of teenage mystery solvers and their talking dog proved to be such an unparalleled out-of-the-box hit for Hanna-Barbera that the studio immediately decided to try and duplicate its success by tweaking the formula here and there but ultimately still following the same format.


The first such attempt came in the form of an adaption of the Archie Comics series Josie, which—as a result of the success of The Archies both as an animated series and as a band (“Sugar, Sugar” topped the Billboard charts in September 1969)—was re-conceptualized to feature its heroine as a singer in an all-girl rock ’n’ roll band. Josie was handed a guitar and teamed with her ditzy blonde friend Melody, who could suddenly play drums, along with Valerie, a new character who, in addition to her unparalleled skills on tambourine, was the first female African-American to be a regular character on a Saturday morning cartoon. The series also added Alan M., who played a dual role as the Pussycats’ roadie and Josie’s crush, and adapted three other characters from the comic: Alexander Cabot III (voiced by Casey Kasem, which only served to further the Scooby comparisons), serving as the Pussycats’ manager; his sister Alexandra, who played the part of the band’s recurring nemesis; and, just to make sure there was an animal in the mix, Alexandra’s cat, Sebastian.

2. Josie And The Pussycats In Outer Space (1972)
After spending 16 episodes touring the world and encountering an inordinate number of mad scientists and super villains, Hanna-Barbera decided to ramp up the absurdity even further by sending the Pussycats and their entourage into outer space, even going so far as to add a cute, fuzzy alien named Bleep to their group. Although Josie And The Pussycats In Outer Space also ended after only 16 episodes, the band somehow found its way back to Earth by 1973—albeit without Bleep, whose pointedly unmentioned disappearance remains disturbingly unexplained to this day—to make their final Saturday morning appearance as special guest stars on an episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies.

3. The Funky Phantom (1971-1972)
Having pointedly kept the antagonists in Josie And The Pussycats away from the realm of the supernatural, Hanna-Barbera went in the opposite direction for their next Scooby clone, this time taking a trio of teenagers—April, Augie, and Skip, the latter voiced by once and future Monkee Micky Dolenz—and their dog, Elmo, plopping them into the Looney Dooney (as opposed to the Mystery Machine), and teaming them up with a couple of actual ghosts: Jonathan Wellington Muddlemore, known to his close friends as Mudsy, and his cat, Boo. Although the jaunty theme song makes it easy to gloss over its gruesomeness, it’s revealed in the lyrics that Mudsy and Boo met their end during the Revolutionary War—not in combat, but by attempting to hide from the Redcoats by climbing inside a clock, only to find themselves trapped inside its walls, where they ultimately died. In a bit of bonus recycling, The Funky Phantom actually swiped from two Hanna-Barbera series, with Daws Butler unabashedly instilling the titular character not only with the exact same voice that he’d used for Snagglepuss, but also some of the pink mountain lion’s speech patterns, most notably the habit of ending sentences with the word “even.” Although the series lasted for only 17 episodes, Mudsy has made a few other appearances in the Hanna-Barbera universe, most notably in an episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law, where the Phantom’s mythos is finally expanded to include clarification on why he warrants the adjective “funky.”


4. The Amazing Chan And The Chan Clan (1972)
Charlie Chan, the fictional Chinese-American detective created by author Earl Derr Biggers, made his debut in the 1925 story The House Without A Key and quickly became a hugely popular character featured in novels, comics strips, movies, radio, a syndicated TV drama, and animated series. Although Biggers’ novels described Chan as a widower with only three children, The Amazing Chan And The Chan Clan increased the character’s virility considerably, expanding his family to 10 children: Henry, Stanley, Suzie, Alan, Anne, Tom, Flip, Nancy, Mimi, and Scooter. (Notably missing from the brood: “number one son” Lee, an ironic absence given that Charlie Chan was voiced in the series by Keye Luke, who played Lee in more than half a dozen films.) Accompanied by their dog, Chu Chu, the Chan Clan regularly aided their father in solving mysteries, tooling around town in a van, which—thanks to Alan, the family’s resident inventor—could transform into whatever sort of vehicle was most convenient to the situation at hand. As a bonus, the Chan kids were also a band, with episodes of the series featuring songs written by Don Kirshner and sung by Ron Dante, who performed the same duties for The Archies. The series ended after only 16 episodes, before an album of the Chan Clan’s material could see release.

5. Butch Cassidy (1973)
Having followed up its series about an all-girl band that solved mysteries with a series about an all-siblings band that solved mysteries, Hanna-Barbera continued their “if it ain’t broke, don’t fit it” model of series development by presenting viewers with the adventures of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kids, a band featuring two guys (frontman/guitarist Butch and drummer Wally), two girls (Stephanie on bass and Merilee on tambourine), and a dog named Elvis. On the rare occasions when they weren’t rocking out, Butch and the Kids kept busy by fighting crime, aided by Mr. Socrates, a computer (with the inexplicably human quality of being allergic to dogs) that Butch could contact from the field via a special ring. Although the series only lasted for 13 episodes, Butch and the rest of the Kids were later used to great comedic effect in episodes of Sealab 2021.

6. Goober And The Ghost Chasers (1973-1975)
Preposterous concepts presented as established fact without so much as an iota of backstory to explain them have long been a staple of Saturday morning cartoons. But Goober And The Ghost Chasers put viewers’ suspension of disbelief to the test by offering them a series about a dog with a tendency to turn completely invisible. Easily the most unabashed of the Scooby-Doo clones, Goober featured three teenagers—Ted, Tina, and Gilly, the latter presumably a tip of the hat to Gilly Walker, one of Goober Pyle’s pals on The Andy Griffith Show—driving around in a van with their canine companion, searching for new stories for Ghost Chasers Magazine while testing the veracity of the supernatural phenomenon with such devices as the Specter Detector. Adding to the general weirdness of the proceedings, the series also awkwardly shoehorned four of the kids from The Partridge Family into eight of the 15 episodes (with Susan Dey, Danny Bonaduce, Suzanne Crough, and Brian Forster providing the voices for their respective characters) and, in one notable installment, even had the Ghost Chasers hanging out at Wilt Chamberlain’s dude ranch.

7. Speed Buggy (1973-1975)
After checking the official mystery solvers’ handbook and confirming that sidekicks don’t always have to be animals, Hanna-Barbera took another trio of teenagers—Tinker, Mark, and Debbie—and plopped them into the seats of an anthropomorphic dune buggy with a voice that sounded suspiciously similar to that of Jack Benny’s Maxwell. Taking its cue (and sometimes even its plots) from Josie And The Pussycats, but substituting racing for rock ’n’ roll, Speed Buggy and his crew traveled around the world, participating in various competitions either before or after accidentally stumbling into encounters with evil geniuses and power-hungry maniacs with names like Dr. Ohm and Beef Finger. Despite lasting for only 16 episodes, Speed Buggy holds the rare distinction of having aired on CBS, ABC, and NBC at various points during the ’70s, earning the title character a fan base that has resulted in cameo appearances in episodes of Johnny Bravo, My Life As A Teenage Robot, Invader Zim, Animaniacs, South Park, and Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law


8. Super Friends (1973-1984)
After going out of its way to license the rights to create an animated series based on DC Comics’ Justice League Of America, Hanna-Barbera reportedly decided that it might be wise to de-politicize the name of the organization in the wake of the Vietnam War, giving the collective of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin, and Aquaman a kinder, gentler, and more kid-friendly identity. Continuing in that vein, the heroes were also saddled with a couple of teen sidekicks—Wendy and Marvin—who, along with their canine companion, Wonder Dog, were deemed “junior Super Friends” even as the series’ opening credits played up the characters’ Scooby-Doo similarities. After spending 16 weeks learning the proper methods of fighting injustice, righting wrongs, and serving all mankind, both the characters and their series departed from the airwaves, and when it finally returned four years later, it had been retooled as The All-New Super Friends Hour, leaving Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog in oblivion in favor of the shape-shifting Wonder Twins, Zan and Jayna, and their alien monkey, Gleek, whose superpowers made it much easier to incorporate them into the Super Friends’ adventures.

9. Clue Club (1976-1977)
Seemingly based on the premise that if teenagers are able to successfully solve mysteries with the help of a dog, then they should be able to solve them even better with the help of two dogs, Clue Club introduced viewers to Woofer and Wimper, a couple of hound dogs who, although they couldn’t communicate verbally with humans, spoke to each other with voices resembling those of Amos and Andy. Although the dogs’ actual owners were never confirmed, they almost certainly belonged to Larry, Pepper, D.D., or Dotty, the quartet of teenagers behind the Clue Club private investigation agency. As the youngest of the group as well as the most tech-savvy, Dotty manned the Club’s computer while helping to analyze whatever clues the Club came up with, leaving Larry to handle the interrogations and Pepper and D.D. to follow up on leads. Despite having twice the dog power, Clue Club only lasted for a single season, although some of its episodes were trimmed down and repackaged as Woofer And Wimper, Dog Detectives used as between-show interstitial segments on CBS’s The Skatebirds.

10. Jabberjaw (1976-1978)
After Jaws became one of the must-see films of 1975, Hanna-Barbera immediately began to consider the question, “How can we work a shark into one of our cartoons?” Given the profound amount of recycling involved, the studio’s mulling-over period clearly didn’t last long. Similar to Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, Jabberjaw was constructed from parts borrowed from numerous sources, including Scooby-Doo (the characters of Biff, Shelly, Bubbles, and Clamhead are also teenage mystery solvers, except with a great white shark as their mascot), Josie And The Pussycats (they’re all in a band called the Neptunes), The Jetsons (it’s set in the future), and even Sealab 2020 (the whole thing takes place underwater). Even Jabberjaw’s voice isn’t original, with Frank Welker melding a Curly Howard impression with Rodney Dangerfield’s catchphrase (“No respect!”). Like Speed Buggy, Jabberjaw’s popularity has extended well beyond the single-season run of his series, with the character turning up for brief appearances in episodes of Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics; Yogi’s Treasure Hunt; Sealab 2021; Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law; and Johnny Bravo.


11. Captain Caveman And The Teen Angels (1977-1980)
Captain Caveman And The Teen Angels may not have followed the Scooby-Doo format precisely—is it even possible to be a superhero and a sidekick at the same time?—but there’s no denying that the two series share some of the same DNA. Described in the show’s opening narration as “the world’s first superhero,” Captain Caveman was rescued from a block of ice by the Teen Angels (Brenda, Dee Dee, and Taffy), after which he joined the girls on their mystery-solving adventures, living in a makeshift cave environment attached to the top of their van. Possessing super strength, the ability to fly (albeit somewhat sporadically), a club that packs a major wallop, and a seemingly infinite amount of objects hidden within his body hair, the Captain’s enthusiasm for doing good deeds more than makes up for his limited vocabulary. After three seasons of his own show, a Captain Caveman was incorporated into the Flintstones’ universe, where he was given a secret identity (Chester) and a son (Cavey Jr.). Since then, he has been seen in Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law; Robot Chicken; Family Guy; and—along with Jabberjaw, Speed Buggy, and the Funky Phantom—was part of Scooby-Doo’s fever dream about attending the Mystery Solvers Club State Finals in season one of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated.

12. The Buford Files (1979)
Melding the mystery solving of Scooby-Doo with the cornpone comedy of The Dukes Of Hazzard and The Misadventures Of Sheriff Lobo, no animated program screams “this could only have been made in 1979” quite as profoundly as The Buford Files. The series was teamed with The Galloping Ghost (each segment lasting for 15 minutes) and focused on a bloodhound named Buford and his masters, teenage siblings Cindy Mae and Woody, as they helped solve whatever mysteries and criminal misdeeds in Fenokee County that couldn’t be cracked by Sheriff Muletrain Pettigrew and his deputy, Goofer McGee, which is to say pretty much all of them. After three months and 13 episodes, however, The Buford Files were closed permanently.

13. The New Shmoo (1979)
With the 1970s rapidly winding to a close, Hanna-Barbera decided to take one last stab at wringing another series out of the Scooby-Doo format, bringing in an amorphous white blob of a creature known as the Shmoo. Created by Al Capp, the Shmoo looks like a chubby bowling pin with feet and, when originally introduced in the comic strip Li’l Abner, was described as an asexual creature that multiplies faster than rabbits, can subsist on nothing but air, and lives its life in hopes of being eaten. While the tastiness of Shmoo meat has been well documented elsewhere, The New Shmoo offered no such insight into the creature’s flavor, as the series was inevitably far more focused on teaming the Shmoo with a trio of teenagers—Mickey, Nita, and Billy Joe, all employees of Mighty Mysteries Comics—and having him transform into a myriad of different shapes while helping them find new material for their publication. Although The New Shmoo didn’t last long, Hanna-Barbera refused to dismiss the title character altogether and promptly (and without any explanation whatsoever) dumped him into prehistoric times so that he could serve alongside Fred and Barney as an officer on the Bedrock Police Department in The Flintstone Comedy Hour. In short order, the Shmoo retired from TV altogether, but at least one aspect of the series lives on: Since 2006, Frank Welker has been using his Shmoo voice to play the title character in PBS Kids’ Curious George.


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