In 1969, the head of daytime programming at CBS, Fred Silverman, wanted Hanna-Barbera to create a cartoon that mixed the formula of the previous year's successful Archie Show (teens in a band) with the old radio drama I Love a Mystery (friends travelling around solving mysteries) and a touch of horror (Silverman was a big fan of the Universal Monsters). The writers' first effort was too much of a ripoff of The Archie Show, so they had to start over; the second time around, they based their show more on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.
Name: Fred Jones
Dress: Sweater, ascot, slacks, monk boots
Ambition: To be a successful inventor
Likes: A challenge
Dobie Gillis, for the small segment of our readers who weren't watching CBS in the late 1950s, was a blond, clean-cut "every teen," and is thus the clear inspiration for Freddy. He's the leader of the gang, after all (though not the star of the show). He was originally named "Ronnie" when the show was in development, but was renamed in honor of Fred Silverman. The figure stands 4⅞" tall, has a swivel neck, swivel shoulders, T-crotch, and hinged elbows and knees. He's wearing his traditional outfit, not one of the "modernized" versions they kept putting on him in the 2000s.
Surprisingly, the sculpt of the toy suggests that these figures are based on the Derrick J. Wyatt designs for Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated rather than Iwao Takamoto's Scooby Doo, Where Are You! art: he's got the big, square, Bruce Campbell chin rather than the more rounded face seen back in the original series. His hair is chunkier, too.
Name: Norville Rogers.
Likes: Whatever's edible.
Keeping with the Dobie Gillis theme, Shaggy is clearly based on Dobie's beatnik best friend, Maynard G. Krebs (played on the show by Bob Denver, who would later become famous enough to have an island named after him). Shaggy stands just a bit over 5" tall, and has the same articulation as Fred. So that his long, untucked green shirt doesn't get in the way of his hip articulation (that's "hip" as in "leg joints," not "hip" as in "super cool, daddy-o"), it's got cutouts in front of his legs. That's how we can tell that this isn't a reused sculpt from the 2000s Scooby-Doo toyline: those figures had shirts that were straight across the front.
Shaggy was voiced on the cartoon by Casey Casem - yes, the Casey Casem. He'd originally auditioned for Fred, while Frank Welker thought he would be playing Shaggy; obviously those roles were reversed before the show went to air, but imagine a world in which Fred and Shaggy had each other's voices! "Zoinks" indeed!
Name: Daphne Blake.
Ambition: To be a famous mystery writer
Likes: Solving mysteries and looking good.
Really? Daphne wants to be a writer? Did anyone ever know that? I sure didn't. She was based on the object of Dobie's affection, the affluent Thalia. Sure, Thalia was blonde, rather than Daphne's appealing red, but the archetype is there. She stands 4⅜" tall, and the lower edge of her dress is molded from soft PVC so that her legs can move freely. Sadly, her hair keeps her head from turning very far. The purple of her torso doesn't quite match the color of her arms and skirt, owing to the use of different materials.
Daphne's face tries to capture the look of the Mystery Inc. artwork, but it doesn't really work very well. The shape of the head is spot-on, with its small, pointed chin, but her mouth is too low and her nose is too long. You can see what they were trying for, but it doesn't really work. A for effort, but C for execution.
Name: Velma Dinkley.
Eyes: Not so good.
Ambition: To get into Mensa
Likes: Science, logic puzzles and mysteries.
Velma, the patron saint of sexy nerd girls, owes her existence to Shiela James, who played Dobie Gillis' brainy gal pal Zelda (she also had an unrequited crush on him, but that obviously didn't port over to Fred). Velma's the shortest (human) figure in this set, standing only 4" tall. In the original cartoon, her sweater was big and chunky, but the modern take is more form-fitting. The ribbing on the cuffs and turtleneck are sculpted, and her pleated skirt is molded from the same ABS plastic as the rest of her trunk: to make sure the legs can still move, she has big notches taken out of the front of her legs.
The SDMI design kept Velma's face round, but added a bit of a point to her chin. She doesn't have to worry about losing her glasses, because they're sculpted on. Her bangs should really come down low enough to reach the top of her eyewear, rather than leaving a strip of forehead visible, but she does get the little barrettes on both sides of her head.
Ambition: To eat more Scooby Snacks.
Disikes: Ghosts, witches, monsters and demons.)
Back when the show was just an Archie clone, the gang's pet was a sheepdog named Two Much (and, for the record, the show was called "Mysteries Five"). After the restart, Two Much was turned back into a Great Dane, and the show's name was changed to Who's S-S-Scared? The network thought the premise was too scary, so Fred Silverman had the writers retool it again, this time making the dog the focus and upping the comedic bits. He also renamed the dog after
a bit of nonsense in Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" (released three years prior).
Scoob's design doesn't really change much over the years, so this figure could represent whatever era you want it to. He has a typically splayed stance and his head is held high. He gets swivel joints at the neck, shoulders, hips, and tail, and hinges at the elbows/knees. What more could you really want for him?
While the Scooby Gang are new sculpts based on Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, the villains in this set are not. They're all repacks of the baddies from the line Equity Toys made back in 2001. And they come from two different shows!
From the Scooby Doo, Where Are You! episode "Go Away Ghost Ship" (originally aired Dec. 20, 1969)
comes the Ghost of Redbeard. A newspaper article about shipping magnate CL Magnus having his ships raided spurs the gang to investigate - over 300 years ago, Magnus' ancestors brought Redbeard to justice and he vowed to return and avenge himself.
The Ghost of Redbeard was originally a glorified accessory included in a two-pack, and his quality shows it. He has only two points of articulation - peg shoulders - and is otherwise a hollow (if thick) rotocast piece. He's 5⅛" tall, but does have the advantage of an accessory: his pirate sword. The detail on the figure is decent, but remember, this is a 12-year-old sculpt done in PVC: it's not going to be super impressive. Maybe a paint wash would help?
Next we get the Witch Doctor, from "A Tiki Scare is No Fair" (broadcast Oct. 17, 1970). He's definitely one of the most famous
Scooby villains, since he appeared in at least one version of the opening credits. While on vacation in Hawaii, Shaggy and Scooby are warned away from an ancient village of a lost tribe by their tour guide John Sims, who tells them about recent hauntings there.
The Witch Doctor is, like the Ghost of Redbeard, a rotocast accessory with two points of articulation. He's posed all hunched over in a threatening stance, so the feather on top of his tiki mask only reaches 4⅜" tall. He can hold his skull-topped staff in his right hand. He looks better than Redbeard, probably because of the greater variety of vibrant colors.
The other three foes in this set are real action figures - and they're also from The Scooby-Doo Show, which is apparently a different
thing than Scooby Doo, Where Are You! (it was broadcast on ABC, rather than CBS, for one thing). From the Oct. 2, 1976 episode "Watt a Shocking Ghost" comes the 10,000 Volt Ghost - aka, the electric monster that looks like Hulk's enemy Zzzax and is famous for performing a filing cabinet gag with Shaggy and Scooby in ski gear.
The figure is cast from translucent orange plastic, with red paint for the eyebrows and yellow used to outline the jagged "electric" details in the sculpt (as well as his eyes and the interior of his mouth). The toy's orange is closer to yellow than it is to red, but that may be because there's no way for the toy to do the corona of yellow energy that surrounded the character in the animation. He stands 5¼" tall, with swivel shoulders and hips, and hinged elbows and knees.
The character known as the Ghost Racer in this set was
actually called the Phantom Racer when he appeared in "The Spooky Case Of The Grand Prix Race" on Oct. 8, 1977. He was also known as the Phantom Racer when Equity released this toy in 2001, so why the change now? Was it a mistake? Or did they want to avoid confusion with the terrible movie nobody ever heard of? If so, that's stupid, because nobody was ever going to confuse the two.
The Phantom is sculpted with a slight squat, for some reason. It might make sense if there was a car for him to ride in, but there's certainly no such thing. He stands 5⅛" tall, and is sculpted pretty well. The arms and legs of his blue jumpsuit are meant to look tattered and wind-blown, and the edges of the light stripes on his arms are etched in. His face is definitely creepy, with its pallid skin, bulging red eyes, and mouth twisted into a terrible grimace. The pose of his hands is weird - there's no sense behind the way he's got his fingers bent.
Our final foe is the least well-known in the set. "The Beast Is Awake In Bottomless Lake" was the last episode
of The Scooby-Doo Show (aired Dec. 23 1978), and for whatever reason, was not included in the syndication rerun packages. So it, along with two other Season 3 episodes ("A Menace in Venice" and "Don't Go Near the Fortress of Fear") were unseen for more than a decade, until they started showing up on cable.
The Beast of Bottomless Lake is a generic fish-man. He's the biggest toy in this set, standing just over 5½" tall and with a long tail that sticks out behind him. There's a swivel joint at the base of the tail, in addition to the joints in the knees, hips, elbows and shoulders. No neck joint, because there's no neck. Rather than go crazy, trying to sculpt every single scale that covers the Beast's skin, there are just a few random areas with a few visible scales each. It's a good way to get the idea across.
It's almost impossible to have grown up any time in the past 40 years and not be at least somewhat familiar with Scooby-Doo, but I had no idea there were toys until Rustin bought them. Like he said, you're getting 10 figures for $20, and there is absolutely no way you can beat that kind of value (well, other than using a 20% Off coupon, like I did). Sure, the monsters are a little on the lame side, but the Gang themselves - especially with their Derrick J. Wyatt-influenced designs - are great. Plus, SDMI had the Crystal Cove Spook Museum, so maybe these foes are all exhibts on display there.
Even if you don't want to buy this set for yourself, it's a good one to keep in mind when Toys for Tots starts. At two bucks a toy, you can make some kid's Christmas.