Saturday, September 08, 2012

Did you know Scooby-Doo and the gang are from Ohio, apparently?

I've been watching various incarnations of Scooby-Doo cartoons with various levels of interest and frequency for as long as I've been alive, but, had you asked me where Scooby and his human companions hailed from at any point before, say, 1988, I would have confessed ignorance.

The cartoons I had seen the most, the 1969-1984 shows Scooby-Dooo, Where Are You?, The Scooby-Doo Show and New Scooby-Doo Movies that aired in the early afternoon when I was a little kid, almost never seemed to take place anywhere that recognizably felt like it was set in something resembling a hometown. The impression I had was that the gang was always traveling—vacationing, visiting a friend or relative and, on very rare occasions, actually looking for a mystery rather than stumbling into one. (The one where Scooby acts as a decoy to foil a dog-napping plot, which the Internet tells me is from the first season and is entitled "Decoy for a Dognapper", used to stand out in my young head as the only mystery the gang didn't have to drive some distance to get to).

What happened in 1988? Well, that was when A Pup Named Scooby-Doo debuted as a Saturday morning cartoon, and established Coolsville as the gang's hometown, although like Gotham City, Springfield and other cartoon cities, the exact state in which it was situated was never mentioned. The 2004 feature film Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed was similarly set in Coolsville (although that Coolsville seemed like a much bigger city than the other, prior Coolsville).

Well, not long ago I picked up a DVD copy of Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster, a 2010 Cartoon Network original, live-action movie...sort of a made-for-TV, budget version of the feature films, set prior to those...and a sequel to the 2009 Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins!, featuring the same cast.

So I'm half-watching it while drawing, taking note of the curious casting choices, like dark-haired Robbie Amell as Fred and slim, lithe, Asian Hayley Kiyoko as Velma, and thinking to myself how strange it is that this Daphne is so much bigger and curvier than this Velma, and that this may be the first instance where Velma is clearly the more attractive of the two (Personally, I think Linda Cardellini is hotter than Sarah Michelle Gellar, but that's certainly something that reasonable people can disagree about; actually, now that I'm re-watching this, Kate Melton's actually pretty hot too...I guess I was originally just struck by the fact that thsi Velma is so much hotter and...different than the original cartoon Velma). Kiyoko's casting seems to have been another step in the gradual enhottening of Velma, that began with Cardellini being cast in the feature films, and continued with the latest character design in the current Mystery Incorporated series).
Above: Velma, apparently

The movie begins on the last day of school at Coolsville High, and the gang piling into the Mystery Machine to head to Daphne's uncle's new country club, where they've gotten summer jobs. To illustrate the trip there, the filmmakers position a tiny little Mystery Machine van on a map, and show it's progress driving along the map to get from Coolsville to Erie Pointe.

Well, imagine my surprise when I recognized the names surrounding Coolsville on the map—Wadsworth, Medina, Oberlin—and realized that, Holy shit, Coolsville is in Ohio!
Specifically, in this movie it is off of Route 18, either in Lorain County or possibly Medina County. It's south of Elyria, Oberlin and Wellington, Medina and Strongsville.
On their way up to Erie Pointe, they drive through Cleveland, then Mentor, where I currently work. They stop at Erie Pointe, a fictional city situated on a fictional peninsula jutting into the lake which, it turns out, is obviously Lake Erie. If you're familiar with this part of Ohio, Erie Pointe is shown on the close-but-hardly-exact map as being about midway between Mentor and Geneva, which would situate it around Perry or Madison. My home town is just east of Geneva, which means this Scooby-Doo mystery is set about a half hour from where I grew up watching Scooby-Doo mysteries!

Now, Erie Pointe isn't a real place, but obviously Lake Erie is real enough. As someone who has lived two-thirds of his life in the area, and had a keen interest in monsters for three-thirds of it, I am sad to report that there is no "Lake Monster of Erie Pointe"...there is supposedly a Lake Erie monster, and it's of the sea serpent variety. There's not really much evidence, or even a very compelling body of sightings, to support the existence of the beast nicknamed Bessie though—our lake monster is no Champ.

The Lake Monster in Curse of The Lake Monster is a fanged, humanoid frog monster which, oddly enough, bears some resemblance to another Ohio monster—The Loveland Frog.

The story, related by Richard Moll's lonely lighthouse keeper, is that when settlers first came to the place that would eventually become Erie Pointe, they were confronted by a witch, who warned them away, saying she owned all of the land around the lake. When they didn't heed her warnings, she used her moon stone-tipped magical staff to turn an ordinary frog into her monstrous servant.

When the gang arrives in town and meet Daphne's ascot-wearing uncle, played by Ted McGinely, the Lake Monster shows up in short order, wreaking havoc and plunging them into an un-looked for mystery.

The mystery isn't that terribly complicated, and anyone who's ever seen, like, a single episode of Scooby-Doo, will figure out the identity of the witch within, like, the first minute or two of the movie.

It's a pretty good live-action recreation of a cartoon though, with Nick Palatas doing a heck of a Shaggy voice, and doing the best job of acting like a cartoon character. The other leads are pretty decent, and Kiyoko does a good Velma voice, although she seems to be doing an impression more than a character.

The filmmakers go to noticeably great lengths to keep Scooby out of a lot of the scenes too, perhaps because even the relatively cheap animation that's used to create him was still prohibitively expensive (in many of his appearances, little is done to disguise the fact that it's a human actor with a computer-animated head and hands). They make up for that by giving the four humans their own interpersonal conflicts.

Fred and Daphne apparently started dating after the events of the previous film, and Shaggy has developed a crush on Velma, spending a majority of the movie trying to woo her, which makes Scooby jealous (a sub-plot that is explored in Mystery Incorporated, at the beginning of which Shaggy and Velma are dating, and Shaggy's trying to keep it secret from the jealous Scooby).

There are even some genuinely funny bits, like this exchange:
Shaggy: Hey Scoob, can I talk to you man to man?

Scooby: Uh...sort of...?
And, my favorite part, after a particularly garbled string of words, all beginning with "r", Shaggy sighs, "Just my luck: I have a talking dog, and I can't understand a word he says!"

Ha ha ha! (Well, I thought it was funny).

Of additional interest to grown-ups, the climax involves the gang donning color-coded scuba suits, so that the buxom Melton is running around in a partially unzipped pink suit and the totally-ripped Amell shirtless.

If you do end up watching this, and find the scenes set on the beach of Lake Erie make you want to plan a visit to the area and enjoy the beautiful beaches, the crystal blue water and the big, curious rock formations, I suppose I should warn you that it was actually filmed in Southern California, so that's apparently the Pacific Ocean playing Lake Erie, and, while I love Laker Erie and Northeast Ohio and think it's a fine place to visit or even live, it's not quite as nice as the Pacific Ocean and Southern California.

Oh! And there's a scene where Shaggy retires to his bunk to read a comic book, and he's reading a Sam Kieth-drawn Batman comic, but I'm not sure which Kieth-drawn Batman comic it is, as I only saw three panels of it.


Asher Elbein said...

Caleb, how do you feel about Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated? I'd love to see you do a write up on that.

Bella's owner said...

I've only seen the first two episodes so far. I wrote this this after seeing the first episode in 2010:

In short, I really liked it.

I just borrowed the DVD collections of the first season from the library, and hope to finally watch it this week.

mordicai said...

Scooby Doo & the Mystery of the Devil Strip!

Micheal said...,_Ohio

I thinks it's kind of cool that they put Coolsville in a real place(It's even cooler that Coolsville, Ohio is areal place) it helps add to the realism of the Scooby-Doo universe which is easy enough(maybe the real Coolsville,Ohio can claim it's the home of Scooby-Doo and have a Scooby-doo day like Metropolis, Illinois does for Superman)