Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: The five characters in Scooby-Doo represent five Eastern colleges.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1996]
Origins: A common facet of collegiate life are conjectures that position one's school as in some way distinct from or better than all others, conjectures that come to be believed by the young people who attend those institutions. Such tales bestow (at least in the minds of the students) certain bragging rights and thus tend to be embraced as fact rather than questioned.
"My school is special because ..." claims tend to concentrate on physical aspects of the campus (e.g., that certain buildings were through an architect's blunder built backwards or that particular items of statuary will do strange things when a virgin walks by, or that a dorm is haunted by the ghost of a
The particular collegiate belief that forms the topic of this article is a bit of an exception to the norm because it advances the claim that the institutions of higher learning in question are special not because of something physically or historically part of any one of them, but through their having been ennobled in a popular cartoon that has become a cult favorite among collegians. According to cherished belief, each of the main characters in Scooby-Doo represents one of the schools known collectively as the
With almost no variation, the cartoon characters and colleges are matched up this way:
In response to criticism that Saturday morning children's offerings contained too much violence, a number of new cartoons were developed in the late 1960s, including The Archie Show. The original concept of what was to become Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? was of a five-teen musical group touring the countryside and becoming embroiled in mysteries wherever they stopped, a cross between the 1940s I Love a Mystery radio serials and the 1960s teenage television sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. The five characters were named Geoff, Mike, Kelly, Linda, and W.W. (who was to be Linda's brother). The minor character of a dog was included in the concept as the group's bongo player.
The name first given to this proposed series was Mysteries Five, so named for the five teens and their rock group. The drum-playing dog was christened "Too Much" and described as "a big shaggy dog who wears shades and cap, plays bongos with his forepaws."
The Mysteries Five name soon fell by the wayside, giving way to a new series title: Who's Scared? The five teens had become four: Geoff and Mike were melded into the composite character Ronnie (later rechristened Freddie Jones as an homage to Fred Silverman, then director of daytime programs at
That iteration was judged by network executives as too scary for its intended audience of youngsters, so the show's concept was consequently retooled: the rock band idea was dropped, and the focus of the show shifted to highlight comic interactions between the characters and to play down its more frightening aspects. In particular, the characters of Shaggy and Too Much were brought into the forefront to reposition the show as a comedy. The dog was rechristened
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? premiered on CBS in 1969. The series aired in various forms first on CBS and then on ABC until 1991, making it the longest continually running cartoon series in television history. The original cast had record-spinner Casey Kasem voicing the character of Shaggy. (Don Messick was
If all of the above seems a bit hard to wade through, I offer what it boils down to: the Scooby-Doo gang were not conceived as representations of typical students of particular colleges — instead, its four human members were originally modeled on corresponding characters from the 1960s TV show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and the canine character was elevated from a non-speaking bongo-playing pet into the star of the show when the focus of the cartoon shifted to place greater emphasis on comedy. The five characters now so well known did not spring into being fully formed; they instead evolved throughout the behind-the-scenes development process.
Alternatively, consider this: Hampshire College did not open until 1970, a year after Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? hit the airwaves.
Obligatory strange Scooby fact: The gang is 84% more likely to stumble upon a secret passage than to find it intentionally.
Barbara "passage err pigeons" Mikkelson
Last updated: 22 May 2006
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