The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo is quite arguably the most obscure of the cowardly canine sleuth’s many cartoon adventures, running for only 13 episodes in 1985. Although often wrongly cited as being the first time the character actually dealt with the supernatural, it was the first time it was the central plot of a cartoon show he could call his own, with the gang facing REAL GHOSTS instead of simply villains in masks who had way too much time on their hands.
The reason for this was the success of Ghostbusters, which created a new audience for spooky comedy, making Scooby an obvious choice for such material. The story centered around “The Chest of Demons”–a handheld prison for the world’s most dangerous and chaotic ghosts which Shaggy and Scooby accidentally open up because they’re idiots. With the help of their mystic friend Vincent Van Ghoul (voiced by Vincent Price!), Scooby, Shaggy, and Daphne (Fred and Velma are dead, apparently) go around the world capturing the evil specter…all while accompanied by Scrappy-Doo (sighs) and their new “friend” self-proclaimed junior con artist Flim-Flam (double sighs).
Yes, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo marks the first–and thankfully only–time a child was along for the ride with the Mystery Machine team. Flim-Flam is…annnoying. He has his own theme song, somehow owns his own airport, and inexplicably has the solutions to whatever problems he and his cohorts find themselves in. In the pilot episode, the gang finds a village in which everyone is a werewolf. Daphne herself (with a new haircut and playing more like a “mother” to everyone this time around) briefly turns into a werewolf, but the crisis is immediately averted because Flim-Flam just so happens to have the cure for werewolfism on his person. Yeah. (The people behind the show supposedly hated Flim-Flam, and only included him because “demographic research” showed that children must like to have someone their own age joining Scooby-Doo, and when has such research ever been wrong?).
The series is wildly inconsistent in terms of its tone. Sometimes the ghosts are menacing villains, other times everything becomes taken over by out-of-nowhere comedy sketches, fourth wall humor, and musical numbers. But it’s not without its charms. In one episode, for instance, one of the ghosts has an evil plot to suck everyone into a newspaper comics section in order to get rid of them. In another, everyone finds themselves in an old monster movie.
Also, this happened. Don’t ask…
The production values are all over the place. Voice acting legend Howard Morris plays Bogel–one of two bumbling hosts constantly chasing Scooby and pals–but he alternates between using his “Ed Wynn” voice and his Wade Duck from Garfield & Friends voice…sometimes switching between voices in the same scene! It’s a frequent mistake that demonstrates just how rushed the production must’ve been.
The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo is entertaining in spite of–or perhaps in part because of–its many oddities. Sadly, the show was cancelled before all of the ghosts got captured, but it seemed to develop enough of a following for Warner Bros. to eventually make a straight-to-DVD movie–Scooby-Doo and the Curse of the Thirteenth Ghost–which wrapped up the show’s storyline.
Have a spooky day, Avocados!