Hanna-Barbera Productions (September 7, 1985 – December 7, 1985), Warner Home Video (June 29, 2010), two discs, 307 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original aspect ratio, Dolby Digital 1.0, Not Rated, Retail: $19.98
The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo is one of the lesser-known versions of the beloved mystery series. The show which was already in its seventh version was now sixteen years old and was starting to show its age. It was sandwiched between the much-maligned introduction of Scrappy-Doo in the late 70s on Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo and the popular reincarnation of the characters on A Pup Named Scooby-Doo in 1988. 13 Ghosts premiered in the fall of 1985 and aired its last episode that same winter. After the cancelation of 13 Ghosts, ABC, which had been airing different versions of the show since it took over in 1976, went nearly 2 years without original Scooby-Doo episodes, although the show was still available in syndication. The show ran for a total of 13 episodes and has finally made its way to DVD.
The Sweatbox Review:
In the first episode of the show, the Mystery, Inc. gang (Daphne, Shaggy, Scooby-Doo, and Scrappy-Doo) are on their way to Honolulu when they end up high in the Himalayan Mountains. There, they find a strange town complete with a haunted castle. Inside the castle are two bumbling ghosts named Weerd and Bogel who have summoned the mortals to the location to open the Chest of Demons. Inside the chest are the most powerful ghosts and monsters who ever haunted the earth. The gang accidentally releases the 13 ghosts and must spend the rest of the series looking for and capturing them with a ghost-capturing device. They do this with the help of two new characters – Flim Flan (a con-artist street kid) and Vincent Van Ghoul (an all-knowing magician with a crystal ball). Most episodes featured the gang living their daily lives or searching for the ghosts they released in the first episode. Sometimes, the ghosts came to them and other times they would go out to hunt for the ghosts. The ghosts were motivated to get rid of the gang since they were the only ones that could put them back into the chest. Throughout an episode, the gang would make several attempts to capture the ghosts in new and exotic settings. By the end of each episode, one more ghost had been successfully captured making the total tally closer to the 13 originally set free. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled at the end of thirteen episodes with a few ghosts left to be captured.
In theory, it should have been a success. The show attempted to continue with the moderate success achieved by The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries with the added element of featuring real monsters and ghosts. At the time, Filmation’s Ghostbusters and The Real Ghostbusters had become huge hits on television, and a sequel was even in the works for another Ghostbusters movie. It seemed real ghosts and mysteries surrounding them were suddenly back by popular demand. In essence, 13 Ghosts was merely an attempt to give the public something they were already craving. Real ghosts and monsters were not something new to the Scooby-Doo series as a similar experiment had already been done in the Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo shorts of the Richie Rich/Scooby-Doo Show in 1980. However, what was missing from those shorts and what would be revived here was a sense of mystery and adventure involving ghosts as those shorts were more comedic than mysterious. However, looking back into the show, there were many reasons why it was not successful.
Perhaps part of the failure of the show came down to the characters used on the show. I believe that at this time, people were starting to get tired of Scrappy-Doo. Sure, people seemed to have enjoyed him at first, but after five years his character had started to become stale. While Daphne and Shaggy are present (along with Scooby-Doo of course), the absence of Velma and Fred is noticeable. Even though they were not regular characters on the previous series, they did make guest appearances in some episodes confirming the affection writers still had for the characters. They did try to make the show more contemporary, but aside from some cosmetic costume changes related to Shaggy and Daphne, little was done to bring the series into the 80s. Finally, the addition of Flim-Flam and Vincent Van Ghoul were unnecessary and perhaps too formulaic. By giving the series an adult mentor, it took out the “kids doing it on their own” aspect always found in the original series. Adults were usually the victims or perpetrators in the original series, but here Van Ghoul is given a prominent role as guide and sometimes even savior. Flim-Flam, on the other hand was probably added to give a more youthful role model in the show, but he became more obnoxious with each passing episode. The character brought nothing to the show and in fact probably distracted from the story with his annoying catch phrases and one-liners.
The show also suffered from some tone and story problems. Gone were the mysteries and crime-solving days of the original. In essence, 13 Ghosts had become a fantasy/adventure show featuring a group of detectives looking for ghosts. There was no mystery surrounding the ghosts other than where they might be located or how to catch them. The series had basically gone on cruise control since the addition of Scrappy-Doo when they abandoned outright villains being unmasked. That’s not to say there wasn’t any unmasking on this show. In one episode, Van Ghoul dons a disguise to help his friends, and on another a ghost cleverly disguises himself as a real person, only to unmask himself halfway through one episode. Creatively speaking, by the end of the series, I believe writers and producers wanted to get back to the original format and characters of the popular show, but did not know how to revive them for a new era. This is evidenced by the writer’s attempts to instill more (dated) pop culture gags into the show along with some scenes where the characters addressed the viewers breaking the fourth wall. However, the gags were rarely funny and the wall-breaking became jarring at times (usually Flim-Flam’s fault). Both of these issues would be perfected two years later when A Pup Named Scooby-Doo premiered and had the main characters actively speaking to the audiences. Scrappy-Doo was gone, along with all other annoying side characters, and the gang was back to actually solving mysteries with human perpetrators (although occasionally that series would venture into the supernatural as well). The show also brought the characters into the modern era with Velma using a computer and the characters getting late 80’s updates in clothing and style.
The episodes included on this two disc set are separated as follows:
1. To All the Ghouls I’ve Loved Before
2. Scoobra Kadoobra
3. Me and My Shadow Demon
4. Reflections in a Ghoulish Eye
5. That’s Monstertainment
6. Ship of Ghouls
7. A Spooky Little Ghoul like You
8. When You Witch Upon a Star
9. It’s a Wonderful Scoob
10. Scooby in Kwackyland
12. The Ghouliest Show on Earth
13. Horror-Scope Scoob
Is This Thing Loaded?
There is really only one special feature included in this set, which is an episode of Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue called “Don’t Feed the Animals.” In it, Dr. Phibes hatches a crazy scheme that involves destroying the world’s rainforests while Shaggy and Scooby team up with marmosets to stop him. The first disc opens with a trailer for the latest Scooby-Doo film, Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare while the second disc opens with a trailer for the new Scooby-Doo show Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated. The second disc also houses a trailer for Scooby-Doo! First Frights game.
The complete series is housed in a standard black keepcase. Inside, the two discs are included with one disc on an attached flap. There are no inserts inside the DVD case. The cover art features a great shot of Scooby-Doo and Shaggy carrying the Chest of Demons. On the back, we get Scooby-Doo with a flashlight. Disc one art features Scooby-Doo and Bogel (the ghost) while disc two art features Shaggy and Weerd.
Ink And Paint:
The show is presented here in its standard 1.33:1 original television aspect ratio. The cleanup is pretty good and looks presentable for a show that is reaching its 25th year. There is some dust present in the video, but nothing too distracting. The show was very well-animated for its time and the different locales for each episode really seemed to inspire the animators. We get to see everything from Egypt to New Orleans and each locale is well-animated. They were trying not to be too repetitive with the storylines, so they really did try their best with the animation and backgrounds. The human characters even change clothing throughout the episodes, which was something rarely seen in the original series.
The series is being released in a standard Dolby Digital Mono track available in English, French, Spanish and Thai. English, Spanish, and Thai subtitles are also available. The tracks are adequate enough for the show which really did not overwhelm in the sound department. We get standard cartoon sound effects and background music that was well-established by this era.
The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo was really the last in a long line of mediocre Scooby-Doo series that while not terribly great, did cement Scooby-Doo’s longevity as a television staple. To me, when A Pup Named Scooby-Doo premiered just two years later, it revived the franchise, making it relevant to a whole new generation. Few people remember watching 13 Ghosts on television, because of its short length and due to the glut of other Scooby shows already in syndication. The show, while beautifully animated (for an 80s television show) fails to provide intriguing mystery which was at the core of the Scooby-Doo formula, by replacing it with dull adventure stories involving ghosts, witches, and monsters. By this point, writers did not seem to know what to do with the core characters of the show, leaving room for uncharismatic and downright annoying sidekicks. The franchise was in decline, but it did survive. While 13 Ghosts may have been a relative failure, it is only a blip in the now 40 year career of the Mystery Inc. gang.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?