We Shouldn’t Have Meddled: Remembering ‘The Scooby Doo Project’
The commercial bumper is the unsung hero of children’s network programming. With their zany quirkiness, these short blips make the dreary commercial breaks not only tolerable, but delightful and fun, and Cartoon Network was especially in top form with their 90s-era bumpers. With a star-studded cast of hot new stars (Dexter, Dee Dee, and Johnny Bravo) and seasoned veterans (Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear, and, yes, Scooby Doo), these goofy vignettes gave us musical interludes, conversations in the Cartoon Network locker room, Fred Jones singing “Old Man River” in the Mystery Machine, and asked us questions like “Why are Smurfs blue?” Suffice to say, they were as fun for the parents who grew up watching these shows as they were for the children falling in love with them for the first time and in the fall of 1999, Cartoon Network took their bumper game to a spooky new level.
Billed as “The Definitive Parody,” The Scooby Doo Project was a series of commercial bumpers ran during a trio of Scooby Doo marathons, starting with a 24-hour Scooby Doo, Where Are You! marathon on October 23rd, followed by a movie marathon on October 30th (featuring Scooby Doo’s Arabian Nights, Meets the Boo Brothers, Reluctant Werewolf, Ghoul School, and Zombie Island) and ending on October 31st with, ruh-roh, a Scrappy Doo marathon.
These satirical bumpers mix live action handheld footage with traditional hand drawn animation, mashing the Scooby gang with, you’ve guessed it, The Blair Witch Project. Each is a brief, self-contained scene, often a direct parody of the horror classic’s many memorable scenes, including the marshmallows (Shaggy zooms in and out on a box of Scooby Snacks), the map (Shaggy and Scoob confess to not only eating it, but with a side of “robasco” sauce no less!), the pile of rocks (“Haunted Scooby Snacks”), two versions of the iconic confession scene (Shaggy: “I’m sooo hungry!!” and Velma: “We shouldn’t have meddled!”), and the infamous “standing in the corner” ending (Shaggy stands in the corner, not because he is dead, but because he is like scared, man!).
Other gags poke fun at Scooby Doo’s legacy, such as Shaggy’s real name (“Like, no one calls me Norville!”), the lyrics to The New Scooby Doo Movies’ theme song (“Scooby Doo, where are you?!” “Over here!”), and there’s even a jump scare featuring Scrappy Doo, whose inexplicable appearance has Daphne running for her life.
When the bumpers are viewed together, the whole shebang runs just over 20 minutes and forms a short narrative that loosely follows The Blair Witch Project. As Heather Donahue did in the film, Velma decides to film Mystery, Inc.’s latest case. Packing up their van with snacks and supplies, the gang heads to film interviews with local witnesses, portrayed by flesh and blood humans. The locals give conflicting reports, describing freak encounters with glowing monstrosities, Civil War ghosts and radioactive cats.
They head off into the woods where they set up camp near a cemetery. Strange noises begin to torment them from outside their tent while an uninvited Scrappy Doo terrorizes the gang with his intrusive presence (“Why’s he even here, did you invite him, Scoob?” “Ro!” “He probably wants to solve the mystery for us. He loves doing that!”).
Over the next few days, Mystery, Inc. finds themselves lost in the woods and tensions rise. Fred loses his favorite scarf, trembles with anxiety (“I’m the calm one!”), and grills Velma for losing her glasses (“A glasses strap, Velma! How many times have we told you, a glasses strap!”). Likewise, Velma mocks Shaggy’s iconic vernacular (“Zoinks! That’s all you’ve got to say? Zoinks! What does that mean anyway?”) and Daphne’s fashionable, yet unsuitable ensemble for camping in the woods (“Is it our fault you wore high heels on a hiking trip?”). Meanwhile, Scooby and Shaggy have like, eaten all the food, man!
One night, the gang discovers a mysterious house in the woods, which they enter, finding an ominous radio which jams the usual Scooby Doo chase song (“Seven Days a Week” by George A. Robertson, Jr.). As expected, a chase ensues with the creature chasing them through the usual, logic-defying doors. The Scooby gang then unmasks the creature, revealed to be …. just some guy, who owns the house (“But why did you try to scare us in that spooky costume?” “Umm … because it’s Halloween!”). In one final twist, the real monster appears and Mystery, Inc. is never seen again.
Earlier this year, Nightowl Studio, a YouTube channel claiming to be “one of the writer/producers from the CN On-Air promo department on this one back in ’99,” posted a 4K restoration of the 10-minute version (found here, missing a number of the bumpers, including the Scrappy Doo material and the extended ending with the unmasking and final twist) and detailed its creation in the video’s description: “The suburban neighborhood interviews were shot at one of the producer’s parents’ house, (they were both interviewed in the final product) and the forest scenes were shot in one of the other producers’ parents backyard. We’d drive up after work, stage the tents, piles, and sticks, and shoot everything on Mini-DV.” Nightowl later goes on to say that “Because of how well it turned out, programming agreed to play the whole thing strung together at the end of the last night.”
The Scooby Doo Project would indeed air one final time with the television premiere of the Zombie Island sequel, Scooby Doo and the Witch’s Ghost, on November 27th, 1999. However, likely due to its purpose as a series of bumpers, it has never been released to home video. Thankfully, with a little ease and a quick search, the individual bumpers and a variety of assembled versions (including the aforementioned 10-minute cut and the 20-minute version I watched for this article) can easily be found on YouTube. No mystery solving skills required!
While the found footage classic has been parodied so many times it’s impossible to count, The Scooby Doo Project is no doubt one of the most odd and uniquely entertaining Blair Witch send-ups ever concocted. While in hindsight, it was a strange decision to parody an R-rated horror film during a children’s cartoon marathon, it goes to show the kind of reach the Blair Witch phenomenon had 20 years ago and how quickly the film became a part of our lexicon. The Blair Witch Project was everywhere and the parodies were inescapable. Even on Cartoon Network.
- An Animation World Network post from 1999 reporting the dates of the marathons
- A promo for Cartoon Network’s “Scooby Doo and the Witch’s Ghost” premiere
- “The Scooby Doo Project” 22-minute version
- “The Scooby Doo Project” 10-minute 4K version
- “The Scooby Doo Project” bumpers and commercials, including other ads