The 'Scooby-Doo' Movies That Never Were
Updated: Sep 13, 2019
It's come to my attention that the live-action Scooby-Doo movies were originally intended to be very different from the family films which litter our DVD shelves today. It shouldn't be a surprise that the productions were initially aimed at an older audience considering that both Scooby-Doo 1 and 2 were written by James Gunn - the man behind Marvel's comparatively-edgy Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. The Marvel series made waves for its 'near-the-mark' blue humour when it debuted in 2014 - one line delivered by Chris Pratt about black-lights and Jackson Pollock paintings, for example, ruffled the feathers of many a conservative parent. Alas, Scooby-Doo never managed to get the R-rated face lift that Gunn thought it deserved. While it may seem strange in the era of Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy and Kingsman: The Secret Service, studio heads simply didn't think mature genre films or re-imaginings would have a big enough audience to earn a respectable box office gross. It was decided, then, that the original cut of the film would be edited into a more family-friendly product. Luckily, a bit of digging shows us exactly what Gunn had in mind for the franchise, and traces of his non-conventional approach remain within the film.
The subtle marijuana jokes remaining in the final cut of the movie are the most obvious remnants of Gunn's initial vision. Shaggy's love-interest in the film is called Mary Jane, a slang reference to weed. This (hopefully) goes over children's heads as Shaggy retorts "that's my favourite name!" during the duo's air-plane meet-cute. Multiple scenes see Shaggy and Scooby follow a cartoon-like smoky aroma while rejoicing at the scent; seemingly on cloud nine, their exalting cries of "zoinks" and "talk about toasted!" are eventually revealed to be about food. It's an obvious wink to the original cartoon's stoner stereotypes. Still, the original script's overt drug references remain hard to miss for those looking to find them.
As reported by Vanity Fair, Gunn reminisced with his fans on Facebook last year about the now 16 year old movie:
"I had loved the character of Scooby-Doo since I was a kid and was excited at the prospect of making a live action film with 2002's cutting CGI technology(!!). Yes, it was not exactly what we planned going out - I had written an edgier film geared toward older kids and adults, and the studio ended up pushing it into an clean cut children's film. And, yes, the rumors are true - the first cut was rated R by the MPAA [the US equivalent of a '15' rating], and the female stars' cleavage was CGI'd away so as not to offend. But, you know, such is life. I had a lot of fun making this movie, regardless of all that."
Linda Cardellini's portrayal of Velma was beloved by fans and the character's relationship with Daphne has long since been heralded as a prime example of coded-queerness. Let's quickly define that term: if a character is 'coded queer' it means that, for all intents and purposes, a character on screen is LGBTQ+. In order to appeal to the widest markets possible though (or, in order to get ticket sales from homophobes), the character will never explicitly be outed. An example of this is Ryan in Disney's High School Musical franchise, or Scar in The Lion King. Queer-coded characters possess stereotypically homosexual traits, some even flirt with members of the same-sex, but the movies will always keep the specifics deliberately vague.
Velma, James Gunn explained to the Seattle Times in 2002, was written initially as a gay character. "[I'm] pretty sure she's gay", the producer said to the paper, "so we had a couple little nods to that in the movie." Linda Cardellini also spoke to the paper; "There were a few scenes where Velma comes out of her shell. I wouldn't say she comes out of the closet. I thought more along the lines that maybe her sexuality is a little ambiguous." The Velma-Daphne alluded romance was set to conclude with the couple sharing a kiss at the end of the movie but, unfortunately for the orange-wearing scientist, Daphne's feelings weren't as 'ambiguous'. You see, one of the other cut aspects of the film was Fred and Daphne's overtly sexual relationship. The duo were played by Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar (who had been dating for two years prior to the movie's filming) and Daphne's traditional damsel-in-distress trope was dropped in favour of a fashion-loving, mystery solving martial arts trainee. Prinze Jr. and Gellar are now married, the couple's chemistry as authentic in real life as it appeared on screen.
In the same Seattle Times article, Warner Bros. executive Charles Roven described one of his favourite moments in the R-rated cut of the film: "The original script featured a scene in which Fred gazed lustfully at Daphne while she leaned over him to load luggage into an airplane's overhead bin. The camera then panned to Velma, who was ogling her, too. Another deleted scene featured Fred attempting to talk his way into Daphne's hotel room under the pretense of protecting her, Roven said. The ratings board took issue with the fact that he was bringing his toothbrush, which implied plans to spend the entire night. "The ratings board thought that it wasn't as subtle as we thought it was," Roven said." It's a shame that we will never see the film's first cut, but thanks to the cast and crew's genuine affection for the original, R-rated version, many of the more adult themes remain somewhat tangible within the final film - Pamela Anderson's bizarre and...ahem...revealing cameo as a 'Toy' Factory Owner existing among the remaining gags.
In retrospect, Matthew Lillard (Shaggy) had this to say: "We played on all those things. Is Velma gay? Is Shaggy high? Are [Fred and Daphne] hooking up? All those jokes were in there, but we found at the end of the day it was more important to go the other way ... and that was to be more family-oriented. Some of that stuff is in there. If you look for it, you'll find it. If you don't, you won't."
Needless to say, Scooby-Doo's adult approach to a family-friendly property would fit right in amongst modern Hollywood. I would certainly argue that it's the original script's leftover ideas, more than anything else, which has allowed the 2002 film to become a cult favourite today. Perhaps 'Mystery Inc.' were simply too ahead of their time...
Written by James Green
Originally posted on jg-review.blogspot.com.