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GRAB BAG: In Memory of Scooby’s Creator

If it weren’t for Iwao Takamoto, those kids never would have meddled at all

J. Caleb Mozzocco

The first season of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? led to 20 years' worth of new episodes and different versions of the show, giving the characters a constant presence first in syndication and then on cable. When Warner Bros. acquired the Hanna-Barbera properties, Scooby included, they pushed the brand hard, giving fans daily doses on Cartoon Network, direct-to-DVD animation, two live-action movies, a vanload of video games and toys, and a supermarket full of snacks and dog treats with Scooby's grinning face on the boxes.

Clearly, Scooby and the gang have achieved deathlessness, but the people responsible for them aren't quite so lucky. Producer Joseph Barbera just died in December, and last week Iwao Takamoto—the artist who designed the cowardly, gluttonous talking dog—died at age 81.

Takamoto's obit ran far and wide, more so than one might expect of one of the many animators from Hanna-Barbera's stables, on the strength of his signature creation. (His other creations, like Grape Ape, are ones an animator is more likely to confess to than boast of). They all mentioned the inspirational high points of his life—that he learned to draw in a World War II Japanese-American internment camp; that he perfected his craft under the Walt Disney studio's legendary animators, the "nine old men"; that he helped pioneer Hanna-Barbera's efforts to bring original animation to the small screen.

It's hard to imagine Takamoto's creations attending his funeral. Shaggy and Scooby would certainly be ill-at-ease in a funeral home or church, or within sight of a coffin. And forget visiting his grave; you wouldn't be able to get either of them into a cemetery, even in broad daylight.

I wonder, how would they react if a friend of theirs died? Would they be afraid to pay their respects to Takamoto, just in case he should rise up to chase them around while "Little Mary Sunshine" played in the background? On Scooby-Doo, the supernatural was constantly being challenged, defeated and unmasked. It was always proven to be an elaborate hoax to distract the naïve while its perpetrators committed crimes.

The cynical Fred, Daphne and Velma didn't believe in ghosts. I wonder what they thought of the existence of the soul, then, and the afterlife?

Scooby and Shaggy, on the other hand, never stopped believing in the supernatural, no matter how much evidence was laid out before them. They certainly believed in life after death, and feared its negative manifestations in the forms of the ghosts, skeletons, mummies and zombies that were always chasing them. While their cowardice in the face of the supernatural is always played for comedy, their unshakable faith in the existence of a world that Velma couldn't calculate and Fred couldn't capture is admirable. How many of us could continue to believe as strongly as Scooby and Shaggy for so long, after so many challenges to our faith?

Wherever it is that Takamoto has gone now (I say the highest of heavens; he deserves it for the creation of Daphne alone), he's earned a peculiar sort of secular immortality here on Earth. Considering the existence of Boomerang, a whole network devoted to showing nothing but old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, it's clear that not only has Scooby-Doo never been off the air, but now it never will be. I think it's safe to say that as long as there are televisions and people to watch them, Scooby-Doo will be playing. And after each episode, "Iwao Takamoto" will roll in the credits.

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