In 2002, I was seven years old, and all I wanted to talk about was the Scooby-Doo movie.
My dad, a huge fan of the original series, had passed down his adoration of the Scooby-Doo stories to me – that mix of supernatural and scepticism, janitors under sheets and haunted fairgrounds, I was instantly hooked. I was raised in a pro-Scooby, anti-Scrappy-Doo household, and it’s a fundamental part of my moral grounding. I played the games, I watched the show, and, when the movie came around, my dad and I were there on opening night (well, matinee – I was seven, after all) to see it.
And I loved it. I loved it. That movie imprinted on me in a way very few have; it captured the tone and the joyful sense of investigation and curiosity that made the series and these characters so addictive to me. Pitch-perfect casting (especially, and uncontroversially, Matthew Lilliard as Shaggy) and Scrappy-Doo as the villain? This movie had it all. I would still love to take a trip to Spooky Island, even if I might not indulge in the bleached tips nearly every extra seems to be sporting in this movie. I’ve watched it probably a dozen times since it first came out, and it still fills me with that same sense of joy it did the first time. James Gunn’s script and Raja Gosnell’s direction really makes this feel like one for the fans, focused primarily on capturing the tone of the series with a little nudge-nudge-wink-wink meta-commentary to keep it fresh for the early-noughties audience.
But, of course, as I have aged into my twilight, post-understanding-TikTok years, my tastes have become a little more adult. And when I found out about the apparent lost cut of the 2002 Scooby-Doo movie that’s R-rated and decidedly not child friendly, my interest was piqued. There are a few deliberate winks to an adult audience in Scooby-Doo, but it remains very much a family film; what would the version intended for a mature audience actually look like?
James Gunn revealed in a 2017 Facebook post that the Scooby-Doo movie was originally intended to be for an adult audience. “I had written an edgier film geared toward older kids and adults, and the studio ended pushing it into a clean-cut children’s film. And, yes, the rumors are true – the first cut was rated R by the MPAA,” he wrote in the post, reminiscing on the shooting of the movie and how much fun he had with the cast. Gunn later went on to clarify that the movie was intended to be PG-13, but a line that was read by the MPAA as a reference to oral sex got it bumped briefly to an R-rating before the studio toned down the raunchier side of the film to ensure it received the family-friendly rating it was eventually released under.
But what exactly was included in this cut that pushed it to such a high rating? Over the years, comments from Gunn, along with the cast members and editor Kent Beyda have hinted at what it might have contained. Probably the most prominent aspect that I’ve heard getting the most attention is the relationship between Velma and Daphne; long-time lesbian icon Velma and the apparently-bisexual Daphne shared an on-screen kiss, which Sarah Michelle Geller, Daphne’s actress, described as “not just for fun”. While Daphne would have still had a relationship with Fred in the movie, it would have been downgraded to a friends-with-benefits type situation – and, based on this version of the alleged script for the original movie, had Daphne faking a whole lot more than her damsel-in-distress attitude. Velma, according to Gunn, would also have been explicitly depicted as a lesbian, which honestly would have been pretty ground-breaking for a film like this one in 2002.
Beyond just this explicit LGBTQ representation, the movie was purported to be a lot raunchier across the board – sex jokes, including the reference to oral, abounded, and the female characters’ costumes had to be CGI-ed into an acceptably chaste level of cleavage for the final cut. Shaggy’s stoner persona, which I consider essentially canon in the film anyway, was even more blatant – he was shown smoking weed on-screen, and the nudge-and-wink references left in the actual film were a fundamental part of his character (but, that said, this movie does make a whole lot more sense if you consider that Shaggy is actually stoned for it’s entire runtime). The scene in which Velma lets loose after getting possessed by the villains originally depicted her dancing in her bikini, one of the few scenes from the cutting room floor that were included on the DVD release as deleted footage.
Something I would have loved to see from this original cut is the allegedly darker take on the monsters; I found some of the original Scooby-Doo villains genuinely unsettling (Miner 49’er still gives me the heebies and occasionally the jeebies) and I would have really liked to see the apparently more-unsettling versions of the monsters that were cut after a test screening in Arizona in 2001 forced a change. In the movie we saw, the monsters sucked up “protoplasm” from their hapless victims, and are referred to as “creatures”; originally, though, they were demons who stole the souls of their victims, a choice that was deemed too dark by the test audience because of their religious connotations. Kent Beyda also revealed that the monsters managed to infiltrate the Pentagon after Scrappy-Doo’s defeat at the end of the movie, another storyline that was chopped after conservative test audiences objected.
To be honest, I love the version of the movie we got, even if it’s not what Gunn and Gosnell necessarily envisioned for their film at first; 2002’s Scooby-Doo seemed to be set up more as a tongue-in-cheek chance to poke fun at the original series, which could have been a lot of fun, but the one I saw when I was seven has a special place in my heart as a loving celebration of the Scooby-Doo series (with a few fun twists to modernise it a little). I doubt we’ll ever get to see the R-rated cut of Scooby-Doo, but I’d certainly be curious to see it – as lost media goes, it’s one of the most notorious and well-known in popular culture, and I’d love to see how it measures up to that scandalous reputation. What about you? Do you want to see the original cut of the Scooby-Doo movie, or are you happy with it as it is? Let me know in the comments below!
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By Lou MacGregor
(header image via Reddit)
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