So I'd just written the script which convinced ABC to pick Scooby Doo up for its ninety-eighth (or whatever number it was) season. I was asked to story-edit the show but I'd accepted a job to serve as head writer for a couple of variety specials for Sid and Marty Krofft and had to pass. I still, however, had to do another rewrite on my Scooby script to address a few comments that folks at Hanna-Barbera and ABC had before it could be produced...and you'd think that would be simple. I mean, they all loved the script and it had gotten the show renewed for another year. So how many problems could it have?
As it turned out, plenty. Ordinarily, when you wrote a script for H-B, you got "notes" from one person at the network and maybe (and maybe not) someone at Hanna-Barbera. But this was a pilot, even if they'd denied as much when negotiating my fee. A pilot pays more because more people have input and they're always more concerned about teensy details. So I got notes. Boy, did I get notes. Johannes Brahms once wrote a piece called Ein Deutsches Requiem that runs seventy minutes in performance. It had fewer notes than I got.
Joe Barbera read the script, told me it was wonderful but he gave me notes in such volume that I found myself wondering how many I'd get if he hadn't liked it. The person who ran the studio's day to day operations gave me a set of notes that topped Barbera's in breadth and volume. The head of the story department gave me a pile of comments...and then there was a set from the fellow who was line-producing the Scooby Doo show and yet another from the team of writers who'd signed on to story-edit the series after I passed. That's five sets of comments and we hadn't even gotten to the network where the real power was wielded.
I got three sets from ABC — from different programming execs there — and another from the Standards and Practices Lady. I ignored the S&P Lady because...well, I always ignored her notes. But even then, I had eight sets and they could not be humanly reconciled. One set said, "Let's lose the joke at the top of page 19." Another said, "Love the joke at the top of page 19." Yet another said, "Hey, could we make that joke on the top of page 19 a running gag and do it a few more times?" Being a mystery, the story involved three suspects and one set of notes suggested switching whodunnit from Suspect A to Suspect B, while another set of notes thought all clues pointed to C. It went that way all through all the notes. I suspected the eight of them had gotten together and divided up my script in a devious plot to drive me insane. ("Okay, you'll hate the scene in the cave and I'll love it and Joe will tell him to change it to a Chinese restaurant...")
For maybe a week, I struggled with rounding off this odd trapezium my script had become. Finally, I went to the person I just mentioned who ran operations, laid eight sets of notes on this person's desk and said, "Pick any two." I was immediately told, "Throw out everyone's comments except Mr. B's" — "B" for Barbera — "and Squire's." Squire Rushnell was the Vice-President of Children's Programming at ABC, the guy who everyone said loved it when the new characters were inspired by Warner Brothers cartoons and voiced by Mel Blanc.
I went home, did a rewrite to please Joe and Squire, and the next day the script was marked "final."
A week or so later, I was in the Hanna-Barbera Xerox Room and I happened to see my script being mass-copied for distribution. I peeked to see if any rewrites had been done since it had left me and there didn't seem to be any. In fact, the script hadn't even been retyped. They were copying the printout I'd handed in, the one from my word processor.
But someone had typed a new title page and instead of saying, "Written by Mark Evanier," it now had my name plus that of another writer in the studio. In fact, the other writer was the son of an executive at the Hanna-Barbera studio.
Three minutes later, title page in hand, I barged into the office of that executive and you can pretty much imagine what I said. He explained that his son had been among the many writers who'd worked on Scrappy Doo before I'd been hired. He felt his son deserved some credit for all the hours he'd put in on the project. I said, "He may have put in many hours but he didn't put them in on this script. I wrote this script and you put his name on my work." The exec apologized and ordered the title pages reprinted...and I had yet another example to cite of how writers get abused when they work on projects not covered by the Writers Guild of America. That kind of thing would never have happened on a WGA show...or if it had, the Guild would have handled it in a jif.
Okay, so we had a script. Now, Scrappy needed a voice. In our next installment, I'll tell you about the actor they selected as being the perfect voice of Scrappy Doo. And then I'll tell you about the actor they replaced him with. And the actor they replaced the second guy with. And the one who replaced the third guy. And the fourth guy and the fifth guy and so on. Scrappy's still quite some distance from being born.
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