BY JOHN CARTER JR
Courage the Cowardly Dog originally came out on February 18, 1996 and finished its run on November 22, 2002 – nearly 20 years ago. The show starred Thea White as Muriel Bagge (who passed July of 2021), Lionel Wilson and Arthur Anderson who both played Eustace Bagge (Both of whom passed in 2003 and 2016 respectively), and Marty Grabstein as the voice of the lovable pink pup Courage.
Courage the Cowardly Dog remains one of the most beloved amongst the Cartoon Network Cartoon Cartoon Catalog. So when the announcement came out that there would be a new Scooby-Doo! crossover with Courage titled Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog, fan excitement was generally positive, with the only descent being the lack of involvement from original Courage showrunner and creator John R Dilworth.
The film was released September 14, 2021 with many actors reprising their roles with the exception of Jeff Bergman who voiced Eustace Bagge. The film begins with the Scooby-Doo gang solving a typical mystery when Scooby-Doo hears a noise and moves in an almost hypnotic way, he is urged to run to Nowhere, Kansas where he meets Courage. (The noise he hears is a sound from the original courage show when any moment was intense or building in action).
The film’s main plot is the story behind this strange sound and the weird happenings surrounding Nowhere, – as well as a weird relationship between the sound and the cicada monsters attacking Courage, the Bagges, and Mystery Inc.
The film could very well had be titled Courage the Cowardly Dog Meets Scooby-Doo, as it felt more like a Courage the Cowardly Dog film much akin to the modern Cartoon Network TV film finales that its modern shows (Adventure Time, Regular Show, and Steven Universe) have had. The original show completed its run with the episode Remembrance of Courage Past and Perfect.
In TMN’s 2019 interview with Dilworth, when asked about the finale, he said he was satisfied and the episode revealed the origins of Courage, or at least the point when Muriel rescued him.
“The theme of perfection was an essential issue to make a statement after 104 cartoons, none were ‘perfect’, yet we’re proud of the good we did,” he said.
However, Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage is less of a resounding finale and rather feels like a check-in with characters we haven’t seen in a long time. This serves the narrative and the performer’s much-appreciated resolution. This is especially true of Thea White’s performance as Muriel Bagge who serves not only a perfect blend of Muriel’s kindness and Rose Nylund-like qualities but also gives us a bit of her wild side getting exciting as the Mystery Machine nearly falls off a cliff.
She is one of the voices of many people’s childhoods and is a warm presence that reminds viewers of their youth. Everybody needs a Muriel in their life and there would be no Muriel without Thea White. Her performance brings us back to the warmth, kindness, and belief in our Courage (and in her’s).
Grabstein the voice of Courage and Schoeffler returns to their iconic roles with the former voicing Courage like no time has passed. Courage has and always will be the manifestation of the confrontation of the viewer with their own fears and their willingness to stand up to them. He isn’t perfect or some brave edgy anime protagonist. He is a small pink dog from the middle of Nowhere, KS USA who has someone he really cares about and is scared of everything.
The film redelivers some of the key qualities of Courage that aren’t often talked about. Courage and his actions taught viewers to be courageous both in the face of fear and in everyday life, that it’s okay not to be perfect, and that the viewer wasn’t alone – confidants and allies can be found in the least expected places. In the original series, it was The Computer, Shirley the Chihuahua, and Dr. Vindaloo who Courage most often sought out for help. In this film, Courage makes new friends as well as seeing old ones.
Scooby-Doo is perhaps the best character in the Hanna-Barbera library to relate to Courage, not only because he is also a cowardly dog but because he represents a similar layered group of traits like mentioned before. Courage seems to find a real friend in Scooby-Doo and Shaggy too. This exploration never seems to distract from the film or stray from the Courage narrative either, feeling more akin to a Courage crossover episode.
Courage wouldn’t be where he is without his confidants and the most known of them is his Computer. Bergman who voices Eustace in this rendition also voices the Computer (originally voiced by Simon Prebble). The Computer is quick-witted as ever, and while the voice change is noticeable it hits the right marks. This serves as one of the many examples of nostalgia being served by this film, and yet another example of your old friends being by your side. Again the movie gives more of a check-in with old friends, and even foes.
The film’s overarching mystery is that of the giant insects running amok in Nowhere which isn’t all that crazy when it comes to Courage the Cowardly Dog until you recognize all the components. The villains of this story not only provide viewers with a mystery, a giant kaiju battle, and one potential solution to the overarching cause of the strange weirdness of Nowhere but it also ties in with the most recurring villains in the Courage series.
The final kaiju battle is not just a big bug attacking the farmhouse but a culmination of Courage’s arc with Muriel. Courage becomes giant and defeats the bug. It shows that even 20 years later Courage is still Courage, and so is everyone in Nowhere. Courage reaffirms this dedication every time he saves Muriel or anyone. He will never be unafraid but he will always have courage.
With the villains being revealed as none other than the most recurring villains in Courage, Katz and Le Quack, this further drives that feeling home. They are the ultimate Courage villains, with their appearance harkening back to the old days of Cartoon Network in Cartoon Cartoon Fridays with most of the cartoons having main recurring villains for the protagonist. That’s not to say this world is without change but it’s also the same.
Eliciting a Rebecca Sugar “Everything Stays” vibe. This crossover shows us something about Courage that makes it timeless. Unlike new reboots or modern interpretations or sequels of other franchises, this film doesn’t feel the need to outdo its previous work. It’s something that many find fondness in when it comes to Cartoon Network’s traditional episodic cartoons.
While the action is certainly big and the art design for this film is nothing to laugh at, the film says Courage is something you can always come back to and rediscover your willingness to fight against your fears and that in the end, new and old, we need our friends who will support us and even our old rivals to challenge us (maybe not psychotic anthropomorphic villains in the real world but you get the picture). Always subtly or overtly reminding us that we may not be perfect but we (like Courage) are always willing to do the same crazy things for the people we love.