Let’s rewind to 1971. While we were all swinging our flared pants to “American Pie,” Hanna-Barbera was deep in the creative catacombs, sculpting their next masterpiece. There, amongst the discarded sketches of Wacky Races and The Jetsons, was born The Funky Phantom.
But hold on; this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill, oh-so-original concept. If you’ve ever squinted at the screen, rubbed your eyes, and mumbled, “Isn’t that just Scooby-Doo?” well, give yourself a pat on the back!
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but one wonders if Scooby might have preferred a simple, handwritten note instead.
The Funky Phantom: Scooby-Doo’s Cheeky Doppelgänger
“The Funky Phantom” was an animated television series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions that originally aired in 1971-1972. The premise of the show borrowed heavily from Hanna-Barbera’s popular “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” series, leading many viewers to see “The Funky Phantom” as a bit of a rip-off or copycat of the former.
First episode date: September 11, 1971
Original network: ABC
No. of seasons: 1
No. of episodes: 17
The Ghostly Gimmick
In the thrilling saga of three courageous teenagers – audacious Augie, sharp-witted Skip, and intrepid April – a captivating tale unfolds as they inadvertently unleash the spirit of Jonathan “Mudsy” Muddlemore, a jovial ghost who had been sealed within a stately grandfather clock for a staggering two centuries.
This uncanny event occurs when one of our spirited protagonists mysteriously adjusts the clock hands to the stroke of midnight. Accompanying Mudsy from the spectral realm is his ethereal feline companion, Boo, further adding to the eerie yet enticing spectacle.
Embracing their unanticipated spectral companions, the adventurous trio, along with their loyal dog, zoom across landscapes in their funky dune buggy, the Looney Duney, embarking on an exhilarating journey that would make even the Scooby Doo gang envious.
As they set forth, cracking mysteries and solving riddles that boggle the mind, they instill a fresh twist to the classic whodunit scenarios.
The Uncanny Similarities
Our Funky Phantom crew of three teenagers, a cowardly dog, and a spectral sidekick isn’t exactly a subtle departure from the Scooby-Doo team. And we thought recycling was just for soda cans and paper! Who knew it also applied to cartoon characters?
They even had their very own Mystery Machine – but don’t worry, it wasn’t a van. No, sir! They mixed it up and gave us… drumroll, please… a dune buggy. Talk about pushing the envelope!
The Copycat’s Conundrum
So, why did Hanna-Barbera get all ‘copy and paste’ on us? Well, in those days, producing a new cartoon series was a bit like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what stuck.
If one show was popular, they figured, why not try something similar? Basically, they tried to repeat their success by serving up Scooby-Doo 2.0, but the flavor was just off, and alas, the Funky Phantom ended up being more like the funky leftovers.
Daws Butler provided the character voice for Mudsy, which sounded identical to his voice work for Snagglepuss, even using Snagglepuss’s catchphrase, “…even.” Butler originally impersonated comedian Bert Lahr for the Snagglepuss voice.
Hanna-Barbera created many animated series with studio-created laugh tracks in the 1970s, and this show was among the first to include one. However, syndicated versions on Cartoon Network and Boomerang mute the track.
Unmasking the Phantom
Despite the undeniable creativity of taking a winning formula and making it…well… less winning, The Funky Phantom did manage a decent run on the air. And to their credit, the producers attempted some originality with the addition of historical ghost figures. Imagine Ghostbusters, but instead of Slimer, they hang out with Benjamin Franklin. Wacky, right?
In the grand scheme of things, The Funky Phantom is a shining example of what happens when you try to reheat a TV dinner. Scooby-Doo was the original steak dinner of Saturday morning cartoons.
The Funky Phantom? Well, let’s just say he was more akin to a microwaved hot dog – just not quite the same. But hey, at least they gave it a shot. And in the process, they provided us with a whole lot of laughs – even if they were mostly unintended!
The Phantom Himself – Mudsy
The stand-out character and show’s namesake was, of course, Mudsy – the Funky Phantom. Unlike Scooby-Doo’s grounded-in-reality (okay, that’s a stretch) gang, this team had an actual ghost in their midst. A Revolutionary War-era apparition with a penchant for cravats and tri-corner hats.
Think of him as a cross between Casper and George Washington, but with an inexplicable Snagglepuss accent. Truly, he was the ghostly cherry on top of this bizarre Scooby-Doo sundae.
The Slightly-Less-Famous Dog – Elmo
In every self-respecting crime-solving, teenage-crew-led, mystery-solving cartoon, you’ve got to have a mischievous dog. The Funky Phantom had Elmo, a sheepdog who mirrored Scooby-Doo’s signature skittishness and offered his own brand of comic relief.
We can only imagine the elevator pitch for Elmo – “Imagine Scooby, but with longer hair and an even more minor role!” Yikes. While Elmo provided some good old doggie fun, he could never truly compete with Scooby’s magnetic canine charm.
Same Old Villains, New Faces
If you thought Hanna-Barbera would at least dish up some fresh villains for this reheated Scooby-Doo, you’d be sadly mistaken. The Funky Phantom villains had an uncanny resemblance to the adversaries Scooby and the gang routinely unmasked.
There was always some disgruntled old guy in a monster mask, causing mayhem to achieve some selfish end. But hey, they say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
At least the ghostly historical figures added a fun twist, even if they were constantly overshadowed by the faux-monsters.
The Unexpected Legacy
One could argue that the most impressive feat of The Funky Phantom was its ability to squeeze 17 episodes out of its blatant copy-pasting. It even made a surprise resurgence on the Scooby-Doo show, “Mystery Incorporated,” where the ghostly Mudsy appeared in an episode.
It was a moment that made fans chuckle, as Scooby-Doo graciously allowed its off-brand counterpart to share the screen. A charming reunion and an amusing reminder of how far we’ve come in the world of animated storytelling.
At the end of the day, The Funky Phantom is a nostalgic trip down memory lane, a testament to the charm of the Scooby-Doo formula, even in its most unoriginal form. It’s the ultimate tribute (or rip-off, depending on how you see it) to a beloved cartoon, a funky echo of a ghostly past that still brings a smile to our faces.
The Forgotten Hero – Boo
Let’s not forget Boo, the spectral cat sidekick of Mudsy. Yes, this show had a ghost cat. Now that’s something even Scooby-Doo didn’t have! Boo, like Elmo, had a minor role, but she added a pinch of unpredictability to the series. A ghost cat scampering around certainly kept things interesting, if not entirely coherent. But at this point, who’s counting?
In all, the crew of The Funky Phantom might not have had the charm or depth of their Scooby-Doo counterparts, but they certainly made up for it in sheer eccentricity.
A redhead, a hippie, a chic girl, a scaredy dog, a ghost with a Snagglepuss accent, and a phantom cat. Now, if that isn’t a recipe for Saturday morning chaos, what is?
The Funky Phantom Comics
In the 70s, Western Publishing and Gold Key Comics rolled out comic adaptations of The Funky Phantom, featuring a mix of original narratives and TV episode adaptations. Unlike the TV series, where villains were always masked humans, the comics occasionally presented actual ghost villains from the colonial era.
In a surprising twist, one comic storyline transported the gang back to colonial times through a faulty time machine. The catch? The kids became the ghosts, and Mudsy reclaimed his living, breathing body.
The comics also spiced things up with a new character, Priscilla Atwater, a flirtatious ghost from Mudsy’s era with a soft spot for our Funky Phantom.
In 2018, the Phantom featured in a secondary story in the DC comic Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey Special #1. In the narrative, Jason Blood summons Muddlemore’s ghost, allowing reporters and citizens to question Mudsy about his views on the Second Amendment.
Mudsy and Boo
In the HBO Max original series Jellystone!, Mudsy and Boo make appearances. Paul F. Tompkins voices Mudsy. To ensure he doesn’t resemble Bert Lahr, Mudsy’s voice in Jellystone! has a distinctive sound.
The show portrays him as a former world-famous wrestler who had to retire after using his ghostly powers against opponents, as seen when he took over his rival, Mightor. Now, he’s the face of an avocado arrangement business.
Mayor Huckleberry Hound sets up a wrestling event where Snagglepuss and Mildew Wolf commentate, and town residents compete under their wrestling aliases.
The endgame is to challenge the Funky Phantom. The competition continues until only Yogi, wrestling as Dr. Pain, remains. When the Funky Phantom uses his ghostly skills on Dr. Pain, memories of the Funky Phantom’s notorious match resurface. As the “Avocadog,” Mayor Huckleberry joins the fray, rallying the defeated wrestlers to beat the Funky Phantom.
After the match, the Funky Phantom apologizes to Mayor Huckleberry for misusing his powers. But police chief Touché Turtle moves to arrest him for that misuse, leading the Funky Phantom to possess the chief. In a later episode titled “Jailcation”, we see the Funky Phantom as an inmate at Santo Relaxo.
The Funky Phantom Voice Cast
- Don Messick as Boo the cat
- Daws Butler as Jonathan Muddlemore
- Tommy Cook as Augie Anderson
- Jerry Dexter as Elmo
- Micky Dolenz as Skip Gilroy
- Kristina Holland as April Stewart
- Don’t Fool with a Phantom
- Heir Scare
- I’ll Haunt You Later
- Who’s Chicken
- The Headless Horseman
- Spirit Spooked
- Ghost Town Ghost
- We Saw a Sea Serpent
- Haunt in Inn
- Mudsy Joins the Circus
- Pigskin Predicament
- The Liberty Bell Caper
- April’s Foolish Day
- The Forest’s Prime-Evil
- The Hairy Scarey Houndman
- Mudsy and Muddlemore Manor
- Ghost Grabbers
Funky Phantom Intro
The Funky Phantom DVD
On October 26, 2010, Warner Archive launched The Funky Phantom: The Complete Series on DVD in region 1 under their Hanna–Barbera Classics Collection. They offer this Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) release exclusively through Warner’s online store and Amazon.com.