Scooby-Doo has always walked a wobbly line between kid-friendly antics and grown-up gags. Although one of the many cartoon series Hanna-Barbara produced in the late ’60s and ’70s, complete with bubble-gum pop tunes and recycled animation, Scooby-Doo is fundamentally a horror show starring hippies. It didn’t take too much imagination to see why Scooby and Shaggy were always hungry. Even better, Scooby-Doo ended every episode by revealing that capitalism was the true monster, predating “elevated horror” by several decades.
With such a mixed history, it’s no surprise to learn that when Scooby-Doo got a live action, big-budget adaptation in the early 2000s, filmmakers had wanted to make the subtext text. And who better to help them than James Gunn, who got his big-budget start on the movie? Today, we know Gunn as the guy who made us empathize with an emotionally insecure murder racoon and mourn the tragedy befalling a mind-controlling space starfish. But in 2000, Gunn was writer for schlock studio Troma Films who made a splash writing Tromeo and Juliet and the superhero parody The Specials.
Gunn’s writing was not kid-friendly, and his original script for 2002’s Scooby-Doo reflected that. He and director Raja Gosnell had decided to make a more adult version of the Mystery Incorporated gang, one that satirized those meddling kids as much as it celebrated the property. Various sources over the years have indicated that in addition to overt drug scenes, both Freddy and Velma (played by Freddie Prinze Jr. and Linda Cardellini, respectively) would be gay and the horror would have a harder edge than what we usually associate with the franchise. In fact, these elements were part of the shooting script, as Cardellini and Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played Daphne, shared a kiss.
For years, people had assumed that Gunn and Gosnell wanted to make an R-rated movie, but the writer recently took to twitter to add more context. In a thread celebrating the movie’s 20th anniversarry, Gunn indicated that all involved — including him, the producers, and Gosnell intended the movie to be rated PG-13. But the MPAA gave the film’s first cut an R rating. When the producers cut down the movie to hit PG-13, the MPAA gave it a PG instead, and that’s the cut that made it to theaters.