‘Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School’ Was Universal Monsters 101
Since 1969, Hanna-Barbera’s many versions of Scooby-Doo have served as kid-friendly gateway horror. Through episodes playing via syndication, reruns, and reboots, a sleuthy, snacky dog exposed young audiences to a variety of celebrities from decades prior including The Three Stooges, Sonny & Cher, and Dick Van Dyke. But between all the countless guest stars and crossovers, the animated young ladies who attended Miss Grimwood’s Finishing School for Girls in 1988’s Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School hold the honor of introducing the most iconic monsters in horror to a generation of adolescent girls.
Miss Grimwood’s Finishing School for Girls is not the first or last time Scooby and the (pared down) gang interact with real monsters. The 1985 series The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo developed the formula of members of the Scooby crew dealing with actual ghosts. This kicked off Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers, Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf, and Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School, a trilogy of “real” creature made-for-television features. Ghoul School writer Glenn Leopold was involved in several “Scooby plus real monster” projects and penned the 1998 direct-to-video Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island that kicked off another wave of Scooby-Doo films a decade after Ghoul School.
(Leopold also wrote songs for Scooby-Doo including “Terror Time” and tracks for fictional female eco-goth rock band The Hex Girls. The man is a legend, but let’s get back to the ghouls!)
Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School wastes no time introducing the original #GhoulGang. Scooby, Shaggy, and Scrappy-Doo meet Sibella, Dracula’s daughter; Winnie, The Wolfman’s daughter; Phantasma, The Phantom’s daughter; Tanis, The Mummy’s daughter; and Elsa Frankensteen, the daughter of Frankenstein’s Monster with a vowel change. The Scooby crew never meet any mommies—only mummies—but Elsa rocks the same iconic hairstyle as The Bride, so educated horror viewers can assume her lineage.
While Elsa’s hair is an undeniable reference to classic monster imagery, the other ghoul girls’ appearances favor an ‘80s aesthetic. Winnie might be a wolf girl, but she also resembles “Annie” with her orange, curly hair. Phantasma is an intangible phantom portrayed in baby blue hues, but she’s on trend for the era with her Pat Benatar pixie haircut, belted dress, and booties. Sibella is quite fashionable with her flowing purple gown, feathered lavender hair, blue eyeshadow, and hot pink lipstick. Tanis is the most simplistic out of the girly monster makeovers with blue eyes, eyelashes, and a big pink bow on her head. That being said, the ghoul girls are presented in a feminine way that avoids painting them all shades of gender stereotypical pink and still feels fresh for young audiences today.
The sweet appeal of the mini monsters in Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School is not limited to pastels, makeup, and hair bows; their personalities go against the traditional reputation of scary monsters. Upon meeting Miss Grimwood, her pet dragon Matches, and her disembodied hand helper, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo are terrified at the thought of encountering the girls Shaggy has agreed to coach for an upcoming volleyball tournament. Thankfully, Scrappy-Doo acts as an emotional guide, reassuring that the girls are nothing to fear—and Scrappy is quickly proven right! The ghoul girls are warm, welcoming, and share a common goal—to win the tournament and bring back a trophy to show their parents.
The ghouls participate in activities non-monster girls can somewhat relate to. They encourage each other during volleyball training, practice ballet, and share pizza with spider, snail, and tadpole tail toppings. They’re also heroes who rescue not only their rivals—the boy cadets from Calloway Military School—from the greatest known threat in cartoon history (quicksand, duh). In true Scooby-Doo fashion, the girls end up rescuing Shaggy and Scooby-Doo after the duo’s failed attempt to save the ghouls from the evil clutches of spider-witch Revolta. The ghoul girls may be monsters, but they are also brave little ladies who should be respected instead of feared.
The Halloween open house halfway through Ghoul School finally introduces all those famous monster daddies; Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman, The Phantom, and Frankenstein’s Monster. Notably, this crossover is only a few years before the Universal Classic Monsters were unleashed on home video in the 1990s—but Scooby-Doo syndication on television was a far more accessible creature sighting for appropriate audiences at the height of Saturday morning cartoons. The monster daddies lean “traditional monster” in design next to their daughters with slightly muted and natural color palettes, but they still hold a softer touch.
Right off the bat (transformation), the first moment with these fearsome fathers is Dracula using his cape to shield The Mummy from the rain since his wraps are not waterproof and it sets the tone—these monsters are different. Although Shaggy and Scooby resort back to cowering in fear before the horror titans, all of the fathers are more excited to hug than hurt the pair. Their only scare tactics are vague “take care of my daughter or else” threats to Shaggy and Scooby as each dad heads out the door; this speaks to a more “Universal Dad Move” than Universal Classic Monster. While the ghoul children are developed to appeal to coming-of-age girls, their relationships with their fathers and the affection shared amongst monsters leaves an equally lasting impression.
In stark contrast to the classic monster parents and groovy daughters, Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School villains Revolta and Grim Creeper lack any clear references in horror film history. Revolta’s character design falls somewhere between arachnid and witch while the Grim Creeper resembles an overgrown potato with tentacles. Revolta plans to use mind-control on the ghoul girls and overpower their famous fathers because she’s disgusted the classic monsters have “grown soft” in fatherdom. That said, her storyline is rushed and she is ultimately forgotten in a movie dedicated to legendary horror icons and their revolutionary daughters.
While not every classic monster is featured throughout the film, Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School squeezes in a few more monster cameos before the credits roll. During the final celebration, Miss Grimwood introduces Shaggy to new arrivals; the Creature from the Black Lagoon’s daughter, Godzilla’s daughter, and an alien’s daughter. Shaggy and Scooby forget everything they have learned from the girls at this precise moment, make a mad dash to the Mystery Machine, and drive away from the ghoul school. I guess a kaiju wearing a pink bow is where Scooby-Doo draws the line?
Not only was Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School ahead of the Universal Classic Monster home video line by a few years, but the animated feature was ahead of its time in adapting traditional monsters for kid audiences. Hanna-Barbera paved the way for horror franchises designed with young girls in mind. The film not only conjures a new generation of monsters young girls can identify with, but portrays the classic monsters as kind, loving father figures children can celebrate. Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School taking the time and care to create monster role models for girls to call their own is—in the timeless words of Dracula’s daughter—Fangtastic!