Well, gang, it looks like we’ve got another mystery on our hands…
Ah, mysteries… my Achilles heel. Well, mysteries and Scooby Doo, really. But the two are synonymous. They go together so perfectly, like hamburgers and French fries; a Subway cold cut sandwich and a Coca-Cola with ice; marble cheese, crackers and banana peppers (wait, maybe that one’s just me?) … I know, I know, I have food on the brain, sorry, but Scooby is always hungry! … bottom line is that they’re truly inseparable — you can’t have one without the other.
And now I’m immersed in the middle of my very own Scooby Doo mystery… or make that Scooby DEE mystery.
I’ve mentioned before that the Scooby Doo collectible at the very top of my Holy Grail list isn’t Scooby at all — it’s actually Scooby Dee. Dee is Scooby Doo’s Southern belle country cousin. Dee is an actress, and she appears in exactly one episode of Scooby Doo: “The Chiller Diller Movie Thriller”.
The collectible in question is a low-detail plastic push puppet, one of a set of three Scooby push puppets produced by the Imperial Toy Corporation in 1977 (the same year the Scooby Dee episode aired). Dee is all white with a red collar and pink base.
I first learned of her back when the Cartoon Network off-shoot channel, Boomerang, was about to launch. CN started playing these really cool advertisements for Boomerang that featured all sorts of vintage Hanna-Barbera collectibles and toys — including the Scooby trio of push puppets — which was appropriate because the new channel was supposed to be nothing but vintage classic cartoons.
This isn’t the exact commercial that I remember, but so help me, it’s nowhere on the internet! This one’s close enough though, they made quite a few variations, turning them into show bumpers which aired on the Boomerang channel itself.
The push puppet is a pretty basic and somewhat primitive toy compared to some of the other collectibles out there, but I simply adore Scooby Dee and as far as I know, this is the only Dee toy collectible that exists.
So my radar is always on…
Occasionally I will spend an evening hitting up certain buy and sell sites like eBay and Etsy, searching for certain keywords, or for specific Scooby items in general. It’s usually a bust, but sometimes… oh, sometimes you hit the jackpot, baby.
Now, before anyone gets excited, no, I didn’t find the elusive Scooby Dee push puppet.
Or did I…..?
Firstly, here’s a search tip: It always pays to get a little creative with your search terms, because sometimes what you’re looking for is there… it’s just not called exactly what you think it should be called. You can find a lot of things that aren’t called “Scooby Doo” that actually are Scooby. So get creative!
At the end of December, I started thinking about the Scooby Dee push puppet. It had been a while, so I hopped over to eBay and started doing some basic searches.
Tip #2: Always pay attention to the algorithm-generated “You might also be interested in” suggestions, or anything else that the website might attempt to show you on its own.
At first, my searches came up empty. I saw tons of retro push puppets: Mickey Mouse, Fred Flintstone, even a Smurf. No Scooby or Scooby Dee.
Just as I was about to give up and call it a night… I saw it.
I saw her.
Now, I know what you’re thinking — Wendy, what is THAT? That doesn’t look like Scooby Dee.
Well… you’re not wrong… but you’re also wrong.
To say that I’m a “fan” of the Scooby Doo franchise is an understatement. A huge understatement. Now, I’m not an expert in anything, but… I’m quite knowledgeable in most things Scooby, and more importantly, I have an “eye” for details.
So okay, I know that technically this isn’t the Scooby Dee push puppet, but hear me out. Let me show you a side-by-side with the “real” one, and we’ll see if you can see what I immediately saw, and why I got so excited and had to do a double-take.
There is absolutely not one single, solitary doubt in my mind that this figure, described by the seller as a “Push Button puppet toy Hungary 1970’s RARE Vintage collapsing dancing GREAT DANE” — see what I meant about search terms? — was created from the same mold that the Imperial Toy Corporation used for their Scooby Dee figure.
The colours are obviously very different, with one being white, the other black. And even though the bases are both pink, the shade, shape and size is also very different, so I wouldn’t be surprised if most casual viewers scrolled right past this tiny black mystery figure. But look at the face and the collar with the tell-tale heart-shaped tag.
I recognized this instantly as the same mold as Scooby Dee because of the distinctive shape of the face and head. If you look at the toy trio of Doo, Dee and Dum, you can see that each one has a distinctive face shape. They didn’t just use the same figure painted in a different colour for each character. Each one is a unique sculpt.
And Dee’s is so different from the other two, as well as being uniquely accurate to the cartoon version of Dee — I mean, I think even a blind man could be convinced that my puppet is from the same mold.
Now, I, unfortunately, can’t read much of the tag on the bottom of the puppet. My Russian grandma could read and speak seven languages, including Hungarian, which this is written in, but sadly, I am not her. I was, however, able to discern a few things, and get a rough translation, as I’ll talk about later on.
Most importantly, I learned that the toy maker’s name was József Moskovits — “kesziti” is “maker” — which gave me something to search for, and I was able to find evidence that he was indeed a toy maker.
I then was able to find other examples of various push puppets (like the bee below) from this 1970s’ time period with an identical paper tag on the bottom of the toy.
Online translators can be really hit or miss, but I think I was able to piece together a reasonable translation of what the tag says.
“For ages 6-8 years old” was pretty clear; the rest gets a bit lost in translation — quite literally. But I believe it’s mostly saying that the toy is handmade with dyed polystyrene (plastic). Which makes sense. Originally push puppet toys were made of wood. But after the Second World War, more and more toys were being produced out of plastic — including the lowly push puppet. They were often made using an injection mold process, and as the label on this toy indicates, using polystyrene.
I couldn’t get a translation for the word “kermi”, but I’m thinking that the /79 at the end of that line might be the date of manufacture, 1979 — which would place it two years after the Imperial Toy Corporation produced the licensed Scooby Doo/Dee/Dum puppets.
So the question is — what is this? And the answer is… I don’t really know for sure.
The Imperial Toy Corporation was founded in 1969, and they, along with a much older company called Kohner, produced quite a few push puppets of well known cartoon characters. What happened to the molds they used when they had finished their manufacturing run? These toys were never expensive — note the $1 price tag on the Wally Gator and Touché Turtle puppets below — the market could have been flooded with them, which would only further decrease their value at the time.
Rather than just throwing them away, I could see Imperial selling them to some foreign manufacturing company (in this case, one based in Hungary), who then in turn produced a run of even cheaper “knock-off” toys, that weren’t really “knock-offs” though because they weren’t being marketed under the official name of Hanna-Barbera characters like “Scooby Doo/Dee”, etc. This is clearly a product of the Scooby Dee mold… but it’s just as clearly NOT intended to be Scooby Dee.
I also don’t think it’s an early prototype for the “real thing” — something I wondered about early on. The quality of the product seems to be inferior to the real Scooby Dee figure, based on photos that I’ve seen. The edges of mine are rough and not cleaned up (she would look even more like the real thing if all the seams were properly sanded down and smoothed out), and the surface is bare and untreated — the authentic Imperial puppets have a nice glossy finish and clean, smooth edges.
We can’t ignore that /79 on the tag either. I really do think this is a manufacturing date, and that would mean that my puppet came after the authentic Dee.
But “real” or not… I had to have her. I mean, I HAD to. (There was even a real and a “fake” Dee in the episode!!) While I will, of course, keep searching for the real Scooby Dee, this little beauty is a collectible in her own right, and honestly, is maybe even more exciting for me, at least at the moment.
I won the auction for her as the only bidder, so in total (with the dollar exchange to Canadian, and PayPal’s cut to make that exchange), I paid $18.33, which I think was an excellent price for a true vintage piece.
I was a liiiiiiittle bit unsettled about one thing. The listing was quite clear that the item in the photos was the item you were buying, but my figure is most definitely not the same one that’s in the photo. There are many small defects in each which just don’t match up — including the fact that the tags on the bottom are facing two different directions.
But I didn’t see any real reason to complain about it. (Though why say that if it isn’t true?) Holding this piece, it truly seems to have appropriate age (it’s not just a modern ‘fake’), and it’s not as if the one in the photos was in better shape. Frankly, it just means that there ARE more of these out there, which proves to me that this isn’t a one-off piece, and that a Hungarian manufacturer did make a run of them at some point.
I’ve been debating about whether or not I should leave this piece as-is, or transform it into the Scooby Dee it was always meant to be. I’m torn. I know I could make a Dee that’s even better than the “real” Imperial Dee, but… I mean, this is so unusual, I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I kind of like it as its own odd collectible. Everyone I’ve asked has surprised me by saying, “Yes, you should absolutely transform it!” I’m … still thinking about it. (Though let’s be honest, if I really felt comfortable doing it, I wouldn’t have asked anyone’s opinion — I would have just done it!)
So, gang, we’ve pulled the proverbial mask off the bad guy only to find… another mask underneath. Sorta. But that’s okay. I’m over the moon about this rare find, and she’s the perfect addition to my ever-growing Scooby Doo collection. I guess not every mystery needs to be solved. But if I make it to heaven, you’d better believe that this is something I’m going to remember to ask the Lord about.
“I made it?? Awesome!! Okay, please Lord, I MUST know: What WAS that Scooby Dee figure really???”
“This is what you want to know? Really, Wendy? REALLY?”
Rooby Rooby Roo!