The Many Faces of Velma

Recently, someone wrote an email to this site asking what we thought of how Velma was portrayed in the new move, as she was very different then the cartoon Velma. Huh? Ask four people to describe Velma, and you may get four very different answers! A lot of this is to do with the fact that four very different people have played the role over the years. (Actually more, but we will focus on the primary players.)  Depending on when you started watching, your take on who the "correct" Velma is may vary. This page looks at how the character came to be, and how Velma evolved through the years. 

The Design

When a series is created, specifications are drawn up that produce the template of how a character is suppose to look and act. It was decided early on that the Scooby series would be based on four teens and their dog. The first character developed was Shaggy. He was a free loving, off the wall hippy type from the 60's with a heart of gold. Scooby was the next character added. He would be the Dog equivalent of Shaggy. Take everything you know about a prize winning Great Dane, and draw the opposite!  Now the rest....  Every series is based on interaction of characters, known as, The Chemistry. To complement Shaggy, a second male character was added. He would be handsome, intelligent, mature, and basically all the things Shaggy was not!  The other two characters would be girls. The first concept for Velma was as a complement to Shaggy. Taken from the sixties, she would also be a hippy type character who was an art student. The problem occurred when they then tried to create Daphne.  Daphne would have to be the female equivalent of Freddy. Although nowadays, this would be very acceptable, it wasn't in the 1960's !  Back then, the concept that a girl could be both beautiful and smart was considered even further out then a talking dog!  (It was a male dominated society.) OK, Take Two!  One girl, Velma, would be the brains, the other would be the beauty! The motivation may have been all wet, but the result was good. Shaggy and Freddy were opposites, and Daphne and Velma were as well, but for different reasons!  In the refinement process, Daphne was given a brain, but her focus was looks. Velma was also given ok looks, but her focus was brain. This brings us to the question, Just what was Velma suppose to look like? Here are the original specifications: Height - 4 foot 9 inches, Weight - 95 pounds, Hair - brown. Other attributes- has glasses, likes orange turtle neck sweaters,  mini skirt, Mary Jane shoes.   Velma was born!

Velma #1 

 Nicole Jaffe 

The logical flow of a character is as follows:  Creator > Writer > Actor (or Actress.) In real life, there is a backflow from the actor/actress to the writing teem. Therefore, the character takes on some aspects of the person playing or voicing them. Thus, the series started in 1969 with the Nicole Jaffe version of Velma Dinkley. The original twangy voice, was Nicole's, but it did not stop there. Although she had appeared in movies with the aid of contact lenses (which were a real pain back in the 60's), Nicole was as nearsighted as the character she played, or maybe I should say Velma became as nearsighted as Nicole was! Here's an old story from a Hanna-Barbara studio worker: "Nicole was attending a script meeting between the writers and voice actors. At one point in time, she was rubbing her eyes and dislodged her glasses which fell to the floor. In her famous squeaky voice she moaned, "My glasses! I can't see without my glasses!"  The writers attending thought it fit the character so well, they added it to the script for storyboard work." Remember, HB also did the Mr. Magoo character, and thus Velma became the female Mr. Magoo!  Her glasses, or loss thereof, became a running skit in the series. Without her glasses, the almost genius Velma, was reduced to a bumbling idiot! Nicole also had a sharp sarcastic wit. This too became part of the Velma character.  True Scooby fans point to the 1969 through 1971 shows as the most pure incarnation of the characters, therefore, Nicole set the mold for what Velma Dinkley should be like. Unfortunately, Nicole left in the early 70's to pursue becoming an agent for other actors. The search was on for a replacement!

Velma #2 Pat Stevens

From 1974 to 1979 Pat Stevens took over the role of Velma. Pat had her own take on who the character was and Velma underwent some changes. Gone were the scenes of Velma loosing her glasses.  Pat's Velma was a bit more mature and soft spoken. She thought about what she would do before doing it. A "kinder and gentler" Velma. This Velma was drawn as a tad heavier. Velma had already started to gain weight from her original specification in the Nicole days. Although the original specifications did not include freckles, they appeared for no apparent reason, other then the whim of someone in the art department. (Pat had freckles.) The major reason Stevens landed the job was because her natural voice bore such a liking to Nicole's intentional inflection. She immediately blended into the ongoing series. She loved playing the part up until Velma got cut from the show and Scrappy-Doo was added. Many people who first watched Scooby during the "Pat" years, liked her better in the role then Nicole. When Pat left the show, she went on to become a collage professor. She now teaches "Advanced Acting 401" and is happy to hear that Scooby-Doo lives on! "I never thought it would have turned into what it is today," she said. Stevens remains amazed at the overwhelming popularity of the show. 

Velma #3 

 More recently,  Velma is being played by Betty Jean Ward. Her cartoon voices include everything from Betty Rubble to Judy Jetson. Betty took over the voice of Velma during the parody "Bravo-Dooby-Doo." This is an older Velma, who has mellowed out even more. However, this new Velma is more aggressive than Pat's. Warner Brothers liked it, and she has remained on for Zombie Island, Witch's Ghost, and the newer animated films as well. Finally, Velma shed some of the weight her character had been accumulating. This is due in part to the fact that one of the original art teem members joined Warner Brothers and became involved in the projects. Some of the other aspects of Nicole's Velma have returned. She is once again her highly myopic self. One thing that has bothered me is that her voice is a bit too soft spoken for the part. 


Velma #4 Linda Cardellini 

Everything old is new again!  Having just viewed the film, I think Linda nailed the Nicole Jaffe version of Velma, and even did one better! To those who remember the old 1969 series, her voice is a breath of squeaky fresh air! The mellow Velma has been shuffled off to the "old cartoon folks home" and the troublesome, "Smarty Pants" Velma is back! Having watched some of Linda's prior work, I had a feeling she might be perfect for the role. She was actually not their first choice for the role, Christina Ricci was. Ricci may actually look better for the part, but I am glad they chose Linda. There are some nice tributes to the old series, including Velma searching for her glasses in the true Nicole tradition. Those who thought Linda was too thin or too pretty to play Velma, have lost sight of the original specifications for the role. Velma was never a fat ugly girl with freckles, just a smart brainiac in baggy sweaters.  Linda has provided the perfect continuance of the role, and turned a cartoon character into a believable human one!

Velma #5 Mindy Cohn

Mindy steps in to voice Velma in the new series "What's New Scooby Doo?" Some think Mindy's voice may be even too squeaky to play Velma, a reference to Nicole's version, but I like it!  Old TV fans will remember her from the TV show "The Facts of Life" and recognize That's her real voice!

"Everything old is new again"

Velma #6

 Nicole Jaffe !


It is unclear to me, and even our insider does not know if Nicole only came back to do this "Tribute" movie, but it sure is a blast from the past to see and hear it! Yes, on the 2003 released "Legend of the  Vampire", Nicole Jaffee (Actually, she's married now.) returns with her "Smarty-pants" voice of Velma!  Click on the picture for a little more information!


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