It’s impossible to keep a good franchise down, and the Scooby-Doo franchise is a pretty solid example of that. Countless television shows, a couple live-action movies, piles of animated movies, and countless piles of merchandise. Earlier this year, Cartoon Network introduced the latest installment of the Scooby-Doo franchise, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, a series that pays heavy homage to the original cartoon while giving a bit of a modern twist to it all. As to what should be no surprise, what we end up with here is a pretty fun romp that Scooby-Doo fans should find pretty impossible to pass up.
Hop in the van for Mystery Inc.’s new, cool series of spooky capers. Like, it’s an all-new Scooby-Doo TV series for families who want their mysteries like Scooby-Doo and Shaggy want their pizza … spicy with extra sauce! Join the gang in Crystal Cove – the most haunted place on Earth – to solve creepy cases packed with fearsome spooks and frights, exciting chases, terrifying surprises and of course, Freddy’s ingenious traps. But the gang doesn’t fall for that ghost stuff anymore. They know there’s always a bad guy behind the monster suit, until they receive a cryptic clue from the mysterious Mr. E, who challenges them with their greatest mystery yet – to uncover the secret behind the curse of Crystal Cove! Get trapped with Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Freddy, Daphne and Velma in four action-packed adventures from the cool, new show that’s a lot of doggone fun!
Somewhat of a reboot, I suppose, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated keeps the essence of what made the franchise so huge in the first place and infuses it with modern sensibilities. Every character is back to their classic roles, though with little twists to keep things from getting stale. Our characters, presented here in their late teens, sleuth their way through the usual standard mysteries, the mysteries themselves usually engaging enough to keep ones attention and provide a good laugh. The dynamic is classic, for sure, though there are some slight twists made to the form, thanks to some real nifty writing. Most notably, Fred and Daphne continue to wrestle with their feelings for each other, not outright but it’s there, but now Velma and Shaggy are getting in on the budding romance department. Sure, both Fred and Shaggy seem a bit clueless when it comes to this, but it’s a nice development for the cast of characters. The Fred and Daphne relationship is pretty much a given in any Scooby-Doo cartoon, but I like the addition of something brewing between Velma and Shaggy, especially the complications it brings for Scooby. In the first episode, Shaggy is actually afraid to tell Scooby because it could hurt his feelings…neat touch.
As I said above, this series continues with the standard episode formula for your standard Scooby-Doo cartoon, but they added a little something extra this time around. In addition to the “done in one” mystery, we also get a neat interconnected story-line that lightly connects the four episodes included here on this release. Personally, I find it adds to the show and raises it up a level or two as compared to the previous recent Scooby-Doo cartoons. It also gives the main cast a chance to deftly interact, resulting in some great one-liners and comedic exchanges. The writing is really excellent, bordering on subversive and sometimes deliciously absurd from time to time. Sure, these cartoons aren’t meant to be deep or thought-provoking studies by any means, but this recent adaptation of the Scooby-Doo franchise is probably the most fun its been since the original series kicked off nearly 50 years ago.
The animation style of the series deserves a nod, too. What we get here in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is this neat, sleek take on the original 1960s designs. The designs are classic, but tweaked just enough to look modern, and nicely stylized. The series tends to shift between these great brilliant colors, usually blue ad green (those two in particular seem to dominate the color scheme), and some moody, darker tones. It never gets too dark or scary for the kids, nor obnoxiously over-the-top for the adults, but the show tends to straddle the line quite nicely. If you find yourself bored by what’s happening on screen, at least you have a great looking series to please the eye. Sure, the animation itself can be a bit stiff from time to time, but the show tends to look sharp every second.
The four episodes featured on this release include “Beware the Beast from Below,” “The Creeping Creatures,” “Secret of the Ghost Rig,” and “Revenge of the Main Crab.” I find “Beware the Beast from Below” to be the sharpest episode on the disc, but all four are worth a spin.
I find Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated to easily be on par with the best of the Scooby-Doo direct-to-video animated features, definitely in terms of writing? Animation…well, not so much, but definitely writing. It just has a great edge that elevated what could of been a stale, one-note series into something little extra.
In the end, the most surprising thing is how many levels this show manages to play on. Yes, it has the usual Scooby-Doo mysteries to keep the kids entertained, but it also has a great subversive, slightly edgy tone to it that grown-ups can easily get into as well. There’s some real biting humor that will definitely surprise the audience, but also won’t alienate anyone or feel inappropriate to the younger set. It winks at the audience without making fun of what makes a show like Scooby-Doo work. Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is easily one of the best animation revivals to come out of Warner Home Video in recent years. It’s a great spin on an old classic that could easily put some of the other recent revivals (like Transformers, to name one) to shame. Without hesitation, I find Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated comes definitely Highly Recommended.
As much as I enjoyed the main presentation, I do have some reservations about the DVD itself. It’s not the lack of extras, all we get here are some trailers, or anything to do with the audio/video quality. In fact, save for some macro-blocking on occasion and some noticeable compression, it’s a pretty standard across the board.
What has me at a it of a loss is the fact that Warner Home Video seems to be going back to the old way of releasing animated shows on DVD – three or four episodes at a time. This release is billed as Season One, Volume One, giving me the impression that there’s at least two more releases to go to collect the first thirteen episodes. Why doesn’t Warner just release this series in a nice two-disc set instead of stretching it out. Sure, the four episode volume pack makes for a good impulse purchase, especially when it’s prices for around $10, but it is disappointing for fans (and even parents) wanting to get the most bang for their buck.
I can easily recommend Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated – Season One, Volume One on the merits of the actual program itself. It’s a great show that definitely surpassed my expectations and ended up surprising me. However, I do have some reservations on the format Warner Home Video is using to release the show on DVD. I am hoping that subsequent volumes will either up the episode count or make sure the suggested retail price is appropriate for what’s included on the release. That being said, I will stamp Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated – Season One, Volume One as Recommended based on the main feature, and encourage Scooby-Doo fans new and old – or perhaps those even looking for something a little different – to pick this up. It’s better than it has every right to be, and I’m looking forward to what comes next.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated – Season One, Volume One is now available to own on DVD.