Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Season 1 Volume 1
I’ve been meaning to talk about this revamped Scooby-Doo cartoon for ages, even before the first DVD came out, because it’s a lot of fun. Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated has reinvented the crime-solving canine and his four buddies in a way that keeps them entertaining for a modern generation, young and old alike.
Last month, Warner Bros. released its first DVD set for the new show. Volume 1 contains four episodes (out of 13 shown so far). The package is clearly aimed at kids, with the short episode count (to keep the price low), but there’s plenty an older viewer can enjoy, too. Fans of any version — the original cartoon or the live-action movies — will find similarities in the characters they’ll recognize.
The voice cast, for instance, features Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, as he played in the movies, but the original voice of Shaggy, Casey Kasem, plays Shaggy’s dad. And that’s another fun bit that keeps the show feeling new: we get to meet the kid’s parents, and quite the source of comedy they are, too. Fred’s dad is the Mayor (voiced by Gary Cole), so Fred (the original Frank Welker, also the voice of Scooby) often gets in trouble for pointing out fake ghosts. The economy of the town of Crystal Cove is based on selling its haunted status and paranormal activity to tourists. (Some of the exhibits have been taken from long-ago previous Scooby-Doo episodes, as has the Don Knotts-looking tourist cameo. Later, there’s a verbal reference to Vincent Van Ghoul. I’m glad to see this version of the show return to its original idea that ghosts aren’t real.)
Shaggy’s parents are well-off and troubled by his slobbishness and love of food. Daphne’s parents have raised a whole set of high-achieving look-alike sisters (Daisy, Dawn, Dorothy, and Delilah, who include a doctor, military officer, and astronaut). Both sets of adults find their kids’ friends beneath them. Sheriff Stone, wonderfully voiced by Patrick Warburton, provides a foe for the kids, since he thinks they get in his way of keeping order. New character Angel Dynamite (Vivica A. Fox) is a sexy 70s DJ whose studio provides a place for the kids to hang out and get some adult advice. I can’t wait to hear her backstory — how’d she wind up in Crystal Cove and meet the kids? The level-headed, sometimes sarcastic, Velma is voiced by Mindy Cohn (The Facts of Life), and she’s got a crush on Shaggy.
That’s another new twist: the kids are interested in dating. Well, the girls, anyway. Fred is a typical clueless teen boy who just wants to set Rube-Goldberg-like traps to catch fake ghosts. (His trap-setting has been taken to the status of an obsessive hobby, including reading “Traps Illustrated” magazine with its swimsuit cover.) Daphne (talented Grey DeLisle) is frustrated that he gets caught up in this pursuit and as a result doesn’t see her as more than a friend and teammate. This will cause many viewers to yell at Fred for being so oblivious to her attention, given her attractiveness. She’s also got the active, take-care-of-herself attitude of the movie version.
As the season continues, these plot threads play out in highly entertaining ways, especially once Scooby gets jealous of Shaggy and Velma spending time together. The kids acting like real boys and girls is a fun new twist on the classic. Each episode is entertaining on its own, but season viewers will be rewarded, especially once Mr. E (Lewis Black) introduces himself and sets up hints of future mysteries.
I’m assuming that the DVD disc (I haven’t seen it yet) contains the first four episodes, so those are the ones I’ll talk about here. “Beware the Beast From Below” introduces the town and the kids, who are trying to figure out who’s behind the slime mutant encasing people in green cocoons. Shaggy and Scooby point out that the green slime tastes just like Fruitmeir’s dessert (think glowing frozen yogurt), thus contributing something to the team.
“The Creeping Creatures” pits the gang against alligator men in nearby Gatorsburg, where they get stuck overnight. Some of the animation images are really impressive night work. Daphne helps solve this one with her allergy to “imitation animal skin — pleather, fake fur” which gives her hives. “Secret of the Ghost Rig” features a demonic tractor trailer, while Fred’s dad wants to start him off in the family business — politics — and Daphne’s parents have set her up with a rich snob (Rung Ladderton, whose family sells, what else, ladders).
“Revenge of the Man Crab” features a giant crab monster who kidnaps Daphne, which sends Fred into a breakdown. The episode opens with a really annoying teen girl being dragged off while her boyfriend fetches the right kind of diet bottled water for her. I have never been in more sympathy with the monster. Watch the beach background at the volleyball tournament closely to spot a teen Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm. I was also impressed to note that the businessman’s voice was George Segal. There’s a very high level of guest stars on this show.
Volume 2 of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is due in May in the same format. Adult viewers may want to sample an episode or two and then wait for the not-yet-announced-but-hopefully-coming-soon complete season set.
According to IMDB, there were supposed to be more episodes in season one than the 13 aired so far. Episode 14 was due to return at the end of January, but it hasn’t shown up yet. Since that episode has a lot of other animation cameos (including Jabberjaw, Speed Buggy, Captain Caveman, and Funky Phantom), I am both eagerly anticipating it and can only speculate what’s holding it up. As of this writing, it appears you can still buy the “Mystery Solvers Club State Finals” episode on Amazon Video on Demand. The latest update is that the episode will air in late spring.
Update: I finally got a chance to see the disc itself, and there are no extras. This is a bare-bones way to sample the series or give kids a way to watch the show over and over again.