Hanna-Barbera (2005), Warner Home Video (January 8, 2008), 2 discs, 288 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0, Not Rated, Retail: $19.98
Modern Scoob and the gang use their wits and a touch or irony to expose the identities of would-be monsters.
The Sweatbox Review:
Okay, so just how many incarnations of Scooby-Doo have their been? Depending on how you count, it’s now in double digits, stretching back to the original 1969 Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?. After having various versions that presented Scooby with various guest stars, numerous versions with cousin Scrappy, a series with Vincent Price, and the adventures of the gang when they were young, the 2001 Scooby-Doo movie led to the development of a show that harkened back to the original series, What’s New, Scooby-Doo?. This latest series (since replaced with the much-different Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue! in 2006) brought the series back to its roots. Every week, the Mystery, Inc. gang would find itself travelling the countryside (or to different countries), encountering all manners of monsters. The original show’s tendency towards featuring ghosts was left behind somewhat, as the new show brought forth all sorts of different creatures.
Using modern production techniques, the new show looked much cleaner than old-time Scooby, with animation that certainly matched and likely exceeded what had come before. The Mystery Machine got some new upgrades, and characters were slightly re-designed, much in line with how they had appeared in recent years in the direct-to-video movie outings— Fred no longer sported an ascot, and some of the quirkiness of Iwao Takamoto’s original designs was lost. All in all, though, What’s New Scooby-Doo? was a pretty sharp-looking show, right up there with any other Warner-produced 21st century cartoon show. Keeping with tradition, the copyright notice on the shows still identified it as a Hanna-Barbera production, even though Warner Bros. Animation long ago absorbed that venerable studio. The voice cast was also partially brought back, with Frank Welker returning as Fred (as well as taking over Scooby from the departed Don Messick), and Casey Kasem once again played Shaggy. Facts Of Life actress Mindy Cohn proved she was born to play the team’s resident intellectual, Velma, while Daphne was played by Grey Delisle. Guest voices in Season Three include Tom Kenney, Dee Bradley Baker, and John O’Hurley.
Added to the show was a healthy (but restrained) dose of post-modernism, with the characters often teasing the show’s long-time conventions. Every episode still followed the exact same formula that Scooby-Doo has always used, but this time the characters themselves saw how hackneyed it had all become. Hence, they often would comment on the unfairness of how the team would split up, the types of role each character was expected to play, and the inevitable course every story would take. This made the show fun for those that grew up with Scooby years earlier, but What’s New Scooby-Doo? managed to walk the line well enough that the show never quite fell into the realm of parody. It followed closely in the footsteps of its predecessors, while still being smart enough to know that those footsteps were already well trodden. The “chase” songs, first used in the second season of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, were used again in this series, but with a contemporary pop sound.
One thing an older viewer can appreciate is that this version does try a little harder to misdirect the viewer with red herrings. Unlike some of the original shows, which often only had one viable suspect, these episodes do offer a variety of enticing possibilities. One thing you could accuse this show of, however, is of being soft on crime. The villains are generally of the sympathetic sort, and they frequently get off without any jail time at all. It seems that mass property damage and terrorizing townsfolk just isn’t enough to land someone in the klink these days! You almost expect some of these would-be monsters to end up on a talk show describing what made them do it, while launching a new book describing their encounters with Mystery, Inc. This is a Scooby for the Oprah generation.
Those looking for a taste of classic Scooby should like what they see in this series, and those who never quite understood what made the original such a success should enjoy seeing What’s New poking fun at it. If What’s New, Scooby-Doo? was trying to appeal to both camps, I think they succeeded. This is a fun series, much like the early years of Scoob on TV— nothing too groundbreaking, but easily digestible.
Fright House Of A Lighthouse – The Creepy Keeper is the ghost of an old lighthouse keeper. Why is he scaring away nearby boats?
Go West, Young Scoob– Reminiscent of Westworld in a way, featuring a western town made up of robots. The gang goes up against The Robot Banditos.
Wrestle Maniacs – Here’s a good example of appealing to modern tastes, with the gang investigating the Titanic Twist, a mangled wrestler who seems intent on shutting down a wrestling show.
Ready To Scare – In an international outing, the gang travels to Paris, where they run afoul of a Notre Dame gargoyle!
Farmed And Dangerous – A Demon Farmer is intent on keeping visitors away from a farm with a secret. This episode is notable for having a character that is a caricature of Hanna-Barbera co-founder Joe Barbera (listed as the show’s executive producer).
Diamonds Are A Ghoul’s Best Friend – The gang attends an international hockey tournament in Russia, and comes across the Frozen Fiend.
A Terrifying Round With A Menacing Metallic Clown – Shaggy competes in a miniature golf tournament that is terrorized by, well, a menacing metallic clown. In a fun twist, Shaggy’s seriousness in this episode, powered by his desire to win the championship, leads to him taking on Fred’s role as team leader, while the other members begin to take on Shaggy’s qualities, and Velma goofs off with Scooby. There is also a flashback to the Pup Named Scooby-Doo era, where we learn why Velma dislikes clowns.
Camp Comeoniwannascareya – The Toxic Terror does its best to frighten kids at a campground.
Block-Long Hong Kong Terror – This one obviously takes place in Hong Kong, where the gang encounters a giant dragon!
Gentlemen, Start Your Monsters – The show’s ode to NASCAR, with The Skeleton Racer being the monster of the week.
Gold Paw – People are being turned into gold in this tale of a Midas-like bad guy.
Reef Grief! – A sand castle competition in Australia is attacked by a coral monster.
E-Scream – A video game convention turns scary when fuzzy characters featured at the show come to life and attack.
Note: the Valentine’s special that aired during this season appeared on the first DVD season set of this series.
Is This Thing Loaded?
The most substantial extra on this set is the 2002 Christmas special A Scooby-Doo Christmas. It’s not an original title, nor as catchy as its predecessor A Nutcracker Scoob, but it does get its point across. In this tale, a take-off of the story of Sleepy Hollow, the gang winds up in Winter Hollow— a town that no longer celebrates Christmas, due to the actions of the Headless Snowman. Except for the lack of the series’ normal opening, this is otherwise simply a standard episode from the series, albeit with a schmaltzier ending (with the bad guy getting away with it yet again!) and a special guest cast that includes Mark Hammil, James Belushi, Peter Scolari, and M. Emmett Walsh.
The second disc also has a Know Your Scoob Game, with an annoying host, and Trailers for Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue!, The Smurfs, and Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends.
Standard keepcase with tray, no insert, and no way of knowing what episode is on which disc.
Ink And Paint:
The video is, as near as I can tell, perfect. Digital post-production makes transfers of modern cartoons relatively easy to put to disc, and this picture is a total winner. The 4:3 image is stable and shows no compression artifacts. Nicely done.
The 2.0 sound is featured in English and French flavours, either one conveying crystal-clear audio with about as much separation as one can expect from a TV show. No complaints. English subtitles are also available.
I found this show to be a worthy follow-up to the original version of Scooby-Doo. Based on your feelings for that show, you can take that statement as you wish. As someone who’s always enjoyed ol’ Scoob, I appreciated both the modern updating and the sly nods to the staleness of the show’s conventions, while still staying true to its origins. And the Christmas special is a nice bonus, though it probably should have rightfully appeared on the first season set, switching places with the Valentine’s special.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?