Warner Bros. Animation (2010), Warner Home Video (January 25. 2011), 2 discs, 88 mins, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0, Not Rated, Retail: $14.98
Scooby-Doo and the rest of the Mystery, Inc. gang are back on television solving new paranormal mysteries and unmasking monsters in the aptly-titled new series Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated. The first four episodes of the show have now been packaged together in a volume 1 set for the new show.
The Sweatbox Review:
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is a fun, modern-yet-retro adaptation of the beloved Scooby-Doo series. This time, instead of roaming the countryside looking for mysteries to solve, the gang mostly stays put in their hometown of Crystal Cove. The town is a hot spot of alleged supernatural activity and happens to be where the four members of the gang go to High School. This leads to a lot of fun as the monsters come to town, and we get to know more about the gang’s family lives, loves, and pains. The series is slightly darker and less campy than previous versions, with a more modern sensitivity to suspense and mystery. After the light and gadget-friendliness of Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue, the gang returns to basics of mystery-solving – research, searching for clues, and, of course, traps.
The gang is basically intact from the original show and does not include (as-of-yet) any of the annoying sidekicks that have popped up over the years of the franchise (that means you Scrappy!). It does, however, feature regular appearances from the main characters’ parents and siblings. At the heart of the team is Scooby-Doo (voiced by Frank Welker), the Great Dane that still has a knack for finding clues about monsters and their secret human identities. Scooby lives with Shaggy (voiced by Matthew Lillard), the son of one of the town’s wealthiest families, who loves watching horror movies and solving mysteries with his friends. Also on the Mystery Incorporated team is Velma Dinkley (voiced by Mindy Cohn) whose parents run the town’s paranormal museum and who does not believe in ghosts. The other boy on the team is Fred Jones (also voiced by Welker) whose two ambitions in life are solving mysteries and creating traps for them. His father happens to be the mayor and is disappointed by his son’s lack of political ambition. Finally, there is Daphne Blake (voiced by Grey DeLisle) who also comes from a wealthy family of overachievers and whose parents want to marry her off to an equality worthy young man. These many relationships build up the base for the show over the course of the season.
Beware the Beast from Below is a great pilot episode and quickly establishes the new tone for the show as well as the multiple family and relationship dynamics mentioned above. Since Crystal Cove relies on paranormal tourism, none of the town’s authorities are actually interested in solving the mysteries and provide little support to the young sleuths. Velma’s parents would rather keep the town’s paranormal reputation intact in order to cater to more tourists. Fred’s father would like to keep the town’s tourism sector thriving and does not want his son to waste time chasing after ghosts. To add to the drama, we quickly learn that Velma and Shaggy are secretly dating and trying to keep it a secret from their friends, especially Scooby who might get jealous. Daphne is also expressing romantic interests in Fred, but she finds his cluelessness about her feelings frustrating. Perhaps the most intriguing set-up from this episode is the introduction of a new character that we never see called Mister E. After finding a mysterious magnifying-glass locket during their hunt for the Slime Mutant that has shown up in Crystal Cove, the gang gets a call from the mysterious character telling them of a greater mystery they are about to uncover.
In the next three episodes, we see the gang develop their ability to solve mysteries, delve further into their relationships and get closer to finding the truth about Mister E. In The Creeping Creatures, Mister E delivers a package to the gang that comes from the town of Gatorsburg where the gang sets off to search for the mystery of the Alligator people that live there. While there, the gang stays in a creepy hotel, and frequently tries to sneak time alone with one another. Somehow the mystery they solve has something to do with the greater mystery at hand suggested by Mister E (but we don’t find out why). In Secret of the Ghost Rig, a truck is terrorizing the citizens of Crystal Cove and keeping people off the highway. All of this happens as Fred has to help his father’s reelection campaign and Daphne’s parents attempt to set her up with a wealthy heir. Finally, in Revenge of the Man Crab, the gang attempts to resolve the mystery of the Man Crab that is terrorizing Crystal Cove’s latest volleyball tournament and kidnapping players. In this episode, the gang receives an old newspaper clipping also leading them closer to solving what is behind Mister E. In these three episodes Daphne continues to grapple with her feelings for Fred while Shaggy and Velma try to keep their relationship a secret from the rest of the gang, especially Scooby-Doo who might feel betrayed by Shaggy if he were to find out.
Is This Thing Loaded?
The DVD opens up with trailers for Scooby-Doo: Curse of the Lake Monster – Extended Edition and Happiness is a Warm Blanket Charlie Brown. Inside the “Trailers” section of the DVD are also trailers for Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare, Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes, and Scooby-Doo! And the Spooky Swamp.
The single disc comes housed in a standard DVD case. A flier for Scooby-related merchandise is included in the DVD.
Ink And Paint:
Mystery Incorporated looks great as is being released in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The characters have had some minor character modifications from previous versions and look a little younger (but nothing dramatic). The animators and art designers have done a great job with this series and many of the episodes depict excellently gloomy atmospheres. While some of the episodes are a bit dark, I found it interesting how the animators have introduced bright colors to the villains (just look at the Alligator people). Characters are frequently partially in shadows and lit by artificial lights. Overall, the print looks great.
The show is being released in a standard Dolby Digital 2.0 track. The show sounds great with some eerie sound effects and score which would’ve been great in 5.1, but 2.0 works fine. The DVD comes loaded with English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Thai language tracks along with subtitles in the same languages minus French.
When it made its television debut last summer, I was one of the millions of Scooby fans eagerly anticipating a return to form for the franchise. Ever since What’s New, Scooby-Doo? ended the series hasn’t had the full gang out in regular weekly mysteries (although direct-to-DVD series have been extremely popular). The popular, and long-running “What’s New” continued in the same vein as the successful Scooby direct-to-video movies that have come out since 1998’s Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. By taking the show back to Crystal Cove, we get more personal story-arcs for the gang and a season-long mystery that takes place in their hometown. The show is also focusing more on personal relationships with romantic relationships explicitly stated and pursued between Shaggy & Velma and Fred & Daphne. While some may find it sacrilege, I found it to be refreshing after years of fan speculation and fan-fiction related to these characters (especially between Shaggy and Velma). The fun in this is that it allows us to care about the characters while they’re going out and solving mysteries. It keeps the viewers engaged in the full season beyond who is behind the latest monster of the week. By doing this, Warner has brought the show clearly into the 21st Century landscape of modern television procedural mysteries.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?