For a Great Dane, Scooby-Doo has had an impressive innings. He’s now 44 years old, and has been through a number of mediums: TV series, videogames, stage plays, and many movies. In all that time the US version of Scooby has been voiced by only five actors (the original actor, Don Messick, played him from 1969 to 1994), and there remains something so familiar and reassuring about Scooby, even as the storylines and the entanglements of the Scooby gang change around him. Nowadays in Mystery Incorporated Velma may be on/off dating Shaggy, and Fred and Daphne may be having problems with their relationship, but Scooby remains as cowardly and hungry as ever.
The big screen movie escapade of Scooby-Doo (2002) involved Sarah Michelle Gellar as a black-belted Daphne and Rowan Atkinson as the main (okay, only) suspect, and a few sequels for this live-action approach were spawned. But my heart still belongs to the animated adventures, and in particular to the straight to video/DVD movies that deliver an hour or so of tongue-in-cheek entertainment with some of the best voice cameos and cheekiest lines of the franchise. It seems all the big stars want to have a crack at confounding those meddling kids.
So here, in chronological order, are ten of the most enjoyable Scooby-Doo straight to video/DVD movies, at least in our house. I love him, my daughter loves him, even our dog loves him. He’s still far out, man, as Shaggy would say.
1. Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island (1998)
The beginning of the Scooby reboot, Zombie Island is loads of fun – older and wiser, and a bit too scary for those of a nervous disposition; not every monster turns out to be a man in a mask.
The gang have gone their separate ways, but reform to investigate Moonscar Island, and horror legend Adrienne Barbeau provides the voice of Simone Lenoir, the owner of a spooky mansion who invites them to stay. But there are also some nasty undead visitors worthy of George A Romero. Mark Hamill also provides some voice-work – he’s a Scooby regular. The film is a step forward in animation and characterisation, introducing the first hint of romance between Fred and Daphne, but keeping everything familiar about Scooby’s cowardly nature and Shaggy’s ability to eat five times his own body weight. It’s dedicated to Messick, who died four years earlier. Scott Innes handled Scooby-duties here until 2001, when Frank Welker took over.
2. Scooby-Doo! And The Witch’s Ghost (1999)
Following on directly from Zombie Island, we find the gang in Oakhaven, New England, at the request of the famous horror novelist Ben Ravencroft. His long-dead witchy relative, Sarah, was murdered by the townsfolk hundreds of years ago, and now her ghost is back for revenge.
Ravencroft (a Stephen King clone) is voiced by Tim Curry, who is as brilliant as you’d expect. There’s also great music from an eco-goth band called The Hex Girls – their songs really stick with you, and a soundtrack album was released. One of the girls is voiced by ex Go-Go’s member Jane Wiedlin, who has, coincidentally, worked with Tim Curry before – she played the Singing Telegram in Clue!
Witch’s Ghost has a very unpleasant ending for the baddie, and continues with Zombie Island’s disconcerting theme that everything supernatural might not be faked. It’s also got some great comic moments, and the biggest Thanksgiving turkey you’ll ever see. Even Scooby and Shaggy might struggle to eat it.
3. Scooby-Doo! And The Legend Of The Vampire (2003)
The gang decide to have a holiday in Australia and catch the Vampire Rock music festival in the outback. Vampire Rock lives up to its name – the Yowie Yahoo, a hideous giant vampire who looks a lot like Chernobog from Fantasia turns up and starts kidnapping rock bands, much to the dismay of the organisers.
The Hex Girls are one of the bands in the festival, and it’s good to see them again. The music is really enjoyable throughout, particularly the souped-up version of the theme song that Velma sings at the end – in fact, Velma is voiced for the first time in 30 years by the original actress, Nicole Jaffe, and her vocal performance is loads of fun. Casey Kasem returns too as Shaggy. The animation style from TV series What’s New, Scooby-Doo? is used, but generally it feels like a return to earlier themes. The baddies are mask-wearing miscreants and everything is kept very light. A very untaxing Scooby film with only the mildest element of peril.
4. Aloha, Scooby-Doo! (2005)
A lot of the delight of the modern Doo! movies is in the exotic locations. The gang have travelled the world, and seeing Scooby surfing and craving Macadamia Nut Pie is a nice development for this adventure. Daphne’s new job as a swimwear designer involves a trip for the whole gang to Hawaii (what an excellent employer) where the annual surfing contest has been opened to non-residents for the first time. Alas, this has angered the volcano spirit, the Wiki-Tiki, who also happens to be a rad surfer.
Guest voices include Teri Garr, Adam West, and Tia Carrere. This film is all action, meaning there’s no time for any changes to the group dynamics, but if you prefer the Scooby Gang without the romantic subtext or personality tweaks then this is the one for you.
5. Scooby-Doo! In Where’s My Mummy? (2005)
If I had to pick just one Doo movie to watch over and over throughout eternity, it would be this one. Razor sharp, a perfect parody of a great movie genre, and with some of the best guest voices, Where’s My Mummy? is super-scooby-watchable. Plus it’s good to see Velma getting some appreciation for her brilliance for a change. She’s working on an archaeological dig in Egypt when the Gang decide to pay a visit, and a good thing too – they’re just in time to witness the opening of the tomb of Cleopatra. But the riches have attracted tomb raider extraordinaire Amelia Von Butsch (what a name – and voiced so well by Christine Baranski) who will incur the wrath of Cleopatra herself (Virginia Madsen) and place Velma in serious danger.
There are all the set pieces you could hope for in a Mummy movie, and other voice actors include Oded Fehr and Ron Perlman. There’s also a great documentary on the DVD about the voice recording work which shows all the actors relishing their work. Brilliant.
6. Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! (2006)
So it turns out that Fred Jones has a family, and they’re not short of a penny or two. Which makes sense, when you think about it – travelling the world in your Mystery Machine can’t be cheap. To celebrate Fred’s birthday his mum and dad have invited the entire gang on a relaxing cruise around the Bermuda Triangle. It’s a real shock when ghost pirates appear and kidnap his parents.
Ron Perlman’s in this film too, which is always a plus, along with Arsenio Hall and Dan Castellaneta. There’s more Scooby-time, too; in some of the films it feels as if Scooby hardly gets a look-in between Fred, Velma, and Daphne’s shenanigans, but here the Great Dane gets quite a lot of dialogue.
7. Scooby-Doo! And The Samurai Sword (2009)
You always wanted to see Scooby Doo do a martial arts movie, right? The gang are on a trip to Tokyo to see Daphne fight in a tournament at a karate school that’s run by a very shady lady called Miss Mirimoto (voiced by Kelly Hu, who played Lady Deathstrike in X-Men 2 and now stars in Warehouse 13). But at the opening feast the fearsome Black Samurai appears and there’s a new mystery to be solved.
Heavy on references to Enter The Dragon, Samurai Sword goes one step further and produces a real dragon, voiced by Brian Cox. George Takei also does some great voice-work. The fighting sequences are fun, and the Black Samurai is a pretty scary character. It continues the trend of making Daphne the sporty one of the gang, showing off the karate skills we first saw in the live-action Scooby-Doo back in 2002.
This is the last Scooby movie in the What’s New, Scooby-Doo? animation style, and also the last time that Shaggy is voiced by Casey Kasem.
8. Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo! (2010)
Picking up on the animation style of the TV series Mystery Incorporated and with Shaggy being voiced by Matthew Lillard (who played him in the live-action version), this Scooby adventure feels like a step into the next generation. Fred’s IQ level has continued to drop, Daphne is obsessed with him nonetheless, and Velma’s sister Madelyn has a huge crush on Shaggy that makes matters awkward when they go to visit her at Whirlen Merlin’s Magic School.
A griffin is terrorising the students and the school might have to close – can the gang save the day and learn a few magic tricks along the way? The voice performances are full of energy and the songs are singalong material. Plus the whole vegetable flavoured ice-cream subplot is as entertaining as it sounds.
9. Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare (2010)
It turns out Fred spent all his summer holidays as a child at Camp Little Moose, which is a lot less luxurious than Camp Big Moose, but inspires fanatical devotion in its alumni. So when Fred gets the chance to be a counsellor, he and the gang return, only to find that the campfire myth of the murderous Woodsman has come to life and is scaring everyone away.
There’s a touch of horror about this film; Friday The 13th and I Know What You Did Last Summer come to mind at times. The Woodsman is the stuff of your average nightmare, and he’s not alone; there’s also the Fishman and the Spectre of Shadow Canyon, and between the three of them there are more jumper moments in this Scooby adventure than any other. Mark Hamill provides the main guest voice, Daphne continues to flirt with Fred (theirs is shaping up to look like your classic doomed relationship), and there are a host of outward bound adventures including scuba and zipwiring. Plus the baddie is a real surprise – “Even I did not see that one coming,” says a shocked Velma.
10. Scooby-Doo! Legend Of The Phantosaur (2011)
It’s a movie-homage of epic proportions as Shaggy gets the limelight. He’s been scared once too often and has developed a nervous condition – complete serenity is a necessity for his recovery. No mysteries allowed. And so the Mystery Machine is renamed the Mustard Machine and the gang head off to La Serena Spa, where a paleontological dig is taking place. Cue dinosaurs, biker gangs, hypnotism, dangerous caves, and a great sequence involving velociraptors in a kitchen that was stolen wholesale from Jurassic Park.
Combined with an Aliens moment, the usual Fred/Daphne problems, and an awkward romantic encounter for Velma, it’s got a fair amount of more adult material. But maybe this new incarnation of Scooby-Doo is as much for the parents as the children. When you want to sit and watch a family film, Scooby entertains everyone with his easy familiarity and commitment to bad puns and physical comedy.
And he shows no sign of stopping. Recently, in Mask Of The Blue Falcon (2013), the gang attended a comic convention and took on the world of superheroes. There are other adventures coming up set in the worlds of puppetry and Wrestlemania. Wherever modern life takes us, Scooby follows. And then gets scared and needs to be persuaded to take part with a Scooby Snack or two. Scooby really is the Everydog of our times, isn’t he?
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