Cartoon Corner: Top 5 Scooby-Doo Where Are You! Episodes

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Jinkies! It’s the Original!

And so we reach the end of Scooby-Doocember and the year itself with the original series, Scooby-Doo Where Are You! Now I can’t do this as an ordinary review for a couple of reasons, I mean for one my view on this series is just caked in nostalgia so I can’t even approach a critical analysis of the show (not that I do that much analysis in normal reviews). I’m not blind to it’s faults, I freely admit that the animation is so cheap homeless people give it money out of pity, the characters have as much depth and development as a puddle and the mysteries don’t exactly need Columbo to figure them out.

What I will argue though is that even though the animation is cheap it still has oodles of atmosphere, from the creepy locations and dark colour palette of the backgrounds to some really spooky parts of the soundtrack. This series, more than any other in the Scooby franchise, can do haunted, not scary, but that creepy, spooky vibe of being in some place where the supernatural could be at play. As for the characters, yeah they stick to their archetypes and don’t change in the slightest throughout, but they don’t need to because they have personality. Maybe they’re not relatable people, but they feel genuine, people that you can sit down and have a laugh with. Also I really like the friendship between the five of them and the idea of having this gang of misfits from different walks of life just banding together.

With the mystery element, I have spoken about this before, but they don’t need to be overly complex. This is a show aimed at young children and while I will never condone a show dumbing down for its audience, if you get too complex your going to either lose their attention or become so convoluted it enters the ridiculous, and this is a show with a talking dog, we have enough ridiculous thank you. The mystery just needs to be enough to hook the kids in and then show them by the end that there is an answer and don’t always judge a situation by your first impression, which I think is a good message. Sure sometimes there’s either only one person hanging around that could possibly be the culprit or they pull the guy out of thin air, but that doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t dent the message. It can get very formulaic, but every now and again the show may surprise you with a twist as I hope to show.

Anyway, I went on a bit of a ramble there so back to the point, I said I can’t do this as a normal review and the other reason why is because I’ve kind of just done the review there and it’s only half as long as I normally tend to write these. Due to the lack of depth and the formula there isn’t all that much else to sink my teeth into, so instead I’m going to do my top 5 episodes, now there are plenty of other great episodes that I enjoy watching, but these just edge it for one reason or another.

  1. Bedlam in the Biptop

Just goes to show that clowns are creepy no matter where they turn up. The design on the Ghost Clown is fantastic and he’s probably one of the more dangerous adversaries that Mystery Incorporated has ever faced. Yeah, they’ve had plenty of guys in masks threatening them or trying to scare them, but this guy genuinely tries to kill them. The plot goes like this, the gang stumble across a circus where a Ghost Clown has been terrorising the acts and scaring them off one by one, the gang decides to investigate, but it turns out that the Ghost Clown has a thing for hypnosis. There isn’t that much on the mystery front for this episode but what follows is several set pieces as the Ghost Clowns hypnotises the gang into performing death-defying stunts. Ever want to see Shaggy the lion tamer? There is a bit of a mystery as we try to figure out how the Ghost Clown disappeared out of a cage.

  1. The Haunted House Hang-Up

On their way to a rock concert the Mystery Machine breaks down, unfortunately it breaks down outside of a haunted mansion. We’ve got floating candles, a painting that literally loses its head and an ominous banging going on all the time, not to mention the Headless Spectre roaming about the place. This is kind of what I regard as the standard for a Scooby-Doo episode, lots of spooky goings on and clues dotted about the place. What raises this episode above the usual fare though is that it comes with a twist. You see once the Headless Spectre is unmasked, that’s not the end of the mystery. Because if the Headless Spectre wasn’t making that banging noise and the gang weren’t making it, who is?

  1. Spooky Space Kook

Now as much as I love the abandoned amusement parks and creepy islands, the haunted airfield of this story has to be one of the best locations in Scooby-Doo. Add into that a ghostly spaceship floating around the place, beeping and clicking and the Space Kook himself and spooky is definitely the best word to describe this episode. I love the design on the Space Kook with that big bulky body and the glowing skull in his helmet (I wonder if a certain Mr. Moffat ever saw this before he wrote Silence in the Library?). There’s that laugh too, oh I love that laugh. The visuals and the sound design make this one.

  1. Jeepers, It’s the Creeper

This episode’s plot is probably the closed to a slasher flick that Scooby-Doo will ever get; it’s also probably one of the most classic episodes. I know that when I think of a Scooby-Doo baddie, the Creeper is one of the first that pops into my head. He has a brilliant design, simple but completely effective and he certainly lives up to his name. There’s something about him shambling towards the gang, repeating his name over and over again with that voice that really sends the chills down my spine. On to the plot, after the gang discover a beaten up car and a barely conscious driver, the gang are handed a blank piece of paper and are told that the flame shall reveal the Creeper. Now for once in their lives the gang don’t pursue this mystery and instead go their school dance, but when the power goes out the students leave to party elsewhere, leaving our heroes alone in the barn. Then the Creeper appears and chases them across the countryside (seriously why am I imaging a dark retelling of this as a teen slasher with Daphne wielding a pitchfork, damn it now I have to write that!).

  1. A Night of Fright is No Delight

After Scooby saves the life of a wealthy eccentric he’s written into the old man’s will. Now all he has to do to get the money is spend the night in a haunted house! Can our resident scaredy-dog be brave for once? What do you think? This is one where the atmosphere is perfect, from the soundtrack to that beautiful house all alone on an island with lightning flashing through the sky. It’s probably over the top but I love it and my god I love the Phantom Shadow! There design has to be the best of the classic villains, simple but effective and then you add in that spine-chilling laugh and those chains. Also, you don’t get a good look at them at first; they’re just a shadow moving across the wall. Screw the million dollars, you wouldn’t see me for dust.  Now I know I’m bigging this episode up way too much, but this is my favourite and what I regard as the classic of classics. Also it has one of Fred’s silliest traps, who wants to see a flying washing machine?

Thank you for staying with me while I’ve gone through this nostalgia binge, I promise we’ll be back to the usual long-winded rants and over-hyped praising that I normally get up to. I hope you’ve enjoyed this and whether you’re a Scooby fan or not I hope you’re curious enough to check something from the franchise out, you never know, you might find something you like.

Now let’s put 2016 behind us and look forward to 2017, it can only be better, right?

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday. 

Cartoon Corner: Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated

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It’s Trappin’ Time!

Wait, what is this? An over-arching plot? Relationship drama? This isn’t a traditional Scooby-Doo series, it’s different! Quick, run and hide before it spreads! Okay, all joking aside I’m surprised it took so long for the Scooby-Doo franchise to get a series with an ongoing plot. I mean I know 13 ghosts had the whole you have to go out and catch the titular ghosts, but that plot was pretty much just catching a new ghost each week and offered the same kind of development as Pokemon (as to say, none whatsoever), plus that series got cancelled (How dare anyone cancel any series that has Vincent Price in it!). Mystery Incorporated has an actual mystery though with clues and a whole heap of payoff.

That being said I think the actual clues could have been done a bit better. It was okay at the start with the locket and the chest and stuff, but as the series progresses and heads into its second season we end up with the gang looking for one collectible after another without much in the way of progression. The mystery on the other hand I really like. I like the idea of there being previous groups made up of four teens and a mascot animal and some mystery force being behind bringing them together. That’s quite a cool concept, though again I wish the gang could have dwelt on that for a bit longer, I mean they have a couple of moments were they question whether they’re actually friends or just the Evil Entities’ puppets, but about a second later someone pipes up says they are friends and that moment passes. You’re going for genuine drama with this series, you’ve got some drama gift wrapped for you, use it instead of that romance stuff (I’ll get to that in a minute). I think the clues and the meaty stuff could have been expanded on a lot more if the series broke away from its mystery of the week format a bit more, a lot of the time they can only deal with the clues at the end of the episode as the rest of the run time is focused on whatever lunatic is running around in a costume. That quibble aside the mystery is fully explained by the end and I like all of the little details, heck it even explains why Scooby-Doo can talk.

Okay, time for the romance stuff. Obviously they were going to do the whole Fred and Daphne romance that has been a part of the franchise ever since fans of the original grew old enough to write for the show. Don’t have a problem with that, I could do with Daphne being a bit less pining for Fred, but she’s a teenage girl and he’s as observant as brick wall, so, yeah, I get it. What I did struggle with though was the Velma and Shaggy relationship. Now I don’t know how big the Shaggy/Velma ship is but I’m not on board it, not in this case anyway and in all honesty I was glad when they dropped that subplot. I mean maybe Shaggy and Velma could work, but not in this version because, well, they make a terrible couple. Their relationship really put me off Velma because she was so pushy and controlling, telling Shaggy what to wear and how to talk and always trying to force herself on him. They just weren’t a good couple and I didn’t like seeing that side to Velma. I’ve always thought of the Mystery Incorporated gang as the best of buds, but this relationship drove a wedge between Velma and Scooby that felt forced and I didn’t like it.

That brings me on to the characterisation. With this series I had to go into it with a particular mindset and that is that this is an alternate universe so the characters are going to be a little different to normal, yes there is plenty of reference to the history of the gang, but those past series aren’t connected to this one. There’s nothing wrong with the characterisation in this series, it’s just different and it did take me a good couple of episodes to get used to it. Velma is a lot more sarcastic and sassy than I’m used to and I do like it, she has some terrific one-liners here and there, she just sounds a lot more bitter than the traditional Velma. Scooby and Shaggy are pretty much the same as ever, but then they never change and I never want them to. Fred is a bit more of a blockhead than normal, I mean he does get played up as a dunce at times and I prefer him like that, but he’s still the leader and the one everyone looks to for the plan. This Fred is played up as the idiot a bit too much for me to believe that anyone other than Daphne would follow him, that being said they do some interesting stuff with this Fred. I still like the guy and I feel for him when he goes through all the stuff he does with his parents. Another interesting aspect is the fact that he ignores his feeling because he thinks they’re unmanly, I like that explanation and it adds some depth to his character.

I think one of the strongest aspects of this series is the writing. There is some wonderful dialogue and it can be really funny is a dry sort of way. I know I complained about Fred being an idiot, but at least they make it funny and Velma has some killer come backs, even Daphne gets some zingers once in a while. A lot of the humour is aimed at poking fun at the tropes this franchise has become famous for, but its done in a loving way. You do get the sense that the makers of this series are really fans of Scooby-Doo from all the little background details, to the museum of all monsters, heck they even have an episode where all the mascot characters from the Scooby-Doo rip offs turn up and another couple where Vincent Price makes an appearance.

All in all, Mystery Incorporated has been an experiment for the Scooby franchise and one that works for the most part. The humour is snappy and fun and the level of detail in the mystery is great. A bit more could have been done to intensify the drama or expand upon some elements and I really could have done without some of the romance stuff, but those are just personal quibbles. I recommend this series to any Scooby fan, just remind yourself that this is an alternate universe before you go in.

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday. 

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire

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Scooby and Me. Giving me love and occasional fleas.

A Scooby-Doo musical? Well considering the franchise‘s habit of having a musical chase sequence somewhere in there I’m surprise it took this long for it be the characters actually doing the singing. Is it a gimmick? Yeah, it is. Is it a really necessary? No. Is it fun? Well I certainly enjoyed it and I have been listening to several of the songs on repeat for a couple of hours and I haven’t got bored of them yet, so it’s doing something right.

Let’s take a bite out this film (sorry, though if you are averse to puns you may hate Fred in this film), what’s the story? The opening credits give us our first song ‘Bayou Breeze’ and its dark and ominous and kind of pointless. I mean the character that sings it and introduces us to the story is only in one other scene later in the film, I don’t dislike the guy or anything, he’s your standard quirky character and he is fun, though I could do without the stereotypical Cajun accent. There are a couple of characters throughout the film that aren’t really much more than a stereotype and some of the Southern accents don’t help the characters come across as anything more than the two dimensions that they are.

Anyway, once that’s out of the way though we catch up with Scooby and the gang and with some snappy dialogue we learn that they’ve been dealing with a lot of monsters of late (must have been a sale on at a costume shop) and they all decide they need a break. Mystery Incorporated are the best characters in this story, which is only fitting seeing as they are the stars. I mean they’re not exactly deep (outside of the Mystery Incorporated tv series they never have been), but the actors have been playing them for long enough now that they just exude personality and charm, I wouldn’t call them realistic characters, but certainly believable.

The story doesn’t delve into any of them or develop their characters in anyway, but it does make sure to give everyone a portion of the spotlight. There are plenty of cute little moments, from Velma complaining that she’s never the one being kidnapped by the monster, Fred’s bad puns and failed traps, Daphne showing off her extensive knowledge of fabrics and Shaggy and Scooby’s unbreakable friendship, which is both heart-warming and a little creepy. A lot of the fun comes from their interactions and there’s some fun little lines scattered throughout the film, I particularly like Shaggy’s reaction to finding out that they’re respected monster hunters.

Where was I? Oh right, the story. Yes, having finally had enough of all the crazy people in monster costumes the gang decide to take a vacation. Unfortunately they leave the destination up to Velma and she picks a vampire festival, which obviously Scooby and Shaggy aren’t too happy about. They’re there at the invitation of a descendant of the famous vampire hunter Van Helsing; unfortunately the latest Van Helsing isn’t doing so well. His books aren’t selling and he has to give his land over to the festival every year. Things could be looking up though as an actor’s ritual awakens a thousand year old vampire who terrorises the festival and brings the tourists flocking in. Unfortunately for Mystery Incorporated the vampire has taken a shine to Daphne and wants her to be his vampire bride! It’s a pretty generic Scooby-Doo story with the usual red herrings and a simple mystery to solve, it’s just stretched out a bit and with added songs.

As for the songs, I like them (I already mentioned that I’ve been listening to a couple of them on repeat) I don’t think they’re going to win any awards, but most of them can get my toe tapping and they are well written. I could easily see a lot of them being performed on a stage, in fact there’s a couple I’d love to see with real musical theatre actors rather than talented voice actors (no one’s a bad singer, in fact Shaggy’s voice actor is way better singer than I expected, but yeah some of the songs lack a bit of punch). My favourites have to be “Done with Monsters” and “Scooby and Me”, they’re the best performed and really, really catchy. The songs are kind of gimmick though, I mean the story could be told perfectly well without them and they don’t add much outside of the fun factor. I’ve seen worse song inclusions though, each song fits into where its placed and manages to progress the story, as songs in a musical are supposed to.

The best part of this film though is probably the most surprising and that’s the animation. My jaw-dropped in some places, the character animation here is utterly stunning. Either the animators had access to some motion capture suits or they had a dance party going on while they were making this. The way the characters move is so realistic, I’ve seen big budget blockbusters with worse animation that this direct-to-DVD feature, they even get all the tiny little movements that people do while they’re just stood around. This attention to detail is at its most prevalent during the dance and song sequences, Daphne’s tango with Bram is stunning and the way the wind catches on Shaggy and Fred’s hair and shirts during “Done with Monsters” is maddening in just how perfect it is. I need a hat so that I can take it off to these animators.

All in all Music of the Vampire is little more than a bit of fun, the songs are a gimmick but they’re catchy and I do love spending time with the gang of Mystery Incorporated. The animation alone is worth the price of admission and its only just over an hour long. I’d say it’s worth a watch.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday. 

The Infallible Fish Reviews: Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island

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Like, zoinks Scoob!

Okay, Scooby-Doocember is underway! This is the movie that started my nostalgia trip as I just had this urge to get a hold of a copy and that then spiralled into a binge on the rest of the franchise. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (along with its follow-up Witch’s Ghost) is probably one of my favourite Scooby-Doo movies. It’s dark, it’s a bit more mature, it’s well written and jinkies! that animation is down right gorgeous. I think its fair to say that this movie saved the franchise, I mean the film previous to this was Scooby-Doo and the Arabian Nights, any series would need life support after something like that. Zombie Island is the new lease of life the franchise needed though and I like to think of it as the live action movie done right. I mean we have the gang all having gone their separate ways and getting back together to tackle a mystery where (Spoilers!) this time the monsters are real, except this time there’s no terrible CGI, no bickering, genuine humour and an actual mystery that we can solve (Also no Scrappy, which is always a win in my book).

So let’s get to the review, what’s the story? We start with a classic mystery with Scooby and the gang tackling the mystery of the moat monster, which, as it turns out, is being narrated to us by Daphne as she plugs her new tv series on a chat show. Everyone’s a little older; Daphne is a TV reporter and has her own show that’s going in for its second season, with Fred as her cameraman and producer. Scooby and Shaggy are customs officers at an airport on the lookout for contraband food, which ends about as well as you’d expect with these two walking stomachs. Velma meanwhile has her own bookshop specialising in mystery and horror novels. It feels right to see the characters like this, the jobs suit everybody and it helps them to feel a bit more mature and reliable, while at the same time still being the characters we all know and love (my only real quibble is that Velma should be using her massive brain as a detective or a rocket scientist or something, but if she wants the quiet life for a little bit, that’s ok with me).

Anyway, Daphne’s show is going back out on the road to film a new segment called Haunted America, where Daphne hopes to find some real ghosts for a change (the reason she left Mystery Incorporated was because it was kind of getting stale with all the ghouls and monsters turning out to be guys in a costumes). Fred gets the idea that this would be a great excuse to get the gang back together and everyone jumps at the chance. I know it’s the nostalgia talking, but it’s really great to see everyone back together, there’s no bickering or bad feelings (like in the live action movie), they’re just five friends who grew a bit apart and are happy to be back together. So with Mystery Incorporated back in action the gang set out to find some real ghosts, but end up coming across the same old bad guys in costumes as they did before, that is until they reach New Orleans. With the promise of a real haunted house the gang head out into the bayou to a chili plantation.

The movie does slow down a bit for this section, but it’s kind of necessary as it builds up the atmosphere of this place, plus we need to introduce all of the red herrings for our mystery. I’d also just like to give a round of applause for the voice cast on this film, they all do a terrific job and fit their characters, though at times it does feel like a reunion of Batman the animated series with the voices of Batgirl, the Joker and Catwoman filling out the supporting cast, but then they’re all fantastic voice actors so I’m not complaining. I’ve already said how beautiful the animation is and I just want to do it again, it really makes New Orleans look beautiful and really captures the creepy and mysterious atmosphere of the bayou, it really hits its stride when it gets to the zombies, in fact, let’s talk about them.

Yes, this time the monsters are real and there are genuine zombies on the prowl on the island. Now I know Scooby-Doo has its fundamental mythology be that the supernatural will always be a guy in a mask, but the zombies work here because I believe the core of Scooby-Doo is about having a good mystery (their van is called the Mystery Machine). It’s about getting kids to think, to look at the clues and never take things at face value because there could be something else going on and that is the case here. There is a twist in this story and a genuine mystery with clues leading up to it, I’m just not going to tell you what it is because I want you watch this film.

Every fan of Scooby-Doo should see this film, it allows the characters to mature and grow as well as tackle a real supernatural threat for a change, but it still holds on to its core. It’s like meeting an old friend and discovering they’ve just gotten better with age. The voice actors are all terrific, its great to see the series with a decent budget for its animation and some of the scenes even veer into the horrific (anyone want to see decayed and rotting flesh grow over a skeleton?). To put it simply, this is how a Scooby-Doo movie should be done. Also, final shout out, I know the song sequences are cheesy as all hell, but they are glorious and I love them. It’s Terror Time Again!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Introducing Scooby-Doocember!

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I love Scooby-Doo. I can’t not love it, the franchise is too ingrained in my childhood, I can still remember sitting on the carpet watching reruns of the original series on Cartoon Network (and for someone with as bad a memory as mine, that’s a minor miracle). Yeah I know my memory is caked in nostalgia, but it was a great series and I will have a reasonable discussion with anyone who thinks otherwise. Yes it was formulaic and so cheap that a shoestring budget would have been an improvement, but despite that it had a creepy atmosphere, some great designs and memorable characters. I think the fact that Scooby-Doo is still going today with dozens of different interpretations and series under its belt (some good, some not so much), is just a testament to how great the franchise is and it has more than earned its continued place in popular culture.

Over the past few months I’ve been on a nostalgia binge with the franchise, going through some of my old favourites and finally getting around to trying out some of the more modern interpretations and since last year I treated December as my theme month to tackle the DC Universe, this December I’m giving it over to Scooby-Doo.

Starting next week, be prepared for some genuine horror and the best animation the franchise has ever seen with my favourite film, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island! This time the monsters are real!

Then I’m trying out something new with another film, Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire, which is a Scooby-Doo musical. Yes, they went there. Is it any good? Well, I suppose we’ll find out.

Third we’re taking a look at what happens when Scooby-Doo gets an overarching plot and actual character development! Yes, blasphemy I know, but we’ll see if it works in Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated!

And finally, we’re going back to the beginning with my Top 5 episodes of the original classic, Scooby-Doo Where Are You!

Hope you enjoy it; I know I will. Now where did I put those Scooby Snacks?

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.