“Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated” on Cartoon Network
Do you realize that Scooby-Doo has appeared in 10 TV series, two live-action theatrical films and countless direct-to-DVD spin-offs? The show hasn’t been off the air since its 1969 debut as “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” That means nearly every American under the age of 50 grew up watching Scooby-Doo. Now, with Cartoon Network’s freshly rebooted “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated,” the show lives on for another generation.
Though the basics remain familiar, CN has added a number of elements that turn this from a kiddie romp into a retro-mod amalgam aimed at young and old alike. Shaggy, Velma, Fred and Daphne are still high schoolers who drive around in a van solving spooky mysteries with the assistance of their talking dog. But they’ve been relocated from their old stomping grounds of Coolsville (the nominal setting of previous versions) to the tiny town of Crystal Cove (“The Most Haunted Place in America”). Here, the gang is sent on “Ghost Hunters”-esque adventures by an unseen benefactor called Mr. E (giving the series a slight, ongoing story arc).
Legendary voice actor Frank Welker (a Scooby-Doo castmember since 1969) is back as ascot-wearing Fred. Voice-of-Daphne-since-2001 Grey DeLisle puts another series under her belt as well. Mindy Cohn (Natalie from “The Facts of Life”) tackles Velma (a role she’s had since 2002). The big change comes in the form of Matthew Lillard, who is assigned to voice Shaggy (a role he performed in two live-action features). He replaces character originator Casey Kasem, who lives on as the voice of Shaggy’s dad.
The animation for this go-around is notably dynamic. The characters are more angular, almost anime-inspired. The backgrounds are more detailed. This gives the show a moodier, more serious tone. The writing has matured, too—it’s far better than, let’s say, 1983’s “The All-New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show.” The characters are far more fleshed out. They now have parents, homes and even romantic entanglements. (Fred and Daphne is obvious, but when did Shaggy and Velma get so hot-and-heavy?)
While 1985’s “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo” and the excellent Cartoon Network animated features (starting with 1998’s Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island) experimented with pitting the Mystery Inc. gang against real monsters, “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated” returns to the famous “guys in rubber masks” reveal. Fortunately, the new series writers aren’t above poking fun at such conventions. The humor is joshingly self-referential, stopping just short of winking at the camera. Gone are the slapstick antics of yesteryear. Instead, we get a genuine sense of mystery and a heavy dose of ironic humor (“We’d have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling juveniles and your unauthorized investigation into our counterfeit gator accessories,” grouses one unmasked villain.) Any way you look at it, this is one tasty Scooby Snack.
“Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated” airs every Monday night at 8 p.m. on Cartoon Network.