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The canonical universe of Scooby Doo

Art by Anabella Caudillo

The Scooby Doo canonical universe admittedly sounds ridiculous. Scooby Doo is, at its core, a children’s show, so the idea that there is a complex narrative behind the whole thing is pretty silly. However, I’d like to throw my dignity to the side for a moment, and fully embrace what I view as the Golden Rule of the Scooby Doo universe.

Watch more than one episode of any common piece of Scooby media and you will quickly be able to identify a pretty stand-out theme. This theme is what I call “Scooby’s Golden Rule”. Simply put, the monster is always just a bad guy in a mask. Being, as my dad puts it, a “Scooby Doo Puritan”, I normally would never, in good conscience, promote a piece of Scooby media that destroys the narrative/cannon of the universe (this is why I won’t touch “Scoob” with a fifty-foot pole). However, for many years now I have been aware of two pieces from the Doo Universe that do just that. I think it’s quite the feat to create anything and I look back on these examples with warm memories, but unfortunately not without cruel eyes.

Warning: spoilers for Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated and Scooby Doo on Monster Island ahead

Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated

Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated began airing in April of 2010. The show was a two-season modern adaptation of the classic series. It followed the teenage gang living in the “deeply haunted” town of Crystal Cove. Crystal Cove is a tourist town touting its many brushes with the supernatural. The main attraction is Velma’s mom’s museum and tours. Velma, despite her mother's enthusiasm, doesn’t buy into the whole ghosts and goblins deal. Fred is portrayed in his typical himbo way, with a special interest in the construction and operation of traps. His dad is the mayor and really wants him to branch out beyond mystery solving. Daphne is a hopeless romantic, pining after Fred. Despite her parent’s disapproval, she never seeks validation from them. Shaggy is struggling with juggling his romantic and platonic friendships with his new relationship with Velma. Scooby, well he’s Scooby.

Most of the show is the standard mystery of the week type of stuff. The show really ramps up this concept to be almost over the top. It seems that the hardened criminals of Crystal Cove really aren’t in need of the funds they’re trying to embezzle or whatever if these are the stunts they can pull off.

Where the show really shines is its serialized element. This is really kicked off more memorably with the Planispheric Disk. This disk sets off a whole chain of events that are about to unfold…

After finding the Planispheric Disk, the gang discovers that it is not just any artifact but the first clue to a massive, multidimensional, mystery. It turns out that the gang we know and love were not the first. Before them there were many more groups of mystery solvers who all play into this history of the “Curse of Crystal Cove”. Each group has left behind some kind of trace of a clue or an artifact that is essential to solving the mystery.

They find that the left fully surviving group before them, coincidentally named, Mystery Incorporated. This group is made up of the enigmatic “Mr. E'' (a man who has been sending the gang clues since earlier in the show about the disk), Brad and Judy Chiles (Fred’s biological parents, what, crazy), Angel Dynamite (radio show host that the gang knows), and their talking mascot, a German parrot known as Professor Periclies. While excited to be reunited at first, the gang later realized that the OG Mystery Inc. (minus Angel) have mal intent.

This group figured out that the disk is a map to a “treasure”. Many have searched for it and all have come up empty handed. It’s explained that since the beginning of time, creatures known as the Annunaki have been visiting Earth to help its inhabitants for centuries. However, while most are helpful, some have rebelled and only seek destruction of mankind and all they have built. The Annunaki usually take a physical form, this has been through ancient gods, a collection of black pearls in a crystal sarcophagus (we’ll come back to that), and Scooby Doo himself. It turns out all the talking animals are actually the Annunaki.

The mal intent that the gang of Christmas past is basically that they want to find the Annunaki that is trapped beneath Crystal Cove. You see, when the Annuanaki rebelled, one of the mystery solving teams created a safe holding cell for the most evil one. Behind doorways across dimensions, guarded with keys and puzzles, lies a crystal sarcophagus containing the physical manifestation of the ultimate evil. The original gang seizes power over the town, kidnapping its residents by threat of armed robots. All the parents of the gang, to whom they relied on when the going got tough, are trapped in the mines under the town.

The gang knows that they have to rescue the parents so they armor up the van, get Scooby and Shaggy to disguise themselves as the robots and infiltrate the mines. Unfortunately they find themselves playing right into the leader of this evil operation’s hand, Professor Peraclice. Peraclies explains to the gang that he needs all their clues to the puzzles to make his way to the sarcophagus and free his ancestor. The gang is armed with the clues including the silk cloth, flintlock pistol, conquistador's helmet, the Tercero Llave, and the heart of the Jaguar (a spear forged by the Aztec warriors who solved mysteries) which would have been used to defeat the evil Annunaki if it weren’t for the Conquistadors who moved the sarcophagus from its resting place.

They travel through areas of time and space until they reach the final resting place. Peraclies releases the entity and allows it to take over his bird body, turning him into a terrible squid-like mutant with an insatiable hunger for humans! Scooby and the gang fight back with the heart of the Jaguar, breaking the sarcophagus after a long, grueling, and friendship-testing battle. All the members of the original mystery incorporated are sucked into a vortex along with Peraclies. With one final flash of light everything disappears as the gang hold each other.

They wake up miraculously unharmed in a new alternate timeline where the town is purged of all hauntings and mysteries. Everyone is living an idyllic life and there is nothing to worry about. The gang is happy that they saved the day, but feel like they have lost a sense of purpose. Then, they get a phone call from a professor who tells them that he made it through the timeline shift too and that he has information they might find interesting, as there are still mysteries to be solved. The gang set off on a new journey into the unknown!

Scooby Doo on Zombie Island

Scooby Doo on Zombie Island came out in September of 1998 and is a completely different story. It’s a charming film about the gang reuniting for a new mystery in Louisiana. Through the gorgeous animation, excellent voice acting, and clever foreshadowing (not to mention the killer music), Scooby Doo on Zombie Island pulls off something truly remarkable in the series.

Set on Moonscar Island, Louisiana, the hottest pepper plantation and home of Simone Lenoir. Simone is a very prideful, formal woman who enjoys the company of her silky and affectionate cats, who roam the entire island; she employs Lena (who invited the gang to the island). Lena is a kind, friendly, and outwardly cheery woman who cares for Scooby Doo, a direct parallel to her employer, Ms. Lenoir. The new cast also involves Jaques, a friendly ferry driver, Beau, a grumpy gardener, along with Snakebite and Mojo, a threatening fisherman and his wild hunting pig who uncharacteristically help Scooby and Shaggy after they fall off the ferry and narrowly escape demise by alligator!

The whole plot of the film involves the gang as they investigate the claims that Simone’s house is genuinely haunted for Daphne’s new show. Simone and Lena claim that pirate ghosts, most predominantly, the ghost of pirate captain Morgan Moonscar, haunt the entire island. The gang is highly skeptical due to their history with the so-called supernatural, but experience after experience on the island leads them to discover real, genuine ghosts and zombies. They come face to face with pirate zombies, Civil War Zombies, and ones that look like tourists! The gang try to deny it and even end up pulling off one zombie’s head trying to unmask him, but they are faced with undoubtable evidence that the supernatural is a reality.

Image via Boomerang

Understandably, Scooby and Shaggy end up being chased by zombies who are yelling at them to “get out” and “leave now” and fall into a strange cave. The cave is filled with little wax dolls with scraps of fabric attached around their necks like scarfs. Each one suspiciously looks like a member of the gang and Beau. They play with the dolls and are unaware that the gang is involuntarily mimicking every movement they manipulate. It's not long before they are chased out of the cave by bats. Meanwhile the rest of the gang and the gardener Beau run into each other after fleeing the aforementioned undead and decide to head back to the house where they assume Scooby, Shaggy, Lena and Simone will be. They get there and find Lena in distress and the staircase lifted up, revealing a secret entrance. Lena says that the zombies attacked Simone, dragging her down the passageway. Lena leads the gang to where the zombies took her, but Velma notes that there are clear footprints where Simone was supposedly dragged.

Suddenly the passageway shuts and Simone grabs the wax dolls from earlier, revealing them to be voodoo dolls, tying the gang up and pinning them to the wall. Simone and Lena explain that they were once settlers on this island long ago, that was until Morgan Moonscar’s brigade of pirates took over the island, chasing its inhabitants into the bayou to be eaten by alligators. Simone and Lena were the only survivors in their settlement and prayed to their cat god to be blessed with the abilities to save themselves and their land from the pirates.

Simone and Lena start to transform into tall, hairy, werecats! They explain that their power came at a cost. They were granted immortality but needed to drain people’s life force every harvestmoon to sustain their powers.

Scooby and Shaggy head to the dock to ask ferry driver, Jaques, if he can help them find the rest of the gang. Just then the once jolly man transforms into a gigantic werecat and chases them into the voodoo room but is tackled by zombies.

Image via Boomerang

Now that they are all back together they fend off the werecats and find ways to free themselves of their voodoo bond. During all this fighting the sundial in the room signals 12 o’ clock and the werecats and zombies begin to shrivel up. As the gang watches an apparition from earlier appears and thanks them for their help.

The gang are relieved that they are safe but feel bad that they can’t do the zombies further justice as the police will never believe what they saw on that island and the camera they were using to film Daphne's show had fallen into quicksand earlier. It seems all hope is lost as they take a collective sigh. Beau cuts in to tell them that they are wrong and that he is actually an undercover detective who has been trying to uncover the cause for all the disappearances on the island over the years. Guess the gang are not the only mystery solvers in town. They celebrate and watch the sunset and then the banging theme song plays, roll credits, HELL YEAH!

(if you’re interested… )

Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated: Analysis

I’m sorry to say it, but I’m a hater by nature. I know that hating something popular doesn’t make me interesting, but I’m sorry, I harbor a lot of hatred and I have nothing productive to do with it.

Image via Google Reviews

Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated is confusing to me. The whole show seems to follow a regressed, teenage version of the gang where they still are burdened with the troubles of high school and parents (wow, so relatable, thank you Warner Brothers). While this could hypothetically make sense, the way it’s portrayed doesn’t align with the time period it’s set in. And it shouldn’t. This show simply would not work if set in the 50s-60s. Half the plot relies on the existence of modern technology.

One thing I can’t knock Mystery Incorporated for is their use of foreshadowing. Although the twist is wildly uncalled for in levels of severity, it doesn’t happen all of a sudden. From episode one, they allude to the supernatural, the existence of previous mystery-solving young adults in town, and even the conquistadors. Every detail is intricately laid out like a puzzle, like a mystery. So with all this foreshadowing how could anything go wrong?

Too Much of a Good Thing

Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated, all things considered, is a pretty good modern adaptation of the series. With a few kinks in the timeline and some unfavorable sub-plots I’ll be it, they have really captured what Scooby Doo is at its core. However, something strange happened to the second season. I assume that the show was informed after its first season that they only had one more to wrap up the plot line they were going for. I come to this conclusion because of how utterly rushed the last season feels. They seem to have gotten a little too confident with how they pulled off, and more importantly, spread out the ideas in season one, but with a limited time constraint, they were never going to be able to fit everything in without it feeling almost dizzying to watch. But they sure tried.

To recap: within the second season the characters are brought back with some more classic Scooby-style antics, but then things start to take a turn. From what I can recall, Scooby has a dream that turns out to be a premonition of mystery solving gangs of Christmas past each with their own talking “thing” that should normally never talk. The Gang's all put under hypnosis in one episode when they visit a small Frank Sinatra-like man who leads them down a striped hallway with red curtain walls (which is later revealed to be a liminal space between dimensions) where they are tasked to collect artifacts from the aforementioned gangs of the past. While in this liminal space between dimensions, the gang finds everyone who has ever been involved with the curse of Crystal Cove (except it’s not really them it’s just a projection of the best parts of them that are trapped in a purgatory in a place with no time or space). They are chased around until they can collect the “Heart of the Jaguar” , an ancient Mayan Spear. What do you do with something like that? Take it to an interdimensional battle with an ancient species who can only visit earth once every thousand years during an event called Nibiru. What’s that species you may ask? The Anunnaki of course, a species that is at times benevolent but many of them just seek destruction of the entire known universe. So what exactly is an Anunnaki, well I’ll give you two examples: one is a physical manifestation of the creature made up of black pearls that are contained in a crystal sarcophagus, and the other, Scooby Doo himself. This plot already feels exhausting and we haven’t even covered the episode where all the parents are enslaved as coal miners as the gang is forced to walk through all these portals to the location of the crystal sarcophagus with one character by the name of “Hot Dog Water” being canonically assassinated off by robot firing squad.

This is not even half of the madness, but the point stands, this is simply too much. Stories need build up and this is just whiplash. I feel exhausted talking about it, watching it, and especially writing about it. I feel like people praise this series far too much for what it was able to accomplish. If people writing the show were smart, they could have toned it down a bit to fit the restrictions they had, OR used their time more wisely. If they wanted to tell a serialized story, why did they waste so many episodes telling the episodic style stories?

The edginess of the way the story is told also bothers me deeply. Scooby Doo has always been a very comforting show, through its animation, music, and method of storytelling. All the characters are usually very endearing with likable personalities. Not in this story. In this version they create an admittedly more complex, but sad version of these characters. They fight all the time and have relationship drama. The show is at times violent and far too dark for what it’s based on. It feels really alienating to those who come to Scooby Doo for simple pleasures and a good time mystery!

Ok, palate cleanser, breath mint, let’s do this.

Scooby Doo on Zombie Island: Analysis

Scooby Doo on Zombie Island is a film that I must admit I have a bias for. I adore this film and it’s a shining part of my 20+ Scooby Doo DVD collection. For what it is, it’s really special. I really feel like I don’t have much to say that hasn’t been said.

The story in the movie is told in a way where it feels like it unfolds in your lap. The foreshadowing is tasteful and never in your face. When they use techniques to signal future events, it’s the important ones that they foreshadow. The film uses a Chekhov's Gun type of format, where every action contributes to the plot in some way. It just flows.

Image via Google Reviews

The animation is also a big plus in my book. The way each character looks is so cute and unique. The colors in this movie are muted a bit and it just makes the film peaceful. But, the scenes where the characters are in trouble are often darker with bolder lines and colors to accentuate the insensitivity. Along with these spooky moments, we get bits of bliss. Whenever I hear people talk about this movie, they talk about the food. My favorite is the crawdad boil in the mystery machine, nothing but good memories.

Also I like the way each character is expanded upon in this adaptation. Each one has their “quirks” and interests that make them stand out. Daphne is small but mighty, having learned martial arts in her time away. Fred is a big intimidating guy with a goofy little voice, a small vest, and an endearing awkwardness to him. Shaggy misses the gang and is willing to put up with all these ghosts and goblins just to spend time with his friends. Velma is tense and anxious about these mysteries and feels out of her comfort zone being back in the mystery gang. Scooby, he’s Scooby!

The way the breaking of the canon is handled in this movie is very tasteful. They establish the canon in the beginning and use that to subvert your expectations and feel the same feeling of disbelief that the gang does when they find out that the zombies are real. The buildup is “realistic” in some sense of the word and the resolution makes sense for the foreshadowing they gave. No whiplash, just good times.

Closing Thoughts

Perhaps these works are both terrible or both absolutely incredible; perhaps I’m looking at the movie through nostalgia tinted glass (which would definitely be orange) and just don’t hold the same fondness for the newer show. Whatever it may be, I respect the hell out of everyone who worked on these pieces of media and am happy to see Scooby Doo still alive, relevant, and constantly innovated!

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