Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Scooby Don't?

I’m a fan of Scooby Doo!... well, some Scooby Doo. “Old School” Scooby for sure. And some of the “old new stuff” as well. I also really enjoyed the live-action movies (the ones that came to theaters, not the made-for-TV kind), although Monsters Unleashed should have been the first movie released. The rest of it… no thanks.

Cartoon Network has brought Scooby-Doo back to television in the cartoon form with Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated. I admit that given the “newer” Scooby Doo out there, I’d been a little more than skeptical of it. But at the same time I wanted it to be good, since we can always use more good Scooby.

Well, I’ve watched two episodes now and I haven’t quite made up my mind. This Scooby ventures into territory where no Doo has gone before (at least to my knowledge… which does not include most of the new animated movies. [I’d seen most of one and dismissed them.]) I’m not sure if I like the changes or not. I’ll get to the uncharted parts in just a moment.

First, the animation. I think it’s wonderful. They certainly look “old school” in terms of their (desirable) “flatness” (and retain their original outfits unlike some manifestations) and yet they reside in a pseudo-3D environment with obvious computer enhancement (but not CGI in the sense of Pixar). It works. Sometimes the blending of these two styles is distracting and sloppy, but not here. It’s a very pleasing and seamless world. Bravo.

The opening is wonderful. It's slick, true to the characters and fun without being too cutesy. I even like seeing Velma with a laptop computer - it works. The theme is good, too, quite unobtrusive... with no lyrics. This might been seen as veering from the original, but hey, the original themes were always a LITTLE silly, no? (Yes, that had been their charm, but this proves we can do without the lyrics.)

Next, the voices. On the whole, very good. Mindy Cohn has been doing Velma for quite some time now. Her rendition is quite on the mark and I’ve come to accept her as Velma. Matthew Lillard, who portrayed live-action Shaggy, provides the voice here as well. Excellent job, just as in the movies. Daphne is fabulous, too, as the comparison in my head is negligible if different at all. Brava, Grey DeLisle! Frank Welker has done justice to Scooby Doo, but his Fred, on the other hand, seems like it's gotten a bit too nasal over the years. However, it’s not like it isn’t acceptable. Oh - and Patrick Warburton is the Sheriff. I adore Warburton, but honestly, he’s too damn ubiquitous.

Okay, now for the “uncharted territories.” All of the ‘kids’ parents are in it. If they’ve ever been shown before I didn’t know about it. I don’t really like it. I found it much more compelling with the er, mystery, of what the deal is with these ‘kids.’ We’d heard about (and seen) their extended relatives on the show before (such as Daphne’s cousin) but this is outright killing the mystery of their home life. Plus, all of their parents seem to ignore them, too busy in their own affairs. Velma’s mom, for instance, puts her horses ahead of her daughter. Fred’s dad wouldn’t help because he just got into the reclining position in his favorite chair. Similar put-offs happen with the other two as well. The way I see it is if you’ve got them as negligent, then why have them at all? (And what's with Daphne having four or so nearly identical sisters?)

Another change (at least to my knowledge) is that Fred’s dad is the mayor. Adds a nice twist, since the kids poke their noses into other people’s business all the time and such a reputation can be construed as counter-productive to a public official. So far, however, it hasn’t really come into play.

They’ve also added a sassy African-American "chick" with quite an afro who is a DJ that the kids will hang out with… pretty cool, but not sure of the point of it yet.

The final change that doesn’t quite sit right with me (and again, if this had been done before it had not been so in Old School) is that Velma and Shaggy are an item. Or they want to be, and Shaggy tries to keep it a secret from the others, especially Scooby. We all know that Daphne has the hots for Freddy, but do we really need to pair off Velma and Shaggy? In this version (and probably others, although I never got that impression from the Old School) Freddy seems oblivious to Daphne’s advances, too wrapped up in his precious ghost trap designs. I’m just not ready for a romance between Velma and Shaggy.

All righty, now for the alteration that intrigues me in a good way. They’ve added an element to the Scooby Doo universe that we’ve never* had before: A story arc. I had just about dismissed the show as not having to be seen (for even though it’s not bad as I said, I try not to pick up more stuff to watch if I can help it), the first episode ended with a phone call. It had been about the locket that Daphne found in the episode that didn’t connect to the mystery at hand. The caller told them to beware, that they should have left the locket alone and that they are in deep trouble. My proverbial antennae perked up. And to follow suit, the second episode is indeed called “Chapter 2.” There’s also now a (cough) mysterious fellow named “Mr. E.” He sends them hints and such [with a big wax seal of an E.] For instance, in the second episode he sends them an alligator handbag that leads them to the place of the next mystery at hand and later, they found the engine of the Mystery Machine fixed, with a note from Mr. E saying their adventure has just begun. Whether or not he is the caller, I’m not sure. I guess I have to keep watching to find out. But I really like the idea of a "story arc Scooby." It seems to be (unlike the other changes) just what this show/premise needed to make it fresh again. For it’s certainly what led me to watch another episode.

All in all, they’ve put a wild spin on a classic, and it just might be worth it.

* Conceivably The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo! counts in this vein, but I don’t think it really does, since that did not use the standard gang nor “solve the mystery” episodes. 13 Ghosts is one of the “no thanks” of Scooby shows.

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