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What's New Scooby-Doo?
on September 2, 2013
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is probably the biggest animated surprise I've seen in recent years. Before watching it I would have never thought there was a way of recreating these characters in a new, interesting way. The show managed to not only breath new life in to archetypal characters everyone already knows by heart, but also manages to put them in engaging stories and develop them as characters. I cared about the characters in Mystery Incorporated, and wanted to know how they'd get through things. Pretty impressive given this is the Scooby gang we're talking about.
I'm 20 years old now, and I'm not a hardcore Scooby fan. Of course I loved the Hanna-Barbera cartoons when I was a child, but they didn't exactly have incredible lasting power as I got older. Various other attempts to revise the characters likewise didn't impress me much either. 2002's "What's New Scooby-Doo?" tried updating the stories, and character designs for modern viewers but fell flat, failing to capture my imagination as an older viewer (although the character redesigns were pretty good). After "What's New" I figured that any other Scooby-Doo revival would fail in the same manner.
Boy, was I wrong!
Scooby-Doo!: Mystery Incorporated is different. It follows the general concept that we all know by heart, but it has a great sense of humor, and creates arcs for the characters to go through. And I can't overstate how awesome it is to see this in a 'Scooby-Doo!' cartoon! I feel for the characters, I want to see how they develop, and want to know how the overarching plot of the series is going to play out.
Characters are an important part of the series. While the slapstick and Scooby's antics are always good for young audiences I found that -for a family targeted cartoon- the show effectively tackled issues of growing up, and what being a teenager is like. Issues such as first dates, remaining friends with someone after a break-up, self-confidence, and deciding who you want to be as an adult. The writers perfectly bring these issues down to a level that children may understand, but they don't dumb it down to the point that older audiences can't relate to the gang. In season 1 every character goes through changes and must make hard decisions and it pulled me in so that I was rooting for them from episode 1 to 26!
Mystery Incorporated has smooth, streamlined character design, and returns the cast to their retro-1960s wardrobe (yes, Freddy is rocking the ascot). These designs work as an update while remaining true to the designs embedded in our pop culture subconscious (only noticeable difference being that Velma now has red bows in her hair). But the real star of the animation is the monster designs! Many of these are so good that I honestly wished they weren't just people in masks. Take note, Warner Bros.: Put this team on production of a fantasy series. I want to see what they can do outside the shackles of the "someone in a mask" formula.
The setting seems to be a mix of the 60s and modern times. Devices like laptops and cellphones appear, but I believe the creators made the wise choice of giving Mystery Incorporated a setting that makes it feel as if it could be set in multiple eras. We got the 60s fashion, we got modern technology, a 1970s style radio DJ, and episodes devoted to goth bands, the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft going up against tween vampire novels, the films of Vincent Price, and many more! No matter what decade you owe your childhood to odds are you'll find something to connect to in Mystery Incorporated. In that way I feel this series is going to age remarkably well compared to others series in the franchise.
'Scooby-Doo!' is such a recognizable franchise that they could have slapped anything on the screen and cashed in. They didn't need to write engaging character stories or narrative that branches across multiple episodes, but they did and it makes the series one of the most enjoyable cartoons in recent memory. I am happy to see Warner Bros. is releasing Scooby-Doo!: Mystery Incorporated's first season in a single boxset just in time for Halloween. It is well-written, funny, and provides greater depth to the character than any other series in the franchise's long history. If you have kids, or just want to watch a great revival of these classic characters. I can't recommend Season 1 of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated highly enough.