August 11, 2009

JUNIOR ZOMBIE WEEK: Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (REVIEW)


Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)

Rated: PG

Featuring the voices of:
Scott Innes
Billy West
Mary Kay Bergman
Frank Welker
B.J. Ward
Adrienne Barbeau
Tara Strong
Cam Clarke
Jim Cummings
Mark Hamill

4.5 / 5 zedheads

Fred: Are you sure you saw a zombie?
Shaggy: Like, we know a zombie when we see one.
Scooby: Yeah, Rhhombie!

While darker and scarier in its imagery and themes than the original run of Scooby-Doo on television, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island remains a delightfully spooky mystery adventure for the young and the young at heart that is perfect for parents who grew up on Scooby-Doo to enjoy with their kids.

Scooby-Doo is an institution whose influence has endured since it first aired in 1969. Scooby-Doo’s popularity has survived series revamps, spin-offs, and two live-action feature films while
other Hanna-Barbara creations have faded into obscurity (does anyone remember or care about stuff like Jabber Jaw?). In 1998, Warner Bros. decided to inject some energy into the Scooby-Doo cartoon franchise by releasing Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, a direct-to-video feature-length animated film reuniting the classic Scooby-Doo cast of Fred “Freddie” Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, Shaggy, and Scooby-Doo, known together as Mystery, Inc. The first of four direct-to-video movies, Zombie Island is a surprising film. While it manages to capture the goofy antics and humour of the original series that appeals to kids, Glenn Leopold - the screenwriter - presents this antics in the form of a very smart and very tight screenplay that doesn’t dumb it down for the kids either. It’s a screenplay very self-aware of the Scooby-Doo formula, from which it derives much of the humour that adults and media-savvy kids will enjoy. The film is also objectively darker and scarier than most Scooby-Doo adventures, but modern kids will probably enjoy a story that’s a little edgier.

The movie begins with the Mystery, Inc. gang having disbanded and gone their separate ways after years of adventures where every ghost, monster, robot, and supernatural occurrence turned out to be some guy in a mask. In a cute, post-modern reference, the gang explicitly states they all got tired of unmasking criminals dressed up as ghosts and decided to try other careers. I guess this movie retcons all those adventures where Scooby and Shaggy actually met real monsters like the Boo Brothers and Dracula who, in The Reluctant Werewolf (1988), operated a Monster Road Rally that featured Frankenstein's monster, The Mummy, and Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde as racers.

Anyways, after separating Velma opened up a bookstore selling detective fiction and mystery novels, Fred and Daphne operate a successful TV show with Daphne as the host, and Scooby and Shaggy have got jobs as customs agents where they think they can eat all the contraband food they can find.

Sure, make the two characters often described as stoners custom agents.
Scooby has experience sniffing those illicit “Scooby snacks.”

The gang reunites, however, to see if they can finally find real ghosts in the haunted swamps and derelict crypts and mansions of Louisiana. This leads them to the titular Zombie Island, and what they find is more than they ever expected. Real ZOMBIES!

The mystery deepens and takes a very satisfying but unexpected term that puts a new twist on the Scooby-Doo formula. All the voice actors do a wonderful job of bringing their characters to life, and the animation by the Japanese animation team directed by Hiroshi Aoyama, Kazumi Fukushima, and Jim Stenstrum is quite high quality for a direct-to-video commercial film. The Japanese can animate a fluid and stunning metamorphosis sequence like no one else.

For a preview of the animation and a look at the kind of zombies you can expect to see, here’s a video of a chase scene set to the song “Terror Time is Here” by Skycycle

If you think your kids can handle these ghouls rising from the bayou to chase Shaggy and Scooby through the swamp, your kids will be highly entertained by this movie.

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island does not disappoint. It’s smart and entertaining enough for adults, and goofy and chilling enough for kids. If both you and your kids are fans of monster movies, then this movie will be a treat and a fantastic way to introduce your children to the world of zombies.