Wednesday, September 28, 2011

SCOOBY-DOO: MYSTERY INCORPORATED - Season 1, Volume 3

The best Scooby-Doo animated series since the 1969 original, SCOOBY DOO: MYSTERY INCORPORATED (2010), continues to delight and surprise with SEASON 1, VOLUME 3, containing four more great episodes from the show's triumphant first year.

The Scooby gang's hometown of Crystal Cove is the setting for these modern, new adventures, a small town that trades on its reputation for being "the hauntedest town in America" for tourism revenue. The regular quintet remains mostly unchanged: slightly-dim-but-enthusiastic Fred (the immortal Frank Welker), rich girl Daphne (Grey DeLisle), booksmart cutie Velma (Mindy Cohn), iconic slacker Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and the legendary Great Dane Scooby Doo (Welker, again), but this series also - for the first time - gives us regular glimpses into their home lives (we actually meet their parents!) and reveals what the local authorities - specifically Sheriff Stone (Patrick Warburton, THE TICK) - think of the meddling kids and their dog.

With smart, witty scripts, creepy mysteries, some welcome characterization and contemporary, anime-inspired character designs that both update and honor the Iwao Takamoto originals, MYSTERY INCORPORATED is a winner. The writers at Warner Animation have brought contemporary TV storytelling methods to the show; while each episode functions as a standalone mystery, there's a bigger storyline running through the series, hinging on the machinations of a shadowy figure known only as "Mister E" (voiced by Lewis Black).

The animation and design are excellent, and the voice-acting and music (theme by Matthew Sweet) are all above-average. It's a very slick toon, and works on multiple levels. Old-time fans of the franchise will enjoy the many in-jokes and meta humor - including references to WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, THE TERMINATOR and H.P. Lovecraft - while kids will enjoy what they've always enjoyed about SCOOBY DOO: spooky mysteries, slapstick antics, and lots of running around.

Notable guest voices in this quartet of tales include Jeffrey Combs (RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND) as horror writer "H.P. Hatecraft," and author Harlan Ellison as, well, "Harlan Ellison." 

Warner Brothers' DVD release of "Season 1, Volume 3" contains episodes 9-12 of the series ("Battle Of The Humungonauts," "Howl Of The fright Hound," "The Secret Serum," and "Shrieking Madness"), presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a perfect, colorful transfer. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Aside from a handful of previews, there are no extra features.

Fans of the Scoobyverse will want to check this one out, whether they have kids or not. It's a surprisingly entertaining and intelligent animated show that appears to have been made by people who genuinely love the original 1960s series and who've found a way to update it with respect and sharp humor. My only complaint is that there's only four episodes per disc; I don't get the Cartoon Network, and can't watch the episodes as they air. Waiting for the next volume is going to be torture!

Highly recommended.

BUYScooby Doo Mystery Incorporated: Season 1 V.3