Saturday Morning Cartoons: 7 Reasons Why “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated” is the Best Scooby-Doo

saturday morning cartoons header

Scooby-Doo has been around since 1969 and has since gone through several series and movies that end mostly in the unmasking of kooky villains in monster costumes. If you’re like me, then you probably grew up watching the old cartoon, and even perhaps the many movies that came out in the 90s and 2000s (including those god-awful live action ones). Today, I want to talk about our favorite “meddling kids and their dog”, and if you haven’t yet, try to urge you to watch the best ever incarnation of the mystery gang. I am talking about the 2010 series known as Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. I know, how could I say that the original Scooby-Doo, Where are you? cartoon is not the best?  Though many lovers of the classic Scooby-Doo may argue, I believe that Mystery Incorporated has a lot to offer to those who are either familiar or new to the franchise. Here I have listed seven reasons outlining why Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is the best Scooby-Doo.

1.) It has an overarching mystery.

Unlike most other Scooby-Doo series’, Mystery Incorporated has an ongoing plot, and even more, an overarching mystery that spans the entirety of its two seasons. Each episode does contain your usual villain-in-a-monster-mask routine that involves your usual comedic scares, chase scenes, and over-complicated traps. In addition to this, there is a larger mystery our gang must solve. Mystery Incorporated takes place in a town called Crystal Cove, which, according to their sign, is “the most hauntedest place on Earth.” And true to its claim, there are a lot more strange things going on in the town than just your average person in a costume trying to scare people. The mystery gang soon finds out that years ago a group of four kids and their pet parrot, mysteriously disappeared. They called themselves “Mystery Incorporated” and also went around solving the town’s mysteries. The Scooby-Doo gang decides to take on the same name and, along with their usual mystery-solving hijinks, try to figure out what happened to the previous Mystery Incorporated. Each episode contains slight hints and clues, which begin to piece together as the series goes on. They are further aided by a strange and unseen informant who calls himself “Mr. E” (play on “mystery”). The Scooby-Doo gang soon begin to find themselves entangled in a much bigger plot than they probably have ever been in before.

Warner Bros. Animation
The original, missing, Mystery Incorporated.

What is brilliant about this ongoing story arc and continuing mystery is that it makes so much sense in a Scooby-Doo series. Scooby-Doo has always been about solving mysteries, often of the strange and supernatural sort, so it makes sense to turn the whole entire series into a mystery to be solved and a larger villain to be “unmasked”. It also makes the show a lot more complicated. The original series’ mysteries were always fairly simple and fun, and Mystery Incorporated keeps with that light-hearted sort of theme in its episodic plots. But it’s cool that the show starts to make its audience think more in its larger story arc. It much more effectively pulls its viewers into the story and gives us one big mystery to try and solve.

2.) It could actually be categorized as “horror”.

Another thing that sort of makes sense is to call a series involving spooky monsters, “horror.” But you could never truly do that with other shows in the Scooby-Doo franchise. They were always wacky and fun, and had enough suspension of disbelief to know that there was nothing to really be afraid of. Most Scooby-Doo is much more “comedy” than “horror” and the purpose of the show was never really to try to scare you. Not so with Mystery Incorporated. This series gets pretty dark. Like darker than Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island dark. That movie definitely dipped its toes into the horror genre with the whole “this time the monsters are real” tag-line. But Mystery Incorporated just dives right into it. First of all, the show does a good job of building a spooky atmosphere. Some of the settings are rather unsettling and downright creepy at times. I mean, take a look at this one screencap that takes place in an abandoned toy factory:

Warner Bros. Animation
I don’t know about you, but as someone who finds dolls kind of creepy, this is straight-up nightmare fuel for me.

Mystery Incorporated still has its fair share of goofy looking monsters, but the consequences of what some of them can do to you seem rather serious. The very first monster is originally thought to be able to kill its victims by shriveling them up in a blob of strange ooze. Another “Headless Horror” put a guy in the hospital, twice. And then there was a cicada swarm monster that caused a man to drive off a cliff. It’s true that all of the above turned out to be alive, but the point is that, actual bodily harm is for once a definite possibility in this version of Scooby-Doo, and so is death.

What much of the supernatural horror genre boils down to is essentially a battle between good and evil. Without giving too much away, this is kind of conflict that the characters of Mystery Incorporated are thrown into, especially as they get deeper and deeper into the mystery of the missing previous Mystery Incorporated. That is another reason that makes this incarnation of Scooby-Doo so great. It works so well in the horror genre and fits right in with its themes, settings, and atmosphere.

3. The animation is amazing.

Scooby-doo’s animation has never been stellar, so to say “amazing” may be overstating it a bit, just because there’s not a whole lot to compare it with. But this series does do a really good job with its art. The style is a bit different, with the characters’ features a bit more angular, which can be a bit off-putting at first. I also sometimes have a problem with the characters not having any whites to their eyes. This is largely due to personal tastes, though. As for the backgrounds and settings, the lighting and coloring are really excellent. It’s the backgrounds that really make the spooky atmosphere I was talking about. In each episode it seems to try out different color palettes and textures to fit the mood and the scenes accordingly. The stark shadows and differences in scenery really add to the jarring feeling that things aren’t what they seem and fits the whole “mystery” theme. What the show may lack in character design, it more than makes up for it in lighting, setting, and mood.

scooby doo backgrounds

Warner Bros. Animation
Some cool background art.

4. The voice cast is great.

Over the years Scooby Doo’s voice actors have changed a bit, but Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated has a great cast and includes many from other Scooby-Doo series. First off, we have Frank Welker as Fred Jones, who is the only one of the very original cast to have kept his role over the years. This man has been voicing Fred for 46 years! In Mystery Incorporated he also voices the titular Scooby-Doo. Mindy Cohn, who has voiced Velma in many of the movies and in What’s New Scooby Doo makes a return as well. Grey DeLisle, who is well known for her roles as Azula from Avatar The Last Airbender and Mandy from The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, voices Daphne, and does an excellent job with the role! Matthew Lillard, who played Shaggy in both live action movies, this time lends his voice to the character. Long time Shaggy VA, Casey Kasam, now voices Shaggy’s father, and is his last voice acting role before his death in 2014. Also from the live action films is Velma’s actress, Linda Cordellini, who voices the reoccurring character Hot Dog Water. Other great voice actors include Lewis Black as Mr. E, and Patrick Warburton as Sheriff Bronson Stone. But now that we have learned of their voices, let’s move onto the characters themselves.

5. The characters are developed.

We all know them. We’ve got the leader/trap-maker Fred Jones, the damsel-in-distress Daphne Blake, the smart one Velma Dinkley, the coward/the one who likes to eat Shaggy, and the lovable animal companion Scooby-Doo. That pretty much sums up our characters for most of the Scooby-Doo franchise. That’s why Scooby-Doo is so easy to recreate over and over again. We’ve already got their general personality tropes; no character development needed. But alongside Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated being the first series to have an overarching story arc, it is also the first series to involve the personal dramas and romantic entanglements of our main characters. It even expands our characters’ world to include their town, their neighbors, and their parents and families. I don’t know about you, but watching the older series’, I never really got the sense that our “meddling kids” were all that young. If anything, they felt like maybe younger adults. Being in an actual high-school setting this time, and including their crushes and interpersonal conflicts, they actually start to feel like “kids” in this series.

Warner Bros. Animation
Those meddling kids and their dog.

I personality am not a fan of romantic side plots, especially if it gets in the way of the larger plot. However, I feel like this doesn’t happen in Mystery Incorporated, and instead I see these relationships as an effective way of developing the characters themselves. For instance, Daphne is a love-struck teen and is constantly seeking attention from Fred. She is often thrown into the damsel-in-distress role, but she has her moments and actually does much of the snooping and clue-finding on her own. I like her arc of trying to win Fred’s heart, while also ultimately trying to find herself. Velma is one of the characters that I actually found myself relating a lot to. She’s the smartest of the group, but she often feels left out and ignored. She is constantly seeking out validation and approval from others. As she says herself, she’s a skeptic in nature, but she really wants to trust people, which often leads to her feeling betrayed when that trust is broken. She is also wonderfully sardonic and I love her salty attitude. As for Shaggy and Scooby… Well, they’re still those lovable, food-loving goons, and the best of friends.

The person who I believe gets the most and best development is Fred. At first, Fred comes across as a bumbling, trap-obsessed idiot. He kind of is a bumbling, trap-obsessed idiot. He’s optimistic, friendly, and good-natured, if oftentimes a bit odd and quite oblivious to Daphne’s affections and his own emotions. But as the show goes on, you find that Fred’s trap obsession may have more to do with him coping with a fear of loss, and his eagerness as an attempt to gain the attention of his father, who is the mayor of Crystal Cove. Furthermore, despite his apparent idiocy, he is rather clever and more than once is able to trick the baddies into giving something away or to fall into his traps. His personality is also probably the one most affected by the events in the show. He goes from a more happy-go-lucky personality to somewhat more hardened and serious. What I find impressive about this rendition of Fred Jones, is that Mystery Incorporated took whom I considered to be one of the blandest characters in the franchise, and made him the most interesting one.

6. It pays homage to all things Scooby-Doo.

Despite Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated going beyond the norm and probably getting deeper and darker than most of the franchise, it is still the Scooby-Doo you know and love. It’s still got those wacky people in even wackier costumes. It’s still got Rube Goldberg machine-esque traps. It still has chase scenes through logic-defying hallway doors, saying the culprit’s name in unison,  “meddling kids” quotes, Scooby Snacks, and every other Scooby-Doo trope you remember. In fact you could say that this series is practically a love letter to the Scooby-Doo franchise. Many episodes feature or cameo the characters or monsters that appeared in past incarnations of the series. Crystal Cove even has a wax museum full of all previously unmasked monsters including “Captain Cutler”, “Miner 49er”, “Charlie the Haunted Robot”, and “The Creeper”. Vincent Van Ghoul from The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo appears as a reoccurring character, this time as an actor, and voiced by Maurice LaMarche (for those Pinky and the Brain fans out there). The Hex Girls appear in a couple of episodes to help stop some bad guys and sing some tunes. The series even features many other Hanna-Barbera shows such as Dynomutt, Dog Wonder and Jonny Quest. There’s even an episode drawn in the Hanna-Barbera style and dedicated to the side-kick characters of Hanna-Barbra’s teen mystery themed shows, including Captain Caveman, Jabberjaw, Speed Buggy, and The Funky Phantom. The creators of this show really know their cartoon origins.

scooby doo references

Warner Bros. Animation
Hex Girls (left); Side-Kicks (right), from left to right, Speed Buggy, Jabberjaw, Captain Caveman, Scooby, The Funky Phantom

Oh yeah, and if you were wondering about Scrappy-Doo, well, maybe this clip will answer your question…:

What is great about this series is that it mixes its darker elements with the fun classic ones. It parodies itself, yet also knows when to take itself seriously. So if you are fan of the classics and worried that this Scooby-Doo may be too dark and gritty, just know that it’s a good mix and you won’t be missing your classic cartoon.

7. It pays homage to all things horror

Just like the creators of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated know their Scooby-Doo, they also know their horror/mystery genre. Similar to the Hanna-Barbera cameos, Mystery Incorporated also references many works of film, television, and literature, both modern and classic. One episode involves a monster that looks very much like Cthulu written by an author known as “H.P. Hatecraft” (an obvious reference to H.P. Lovecraft). Also in this episode is the speculative fiction writer, Harlan Ellison, voiced by the real Harlan Ellison. Another episode involves a Terminator-like robotic hound. Then there’s “The Dreamweaver” whose labyrinthine dreamscape and glowing orb are an obvious reference to Jereth from The Labyrinth. Certain episodes and scenes draw directly from various movies and television shows such as The Shining, Twin PeaksPoltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street, and even the Saw franchise. This works excellently in a Scooby-Doo setting, especially since much of the older Scooby-Doo series featured characters and celebrities that were popular in that time. Mystery Incorporated is just following suit, but with a slightly more modern and horror-based spin.

scooby doo horror references

Warner Bros. Animation
Clockwise from upper left: a Cthulu-like monster, the bathroom scene from “The Shining”, David Bowie-like monster from “The Labyrinth”, the dream scene from “Twin Peaks.

In conclusion, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated has much to offer. It’s a great series whether you are a fan of the Scooby-Doo franchise, a fan of the horror/mystery genre, or just a passing viewer. Many die-hard fans of the classic Scooby Doo may disagree with the idea that anything could be better than the original idea, but I believe Mystery Incorporated surpasses all other incarnations of the series in may ways. It’s got everything the original had and more. It is easy to take a show like Scooby Doo and reboot it. You don’t need to do anything with the series to do so, especially with the episodic format and character tropes already laid out for you. Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated could have just as easily done that and stuck with the original formula. But it instead decided to reinvigorate and reinvent it, to add to the series, to give it much more heart while staying true to its origins. It was a risky move on the creator’s part to do this, and I’m really glad they did because they succeeded in making a really awesome show!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s