If you’ve seen SCOOB!, the all-new, very charming computer animated Scooby-Doo adventure, then chances are that you’re also struck with a highly potent burst of nostalgia, along with the longing to further explore the Scooby-Doo universe (Doo-niverse?), a franchise that has been more or less unstoppable since the late 1960s.
Created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears for Hanna-Barbera Productions, the original series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (don’t ask why it ends with an exclamation point and not a question mark) ran for just two seasons (it was revived later for a third) and a total of 25 episodes. But the characters were so lovable and the central conceit of a bunch of groovy teenagers seeking out mysteries so undeniable, that it was constantly rebooted, retrofitted, and revamped – as TV movies, live-action features, direct-to-video productions and more. SCOOB! Is a perfect example of the concept’s uncanny ability to be updated for a new generation of fans, with the characters (now lovingly rendered in 3D computer animation) joining forces with other Hanna-Barbera characters for a globe-trotting supernatural adventure.
If you’re looking to further your knowledge of the extended Scooby-Doo universe, then look no further. These four movies (and one television series) will give you a greater understanding of the mythology and relationships that make up the heart of the franchise and connect to the movie in some obvious (and not-so-obvious) ways.
The New Scooby-Doo Movies, “”The Secret of Shark Island” (1972)
After the original series ended in 1970 (it was brought back for an additional season in 1978), it was revived for The New Scooby-Doo Movies, which ran on CBS for two seasons. Although dubbed “movies,” they only ran for about an hour, or double the length of the original episodes. (They are, thus far, the only regular Scooby-Doo show to run that long.) The hook of this new series was that a different guest star would anchor each episode – everyone from The Harlem Globetrotters (naturally) and Tim Conway to crossover episodes with Jeannie (the I Dream of Jeannie animated spin-off) and Josie and the Pussycats. The “movie” we chose, “The Secret of Shark Island,” co-stars Sonny and Cher and sees the gang encountering a shark-man at a seaside hotel. SCOOB! pays homage to this tradition (and the awkward, hyper-real stylization of the guest stars) with an appearance by Simon Cowell.
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)
Reruns of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You became an ironic, Gen-X staple during the 1990s, partially fueled by the nonstop reruns on new cable channel Cartoon Network and the kind of detached nostalgia for earlier cultural product that could be deemed “kitschy.” This led to a series of handsomely produced direct-to-video films at the end of the decade. The first – and most important – of these films is Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, the first canonical Scooby-Doo story to feature actual supernatural elements (“It must be animatronic!” Fred wails), something that SCOOB continues with thanks to a convoluted plot involving the gates of the underworld. With more pronounced violence/scariness (the gang accidentally rips off a zombie’s head thinking it’s a mask) and lush artwork from Japanese studio Mook Animation, it felt like a bold reinvention that still maintains all of the classic elements from the beloved series. And it set a path forward for the direct-to-video features that still continue to this day. In fact, a sequel, Return to Zombie Island, the 33rd direct-to-video Scooby-Doo movie, came out just last year.
Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated (2010 – 2013)
Of the modern Scooby-Doo series, Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated is easily the best. While the show only ran for two seasons, all of the episodes are currently available on Netflix and deserve to be watched. This series took its cues from the original series, with the Mystery Inc. team foiling so-called supernatural ruses while also uncovering the secrets of their down, Crystal Cove, in an overarching mystery. (In many ways this feels like the precursor to Disney’s Gravity Falls.) Featuring a great voice cast (including some of Casey Kasem’s last voice work, voicing Shaggy’s father in five episodes), a uniquely stylized look, and bold riffs on modern horror movies, Mystery Incorporated is definitely a more intense and more self-referential Scooby outing. SCOOB director Tony Cervone served as a supervising producer on the series, and at a long lead day for the film (months ago, in the before time), he wondered if the team had maybe made Mystery Incorporated a little too hardcore. We say it’s just right.
Daphne and Velma (2018)
An origin story of sorts, Daphne and Velma (played by Sarah Jeffery and Sarah Gilman) showcases how the female members of Mystery Incorporated met and first solved mysteries. Set in a high-tech high school, the teen sleuths are brought together to solve a next-gen mystery. While more technologically minded than earlier Scooby-Doo joints (we’re pouring one out for Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase), the movie has a feel-good vibe and pays homage to the original series in some unique ways – including in its representation of the old show’s famous “chase” montages (something that SCOOB references as well). Easily the most engaging and, with its STEM-centered narrative, most progressive, of the live-action Scooby stories, Daphne and Velma deserves to be celebrated. Director Suzi Yoonessi is currently working on a feature for Walt Disney Animation Studios. So somebody noticed.
Scooby-Doo! and Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2018)
As someone recently pointed out on Twitter, the originally Scooby-Doo, Where Are You series was meant to be a nonviolent (but still exciting) alternative to the superhero shows of the 1960s that had come under fire from parent groups. But that doesn’t mean that the Mystery Inc. team can’t team up with their favorite crimefighters. As early as an episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, they had worked together with Batman and Robin. But this direct-to-video gem from a couple of years ago sees them teaming up with the Batman of underrated (and utterly hilarious) animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold (voiced by Diedrich Bader) and joining the ranks of the Mystery Analysts of Gotham (along with the Question and Plastic Man). The plot is pretty much wacky nonsense of the highest, most entertaining order and its emphasis on super heroic derring-do will remind you of the relationship between Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and the Mystery, Incorporated team in SCOOB. It’s a good reminder that not all heroes wear capes; some drive around in an old van and solve mysteries.