Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is just the latest attempt to revitalize the nostalgia for the Saturday morning cartoons. There have been countless attempts, such as 2008’s Batman: The Brave and the Bold and 2010’s The Looney Tunes Show, but the good news about Mystery Incorporated is that it finally feels like Cartoon Network is starting to get things right. The second part of the first season isn’t without its problems, but in the long line of recent cartoon failures, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated deserves credit for bringing our beloved 1960s heroes and heroines to a new generation.
Part of the charm of the series is that it builds upon some of the memorable story elements of its predecessors, even verging on meta at times, without seeming desperate to distance itself from its source material. The only difficulty that the show has is establishing who its target audience is. As a grown man and self-professed cartoon lover, I loved all the winks and nods to the original series, but if the show is aimed at children, this type of humor is sure to be lost on them. On the other hand, the dialogue and character development, what little there is, is as stilted as ever which is sure to drive off most adult viewers. I can only assume that both characteristics are a desperate attempt to please both the children and their parents, but the show has difficulty juggling the two.
Besides the constant shift in tone, which is a common problem in contemporary cartoons, the show brings a modern sensibility to it. True, Fred is still cursed with that outdated ascot, but the show does its best to bring the rest of the story world into the present day. One of the most complex ways the show tries to achieve this is through its ongoing storylines. Yes, folks, you heard me right. Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is going the way of The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo and doing its best to maintain a storyline throughout the series, including a season long search for a treasured item and (gasp) relationship drama between Shaggy, Velma, and that adorable third wheel, Scooby-Doo. Unfortunately, for those interested in taking up the show, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Season One Part Two is not the place to start. As embarrassed as I am to admit it, there were several points throughout the two disc DVD set where I found myself completely and totally lost. The plot surrounding the gang’s search for a cursed treasure with their arch-rivals in hot pursuit is a welcome change of pace from the standalone nature of the original series, but it’s a bit of an investment for today’s ADHD youth.
However, the crowning achievement of the series is in its roots as a cartoon. Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated may have a tenuous grasp on its storytelling techniques, but the animation is as engaging as ever. The characters are drawn with a vintage flair with a few updates, such as bows to Velma’s hair…ya know, in case you were unclear that she’s a woman. While the new look for the gang is a welcome improvement, the real credit goes to the villains. Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated isn’t afraid to go dark, with its content and its animation. The show doesn’t veer away from concentrated blacks and heavy tones to an otherwise lighthearted show.
Scooby-Doo! Mysterey Incorporated: Season One Part Two is a mixed bag. Its inconsistent humor and character development is sure to frustrate any older cartoon lovers, but for those with children, it will be a welcome relief from a lot of the other cartoons on these days. Even if you don’t pick it up for the mysteries, although there are some fun ones, it’s worth taking a look at for the animation alone.