Scooby-Doo, everyone’s favorite mystery solving Great Dane, has been chasing ghosts (or being chased by them) for almost fifty years but with this twelfth incarnation of Scooby-Doo the show takes a decidedly more comedic tone. Of course even dating back to the original Scooby Doo, Where Are You? this series has always had comedic elements to it, even the previous incarnation Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated though much darker still had many moments of brevity, but with Be Cool, Scooby Doo! the comedy reaches almost Meta levels at times.
This particular incarnation of Scooby-Doo could be considered a reboot as it chronicles the Scooby Gang’s first adventures after finishing up their senior year of high school, and as the series progresses we are “introduced” to the tropes that would be familiar to the legion of Scooby fans. One of the most notable features of this new run is in how the show’s aesthetics differs markedly from previous versions as the animation style is much looser and freer, more comparable to such contemporary animated shows as Family Guy and American Dad, but the character designs do at least remain basically true to their classic look.
What makes Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! stand-out from its predecessors is in the way all of the characters are allowed to be funny, and I mean laugh out loud funny not just a random chuckle or two, no longer is Fred Jones (Frank Welker) the strong straight man of the group instead he’s a mystery obsessed dude who only thinks he is the leader of the group and really only holds this position because the rest of the gang could care less about the position. Velma Dinkley (Kate Micucci) is still able to rattle of reams of facts and minutia at the drop of a hat but in this incarnation she often finds herself being one-upped by Fred when it comes to solving the mystery. Shaggy Rogers (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby (Frank Welker) change the least from their previous versions as they are still a cowardly duo obsessed with food but as the series goes on they do become a little more self-aware as to what their place in the group actually is, unfortunately for them it mostly involves them being bait for a trap. The character with the biggest change is Daphne Blake (Grey DeLisle) for no longer is she “Danger Prone Daphne” a simple damsel who gets gagged and tied to a chair once an episode, but instead she is the moral heart of the team and is the one who rallies the gang when things look their darkest.
Each episode will find Daphne displaying some new eccentricity whether it be a fondness for puppets, dressing up as a sports mascot, becoming a mime or even wearing a moustache and Vandyke beard. Her bubbly enthusiasm throughout the series is infectious, and dropped dead funny at times, and she is easily my favorite part of this particular series. Yet Daphne isn’t played as an idiot as we see that from time to time it’s her on-the-point insights that will solve the many of the cases. Such oddball wackiness does not detract from the standard Scooby-Doo formula it’s just the right amount of added “color” that makes this show work so well, and I must state that this series does completely retain the same story structure of the Scooby-Doo mystery.
- A ghost or monster terrorizes some locals.
- The Scooby gang arrive to investigate.
- The group will split up to look for clues.
- Shaggy and Scooby will encounter the “creature” and run in terror.
- Shaggy and Scooby will come up with some elaborate disguise and ruse.
- We will get a musical montage of the Scooby gang running down hallways.
- Fred will come up with a trap that involves Shaggy and Scooby being bait.
- The trap will fail but some kind of accident will result in the villain being captured.
- Masks will be pulled off resulting in the standard “I would have gotten away with it to if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.”
Now Be Cool, Scooby Doo! may follow that formula from episode to episode but that didn’t stop the writers from occasionally tweaking things and dancing around self-awareness of said formula by having such moments as Shaggy and Scooby commentating on the fact that it seems they are always the one chosen to be the bait for one of Fred’s traps, and we even get the origins of such things as Scooby Snacks which leads to a brilliant moment of Daphne questioning the morality of bribing friends to go into danger. That we also learn that Daphne also managed to offend the entire species of dolphins is just another example of the wonderful lunacy that makes this show amazing.
The other key difference to found in this show is that Scooby and the gang are living in a somewhat more fantastical world than what we’ve seen in the past, sure the over-elaborate schemes the villains hatch to scare people away were always a bit silly but in Be Cool, Scooby Doo! things reach stratospheric levels of absurdity that one can only assume that if the villains had put as much time and effort into honest work as they did in building robot pterodactyls or abominable snowman costumes they’d be much better off and wouldn’t have to worry about a bunch of kids in a van spoiling their fun.
Now if in the past you may wondered how this group of mystery solving misfits funded all their travelling from town to town (I’ve always kind of assumed drugs were somehow involved) but don’t expect to finally get answers in this series as not only do we see no signs of any visible form of income but we also find Fred Jones now driving a spectacularly awesome Mystery Machine that not only has a pop-out crime lab and kitchen but it has numerous modes of transportation it can transform into that includes submarine, plane and even a giant robot. I kept expecting to learn they were being funded by an eccentric billionaire.
As mentioned even the villains stretch the realms of fantasy to the breaking point in this series because even though there are still a fair amount of headless ghosts and amphibian sea creatures to be unmasked and revealed to be nothing more than a security guard or disgruntled employee, there are also some monstrous creations that are staggeringly over-the-top. In the episode “Scary Christmas” Fred is obsessed with solving a Christmas mystery, and is quite upset that no Christmas themed crime is afoot and he really wants something that will cause him to save an orphanage, but instead the gang are pursued by the aforementioned giant pterodactyl, which is strong enough to carry away the Mystery Machine, and in the episode “Giant Problems” Fred dons medieval armor to go toe-to-toe with a two hundred foot faery tale giant. Of course both the pterodactyl and the giant are revealed to be robotic creations the sheer scale of the “monsters” is simply absurd and just adds the hyper-surreal aspect of the show.
Sadly this show was cancelled after just two seasons and thus this brilliantly silly show will become just another footnote in the long history of Scooby-Doo, but one that I will consider a personal favorite as its special brand of lunacy really tickled my funny bone. I must doff my hat to the Cartoon Network and their insane group of writers and animators who brought us such a wonderful and unforgettable incarnation of our beloved Scooby gang.
Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! (2015-2017)
After fifty years and a dozen incarnations of Scooby-Doo it is a relief to see that new life can still be breathed into this show, which completely disproves the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.