Illusions and trickery have been the bread and butter of the Scooby-Doo world since the very beginning, with countless crooks faking various ghosts and monsters as part of some elaborate crime, but with Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo, the art of illusions is taken up a notch when Scooby and the gang visit a school for stage magicians. Could an actual mythological griffin be terrorizing a transplanted castle? Does the Banshee’s wail spell doom for Mystery Incorporated? Only time will tell in this chilling mystery full of danger and destruction.
During the wrap-up of the “Mystery of the Chemical Creep” — this movie’s brilliant opening credit sequence — Velma (Mindy Cohn) gets a call from her mother asking that she check in on her younger sister Madelyn (Danica McKellar), who attends the Whirlen Merlin Magic Academy, a college for stage magicians located in an old Irish castle that had been transplanted to America. After almost being killed by the Mystery Machine’s new GPS (Dave Attell) — who constantly insults them while taking them on a lethal scenic route — the gang eventually arrives at the academy. Here they learn that many of the students and teachers have fled due to attacks from a griffin, who Madelyn explains was meant to protect the castle, having been brought overseas two centuries ago by the legendary magician Seamus O’Flannery, who had possessed a magic staff to summon and control the griffin.
Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo returns to the darker, more realistic style of animation found back in such animated features as Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island and Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost, with the added bonus of having the likes of Alan Burnett and Paul Dini as writers — these two guys being integral to the success of the Batman: The Animated Series. The interesting wrinkle this time out is the reveal that Velma’s younger sister has had a crush on Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) for years, and her devotion and belief in his nobility and courage is as charming as it is funny. Now, this isn’t the first time that Shaggy has had a potential love interest, he even once had the hots for an alien, but the chemistry between Madelyn and Shaggy is handled brilliantly here, and her blind faith in her “Knight in Shining Armor” is simply adorable.
So, who exactly is behind these Griffin attacks? The Magician’s Academy is owned and operated by Whirlen Merlin (James Patrick Stuart) — a character clearly designed after Vegas magicians Siegfried and Roy — but in his shadow is his older brother Marlon Merlin (Brian Posehn), who is responsible for creating the visual effects needed to perform Whirlen’s acts. Then we have Calvin Curdles, a powerful ice cream guru who desperately wants to purchase the castle and turn it into a flagship restaurant. Next, we have Alma Rumblebuns (Diane Delano), the gruff school’s housekeeper who used to date Calvin Curdles and wishes to see the castle returned to being a place of true magic. Then there is Amos the groundskeeper (John DiMaggio), who doesn’t seem afraid of the griffin and is also feeding information to Curdles about the troubles at the school.
That’s a pretty good suspect list, and as far as mysteries go, Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo is one of the more solid entries, but what makes this particular mystery stand out among the previous Scooby-Doo movies, is the level of peril on hand as well as a true sense of danger. The Scooby gang surviving multiple encounters with near-death is not something we see all that often.
The character designs and moody atmosphere are simply fantastic, and Warner Bros. Animation once again proves that a made-for-television animated film doesn’t have to look cheap or half-assed. Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo is a good example of the studio bringing their A-game to the project, and the only real complaint I have is one that plagues almost every Scooby-Doo mystery, which would be the monster being revealed to be fake — in this case, the Griffin was a massive puppet suspended from a hot-air blimp that was hidden behind an artificial fog — as it’s not possible to reconcile its abilities with what we saw the creature demonstrating throughout the film. But at least they go the extra mile by adding additional elements to pull off the hoax, such as mechanical griffin claws that are activated by booby traps. This film even gives us a second monster, in the form of a Banshee, which is later explained away as being either a puppet or a hologram at different times, so Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo gets bonus points for putting a little extra effort into how this particular hoax was pulled off.
Note: Groundskeeper Amos informs the gang about the banshee, stating “It’s a hideous female ghost whose wailings doom whoever hears it.” That is not how banshees operate; their wailing actually heralds the death of a family member, it’s not some form of an attack.
• Danger-prone Daphne (Grey Griffin) ratchets her clumsiness up to eleven in this movie, but she tries to compensate by demonstrating amazing ballet and gymnastic abilities.
• Fred (Frank Welker) gets all hot and bothered over Whirlen Merlin’s assistant Treena (Olivia Hack), causing Daphne to once again become jealous.
• Being this is a school of magic, we get the obligatory Harry Potter references.
• Shaggy faces off against the griffin on a bridge, “Like, you shall not pass, man,” Which is a nice reference to Gandalf and the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings.
• The elaborate hidden passageways and booby traps in this movie are as good as anything found in the Indiana Jones movies.
• The banshee starts out looking “Kind of Pretty” as Fred points out, until it turns into a hideous hag to chase our heroes. This is very reminiscent of the spirits that came out of the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
• Part of this movie deals with the gang trying to find O’Flannery’s crypt so that they can retrieve his magic staff, the one that controls the griffin, which is kind of a narrative dead-end when you consider the monster is fake.
The return to the dark tone is more than welcome here — I could certainly do with less Hawaiian adventures and more gothic horror — and the mystery on hand is surprisingly intricate, with multiple suspects that manage to throw a few twists and turns into the proceedings. Animation-wise the complexity and shadowing of the characters and scenery makes Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo is one of the best-looking of the Scooby-Doo movies, and the Scooby Gang themselves are back to true form for this outing. Then there is the fact that our heroes are supported by a vibrant cast of secondary characters, all with interesting personalities and motivations, leading to this entry being one of the best of the Scooby-Doo movies.
Note: The credit sequences were done by the animation studio Six Point Harness, and its unique style is not only amazing to look at, but it also gives us a fun and energetic opening, and the character designs were also quite cute and hilarious. I’d love to see an entire Scooby-Doo movie done in this art style.
You can find all my reviews of the various Scooby-Doo shows and movies collected here: The Wonderful World of Scooby-Doo.
Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo (2010)
Movie Rank - 7.5/10
With Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo we get the nice return to a darker and more interesting world of Scooby-Doo, and it was also great to meet Velma’s younger sister – though family canon in this series is very flexible so she does tend to cease to exist depending on the writers – and the mystery itself was solid, backed up by a great supporting cast.