When it comes to animated Halloween specials, the all-round king would be It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but when it comes to horror for the holidays, one must still give props to Scooby-Doo and the gang. In 2013, an all-new episode titled Scooby-Doo! and the Spooky Scarecrow was released on a two-disc DVD called 13 Spooky Tales: Run for Your Rife as part of a collection of thirteen various episodes from the Scooby-Doo show, giving fans a very fun and light Halloween romp. It’s not Haddonfield but almost as dangerous.
This twenty-two-minute short centers on the Scooby gang visiting Cobb Corner for their annual Halloween Festival. Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) seem surprisingly excited to experience this small town’s festivities despite the scary Halloween theme — you’d think these two would avoid any celebration of this particular holiday — but understanding quickly dawns on us viewers when Shaggy lists off the menu, “They make corn on the cob, corn muffins, cornbread, kettle corn, and corn dogs. It’s a regular corn-u-copia.” Unfortunately, the festival is in danger of being cancelled due to the monstrous figure of Cornfield Clem, a town legend who is now terrorizing anyone who dares set foot within the corn maze.
Mayor Husk (Gary Anthony Williams) is quick to assure the townsfolk that, “There is a reasonable explanation,” and that the festival will continue despite many people wanting it cancelled before someone gets hurt. Sheriff Kern (Wendie Malick) urges caution and orders the corn maze to be closed and off-limits, posting a monosyllabic handyman named Abner (Steve Blum) to ensure no meddling kids wander in. Now, raise your hand if you think this is going to stop Mystery Incorporated from investigating. Scooby-Doo! and the Spooky Scarecrow is not one of the animated features, it has the standard run-time of an average episode of the series, so there isn’t much time to set up the plot or suspects. We have the Mayor and the sherriff acting a little suspicious at times, but they both have more to lose if this particular mystery isn’t solved. Next, we have Mr. Bumpy (Jeff Bennett), the proprietor of a novelty shop that specializes in Cornfield Clem merchandise and costumes as he could be using the appearance of the scarecrow to drum up business, but the cancellation of the festival could harm tourist trade so that kind of puts him out of the running.
When the gang learns that a year ago there was a bank robbery that resulted in the crook having to abandon his car, it is found near the cornfield, and the loot is too big to be carried away by hand, it all becomes quite obvious as to what is going on. Velma (Mindy Cohn) quickly deduces that the police roadblocks forced the crook to bury his ill-gotten gains in the nearby field, with plans to return and dig it up later, but not knowing that the field was recently planted with corn. When he eventually returns to the spot where he buried the loot, he finds a full-grown cornfield. So, what can a man do in such a situation? Well, he purchased a Cornfield Clem costume from Mr. Bumpy and used it and the legend of the scarecrow to buy himself some searching time.
And who is this criminal mastermind? None other than Abner, that country bumpkin who Velma noticed had very soft hands — one could almost say safecracker hands — for a supposed country farmhand. No big surprise there. Scooby-Doo! and the Spooky Scarecrow may not have the most original mystery, but it works perfectly well for this shorter format, and the Scooby gang are all allowed some time to shine.
• When the gang arrives in town, we can hear Velma creepily saying “We’re here,” as a nice nod to the horror film Poltergeist.
• According to legend, Cornfield Clem was a scarecrow brought to life by a 16th-century witch who was run out of town. The Scarecrow was then cursed to haunt the town every year at Halloween time. As in Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost, we learn of real witchcraft, but of course, this legend may have been a load of hogwash.
• Shaggy is seen wearing a Blue Falcon costume, a reference to the direct-to-video film Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon.
• Sheriff Kern obviously likes drama with a dash of musical theatre, as he states, “That field isn’t just full of corn, and it’s growing a crop of evil as high as an elephant’s eye.”
• An idiot criminal burying his loot in a field and later not being able to find the spot could be a reference to the film Fargo.
Scooby-Doo! and the Spooky Scarecrow is a solid little Halloween special that really harkens back to the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! as it gives us good mystery, a nice amount of clues, and even though the suspect pool is a little shallow, the plot is still well-executed. Add to all this the great animation on display and the stellar voice work by all concerned, you have a Scooby-Doo entry well worth a visit… at least once a year.
You can find all my reviews of the various Scooby-Doo shows and movies collected here: The Wonderful World of Scooby-Doo.
Scooby-Doo! and the Spooky Scarecrow (2013)
Holiday Special Rank - 7/10
As a Halloween special Scooby-Doo! and the Spooky Scarecrow is a nice little gem that is definitely one of the better entries, the mystery is quick and doesn’t wear out its welcome, and the animation is quite superb.