All the trees begin to moanThe year is 1997. Most people would have figured the Scooby-Doo franchise had pretty much run its course. It had been 6 years since A Pup Named Scooby-Doo was cancelled, the only sign of life in the franchise being a made-for-TV-movie in 1994 called Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights in which Scooby barely appeared, and the ever-present reruns of exploits from decades past.Then, out of nowhere, came something totally unexpected. Children and parents everywhere stared in amazement at one thing: a trailer on VHS tapes of several Warner Bros. family films...The trailer had sleek animation, dark colors, and featured a seemingly truly dark and potentially scary movie... and it featured Scooby-Doo and Shaggy running for their lives. The title; Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. The tagline; This time, the monsters are real. It was short, but it was enough to send kids everywhere into a furor.Cut to 1998. Parents and kids grab the video off of video and rental stores' shelves. They're expecting something fun, nothing more dangerous than the average Scooby mystery. To their horror-filled delight, the latter assumption turned out wrong.With a warmly-received journey into relatively mature writing (partially helped by being a Dolled-Up Installment, see below), Zombie Island marked a – or, in some peoples' opinions, the – high point in the Scooby-Doo franchise. The film, as mentioned before, is beautifully animated – more so than any incarnation before and still unmatched today – with a literally dark and realistic feel to it. On top of that, it featured a somewhat cynical/mature look at what happened to Mystery Inc. after their adventures were done, which would be touched on again in The Movie, but with less success. Characters were more fleshed out and three-dimensional, especially the newly empowered Daphne. The irrelevant pop songs of past cartoons gave way to Alternative and Metal music. The story appealed to older viewers with honest-to-goodness death as part of the backstory, and the end result for the gang if they didn't win.note And the best part of it all? No contrived story with a guy in a mask... just like the ads promised, they were Real. Stinkin'. Zombies. Probably the only complaint the movie generated was, "it's too scary for young Scooby fans."The success of Zombie Island led to the creation of three more direct-to-video movies covering mysteries Scooby and the gang would solve as adults, starting with Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost. The success of those caused a wholesale revival of the franchise, culminating in a live-action film and the first new TV series in over a decade, What's New, Scooby-Doo? (with more series to follow). The Direct-to-Video movies would also continue, even if the animation quality was not often up to the high standards set by Zombie Island.Production started at Hanna-Barbera, but it was completed by its then-new parent company, Warner Bros. Animation after the buyout. WB has produced all subsequent Scooby-Doo films.The movie starts with Fred inviting Daphne, Scooby, Shaggy, and Velma to a long-awaited Mystery Inc. reunion, held in honor of Daphne’s birthday. The five of them travel to New Orleans in order to find real monsters to discuss on Daphne's talk show. After effortlessly exposing several creature impostors, the gang accepts an offer to visit Moonscar Island. The island is home to a French chili pepper plantation owner named Simone Lenoir, and has become the site of several disappearances over the years. While there, our heroes grapple with zombies and voodoo, death becomes a real threat, and the adventure grows legitimately dark and scary.Zombie Island is also notable for having the first permanent shakeup of the franchise's vocal cast.± Don Messick, Scooby-Doo's long-time voice, retired in 1996 and died in 1997 shortly before recording could begin – the movie is dedicated to his memory; Scooby himself is played by Scott Innes instead. Casey Kasem, who had played Shaggy in every incarnation of the franchise up to this point, declined to reprise his role here after refusing to voice the character in a Burger King commercial (though he would return four years later after he successfully fought for the character to be a vegetarian), so Shaggy is played – for the first and only time – by Billy West± . Daphne and Velma are played here by Mary Kay Bergman and BJ Ward respectively, replacing original VA's Heather North and Nicole Jaffe (also respectively; both original voices would briefly return four years later). Frank Welker, reprising his role of Fred, was the only original cast member to return.
And the monsters grunt and groan
Rotting faces full of slime
Don't you know it's terror time?
And it's terror time again
They've got you running through the night
Yes, it's terror time again
Oh, you just might die of fright!
It's a terrifying time!
And the monsters grunt and groan
Rotting faces full of slime
Don't you know it's terror time?
And it's terror time again
They've got you running through the night
Yes, it's terror time again
Oh, you just might die of fright!
It's a terrifying time!
This film provides examples of the following Tropes:
- Agent Scully: Fred takes his sweet time accepting the possibility that real zombies and ghosts are pursuing them.
- Ambiguously Evil: The Greater-Scope Villain "cat god." On one hand, he seemed benevolent and generous toward Lena and Simone's settler group... but on the other hand, when the two asked him for Revenge on Moonscar's crew, his response was to turn them into Life Drain-ing werecats and withhold the Price from them until after the fact.
- And I Must Scream: The existence of the zombies. They were once normal people who had their life force drained by the cat people. Consequently this turned them into aware but immortal zombie monsters.
- Anti-Villain: Simone and Lena turn out to be werecats who drain life from others due to the fact that they were cursed as part of a ritual to get revenge on those who slaughtered their townspeople. Both Type II.
- Asshole Victim: It's hard to feel sorry for Morgan Moonscar and his crew being turned into zombies after the horrible things they did.
- The Atoner: Morgan Moonscar and his pirate crew, Simone and Lena's first victims, and the only ones who were not innocent. In life, they were savage killers who slaughtered an entire colony of innocent settlers for no good reason, but in undeath, they are apparently remorseful for their actions, and have done a Heel–Face Turn in trying to save others from being killed by the werecats.
- Balloon Belly: Scooby and Shaggy after eating a ton of contraband food (or more likely just food they've been stealing from people).
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Simone and her servant Lena prayed to cat gods for the power to protect their island from pirates. The gods granted them such power, but also cursed them to drain the lives of others during the harvest moon.
- One could also argue that Scooby and the gang suffered this trope after Daphne expressed desires to meet real monsters.
- Big Bad: Simone, since Lena and Jacques are subservient to her, though to a nominal degree in Lena's case.
- Big Damn Movie: The first movie, in fact.
- Big Eater: Scooby and Shaggy as usual.
- Birthday Episode: The Mystery Inc. reunion begins on Daphne's birthday. Ironically, she gets so caught up in her work beforehand, that she loses track of her birthday until everyone else greets her.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Simone, Lena, and Jacques all start out the film as decent and friendly people, especially the jovial Jacques. Then they reveal themselves to be werecats who have been murdering people en masse for centuries.
- The Brute: Jacques turns out to be in league with Simone and Lena in their plan to drain their victims of their life force, and is a much larger physical threat to the gang as a werecat.
- The Catfish: A minor character fisherman introduced at the beginning is constantly trying to catch a massive catfish named "Big Mona". Big Mona sprays Scooby's face with water and is a large, mean fish.
- Cats Are Mean: Played with. Scooby has an ongoing rivalry with Simone's cats, though the cats themselves are ultimately neutral characters, with no good or evil intentions towards the protagonists. Played straight with Simone and Lena, who are very legitimately evil Cat Girls who gain immortality by stealing visitors' souls.
- The Stinger shows that Scooby and Simone's cats eventually made peace.
- Character Development: Daphne retains her more proactive personality from The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, and takes it a step further by never once really being a Damsel in Distress (at least, not when others weren't in as much trouble as she).
- Chekhov's Gag: During the "It's Terror Time Again" scene, Shaggy accepts a vine from a zombie to pull Scooby out of some quicksand. It seems like a classic Double Take gag. It's actually foreshadowing that the zombies don't mean any harm.
- Chekhov's Gun: The cloth Velma uses to clean her glasses. Later, Simone and Lena use the cloth to power a Velma voodoo doll. Fred's ascot serves a similar purpose in this movie.
- Counterfeit Cash: This is the scheme the 'Moat Monster' at the start of the movie is attempting to cover up.
- Covers Always Lie: The castle on the poster only appears briefly at the beginning of the movie. Most of the movie takes place on a plantation.
- Cute Monster Girl: Averted and how with the female zombies. And Simone and Lena's cat forms.
- Darker and Edgier: When it first came out, this was the darkest interpretation of Scooby Doo in existence. It's still one of the scariest with Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated being the only interpretation that could match it in darkness (and that's saying something!). Plus, this is the first time in Scooby-Doo where characters actually die.
- Dark Is Not Evil: The zombies. They are scary undead monsters... that are just trying to save others from suffering their fate.
- Death Equals Redemption: Morgan Moonscar and his fellow pirates come back as zombies and successfully manage to hold off the villains long enough for the spell to be broken.
- The Dragon: Lena.
- Dolled-Up Installment: The movie was adapted from the story of an unmade episode of SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron, "The Curse of Kataluna"; the original story was supposed to have a Succubus.
- Eat the Evidence: How Scooby and Shaggy got fired from their job sniffing out contraband food in airport luggage.
- Expy: In one of the direct to TV animated videos made several years later, Pirates Ahoy, they blatantly reused the design for Captain Moonscar for their main pirate monster.
- Face/Heel Double-Turn: The zombies are the good guys while the seemingly benevolent Simone and Lena are the Big Bad.
- Face–Heel Turn: Simone and Lena after the curse.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Simone, Lena and Jacques after they miss their deadline for feeding on souls. They disintegrate horrifically—it's worse than vampires, as you can actually see bone fragments.
- In the flashback, when the pirates force the villagers into alligator infested waters...their deaths occur offscreen, but you still hear the screams and other horrible sounds, as the camera shows the horrified faces of the two girls that survived because they hid behind a tree.
- Family-Unfriendly Violence: In Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island there are a few examples of this, one zombie has his head ripped off and two get cut in half.
- Earlier than that, the guy in the monster suit in the intro gives Fred a nasty gash on his back.
- This was likely a remnant of the script's SWAT Kats origins- that show was full of it.
- Fire-Breathing Diner: Scooby and Shaggy after eating the Moonscar Island peppers.
- Zombie Island has several signs linking to the end of the mystery, including one in one of the chase sequences, where a Zombie gives Shaggy a vine to pull Scooby out, at first, it looks like just a gag involving the whole "monster helps them to save themselves", but it foreshadows that the Zombies are not as evil as they're made out to be.
- Early in the film after being fired from their latest job, Shaggy and Scooby fear going hungry and turning to "skin and bones". This is more or less exactly the fate that they nearly suffer when Simone and Lena come very close to draining their lives.
- When Fred attempts to pull off what he thinks is a mask off a zombie and eventually it's not, he lists out possible suspects with Jacques the ferryman being the last he listed out. While Jacques wasn't a man in a mask, he is revealed to be a villain, making Fred coincidentally accurate when placing him in the list of suspects, as well as a cat creature.
- The cats in Simone and Lena's house foreshadow that they're actually werecats.
- Simone mentions that the zombies get more restless once night falls. During the daytime, only Morgan Moonscar shows up. During the nighttime, a confederate colonel and a horde of zombies show up. It's also a hint that the cat-creatures' ritual only happens at night, as that's when the living need the zombies' protection from being sacrificed.
- While being chased by zombies, Scooby and Shaggy discover wax dolls of Fred, Daphne, and Velma. After playing with them for a while, Shaggy wonders who could have made them. It was Lena and Simone.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Lena and Simone were colonists of Louisiana who lost everything due to Morgan Moonscar. Their revenge turned them into life draining cat monsters.
- Game Face: Lena and Simone reveal their cat-creature faces when they're preparing to sacrifice Velma, Daphne, Fred and Beau. Possibly just to mess with their heads, and their victims are already helpless.
- Genre Shift: From a straight Scooby-Doo story, to a supernatural horror mystery film.
- God of Evil: Simone and Lena's cat god that gave them the power to murder the pirates and then drain the life of innocent souls.
- Gone Horribly Right: Daphne laments that her search for real, dangerous monsters has succeeded all too well. Additionally, Simone and Lena pray to their cat god so that they can get revenge on the pirates that murdered their friends and family. They succeed, only to become cat monsters that suck the life out of others.
- Greater-Scope Villain:
- Morgan Moonscar attacked Lena and Simone's village, causing the villagers to be eaten by crocodiles. This drove them to become cat monsters. However, he is now trying to save the gang from his fate.
- The seemingly malevolent cat god is an actual deity who gave Simone and Lena their powers to drain innocent people, but otherwise isn't directly involved in the plot.
- The Greatest Story Never Told: After Fred drops the camera into quicksand and the zombies disappear along with Lena, Simone. and Jacques the gang fears that no one will believe their adventure occurred. They realize Simone's only surviving servant Beau can act as a witness, but even he doubts anyone will believe them.
- Heel–Face Turn: It happened to Morgan Moonscar and his crew after their deaths. The above Foreshadowing entry makes clear that they don't want to kill the gang: in spite of being real zombies, they want to scare them away from the area (which was ironically a much more noble version of what most of the series' previous villains wanted to do).
- Hollywood Voodoo: A textbook example among children's media.
- Hot Scoop: Daphne.
- Human Sacrifice: In a Hold the Line moment, the zombies keep the real villains at bay so Scooby's gang can get permanently rid of them.
- Hypocritical Humor: Early in the film after they've been fired from their airport security job, Shaggy and Scooby worry about the prospect of going hungry and turning to skin and bones. This is after they've become obese from eating tons of contraband food.
- Hypocrite: Despite being a werecat, Simone at one point refers to Scooby as a beast.
- Incongruously Dressed Zombie: A rare justified case. The zombies are an ecletic bunch of victims taken at various points throughout history, so they range from 18th century pirates all the way up to modern tourists.
- It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: Averted. There isn't a single mention of Mardi Gras in the entire film.
- Knight of Cerebus: Lena, Simone and Jacques are not your usual Scooby Doo villains.
- Last Minute Hookup: Velma and Beau, once Beau is revealed to be an undercover agent investigating the disappearances.
- Mighty Glacier: In spite of their slowness, the zombies are apparently physically strong enough to give the werecats a run for their money - at one point, two zombies each manage to tackle and momentarily stun a werecat. Though, this could also be justified by the zombies in question being Civil War soldiers.
- Mood Whiplash: This film goes back and forth from the usual Hanna-Barbera cartoonish hijinks (mostly surrounding around Shaggy and Scooby) that would make children laugh to the dead serious and scary situations that would give children nightmares.
- Mook DLE: First of four direct-to-videos animations for the franchise. (Another remnant of how the script started; they animated season 2 of SWAT Kats.)
- Mythology Gag: Fred tries on his orange ascot while getting ready for dinner at Simone's mansion, but tosses it aside after realizing it looks ridiculous. Also see You Meddling Kids below.
- Daphne being the believer and Fred being the skeptic is a reversal of their roles in A Pup Named Scooby-Doo.
- Never Smile at a Crocodile: Morgan Moonscar and his men drove the other settlers from Simone's and Lena's village into the swamp, where alligators surrounded and presumably ate them.
- No Immortal Inertia: When they miss their deadline for feeding, the three villains all dissolve horrifically into puddles of decayed bio-matter within a few seconds.
- Not a Mask: Fred tries to remove a mask from a zombie. Instead he tears the zombie's head off.
- Not a Zombie: A rare case of this reaction being completely justified given the characters involved. Both Averted and played straight. The avert is one of the Mysteries the gang is doing involves a zombie ship captain (which happens to be a woman in the costume). Played straight with not only Morgan Moonscar, but his pirate crew, other inhabitants, Civil War soldiers, and past tourists.
- Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Two cases:
- Beau, the gardener, seems like a shady guy and always gets annoyed when his flowerbeds are ruined. However, he's really an undercover police officer investigating the disappearances of missing tourists who ultimately learns the truth.
- The zombies so very much. Yes, they're quite terrifying and they know it. That's the point. They're not trying to hurt or eat Scooby and his friends. They're trying to save them from being consumed by Simone and Lena.
- Oh, Crap!: Several characters, several times throughout the film. One in particular that stands out is Fred when he finally gets it that the zombies really are real, and really are trying to kill them ...Or not. The zombies are actually trying to scare them away, so the real villains won't sacrifice them to their cat god.
- Our Werebeasts Are Different: Specifically, this story gives us werecats. The curse was brought on by invoking the power of some vaguely described cat god that was worshiped by the island's original inhabitants. The werecats transform entirely at will, but usually remain in their human forms. It isn't clear if, or how, others can be turned into werecats in the typical werebeast fashion (bites, scratches, etc) - the two original werecats have only ever turned one person, but it isn't explained how they did this. The curse also grants immortality, provided the werecats steal the life forces of others every harvest moon.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Very different. Not the flesh eating kind or the brain eating kind. Or the evil kind. They're the completely sentient victims of the soul stealing magical cat people, so they want only to try and scare humans away, so they don't join their ranks. Also, they only seem to be active for a short time before the cat people's "feeding time," and initially manifest as ghosts; it's only when the chosen night descends that they can physically manifest as zombies.
- Outdated Outfit: During the opening sequence, the gang is seen in their classic outfits from the original show. For the rest of the film — and for that matter the rest of the series up until Mystery Inc., they wear more modern clothes. Fred even throws his prized ascot away.
- Pet the Dog: When Scooby gets trapped in quicksand, a Confederate zombie passes Shaggy a vine to help pull him out. Then it turns out that they're not actually evil.
- Lena expresses genuine concern for Jacques when she hears him being attacked.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Many would even contest that this is the best Scooby-Doo story ever. Hands down. And, as stated, it started out as an episode of a completely different series which had the darkness as standard fare.
- Punk: While The Ghost is Here is of the Pop Punk variety, as was popular at the time, It's Terror Time dives head first into straight-up Horror Punk...& it's as spectacularly awesome & fitting as you'd expect for one of the best, & genuinely horrifying, Scooby-Doo films ever.
- Putting the Band Back Together: The story opens up after the gang have been separated for a number of years. Given how a few minor appearances aside this was the first new Scooby media in seven years, there's a bit of Reality Subtext to it. The film's success is most likely why the first live action movie used this to set up the plot of that film.
- Quicksand Sucks: It's a major hazard on the island.
- Redemption Equals Undeath / Even Evil Has Standards: Morgan Moonscar and his pirates were brutal killers in life, but even in their undead state, they try to scare people away from the area so innocents don't suffer the same fate as they did.
- Red Herring: This movie started a trend of an entire gallery of herrings.
- Beau seems pretty suspicious and is pretty hostile to the gang. He turns out to be an undercover cop investigating the disappearances on Moonscar Island and becomes the Sixth Ranger to the group.
- Snakebite Scruggs is quickly shrugged off as a suspect since while he's a nasty guy, he still saved Shaggy and Scooby from alligators.
- Morgan Moonscar is built up as the main antagonist, especially after his ghost carves a warning into Simone's kitchen wall. Only he's the Greater-Scope Villain who's pulled a Heel–Face Turn in death, and was the first victim of Simone, the true Big Bad.
- Role Reprisal: Frank Welker returns to voice Fred for the first time since 1984 — admittedly this is the first time Adult!Fred had appeared in any media since 1984. Welker is the only one of the original voice actors to do so (though it's heavily implied Don Messick would also have returned had he lived).
- Romantic False Lead: Daphne and Fred develop crushes on Beau and Lena, respectively, invoking each other's jealousy.
- Running Gag:
- Scooby and Shaggy sampling some of Simone's spiciest peppers. They use it to fend off Jacques in the climax.
- The gang unintentionally interfering with Snakebite's attempts to catch a catfish named Big Mona.
- Dog? Where?
- Scooby Doo has a tendency to chase Simone's cats.
- Scooby-Dooby Doors: Played with briefly at the beginning, where Shaggy and Scooby are running from a monster, and use a hallway with doors to this effect while the monster just stands at the end of the hall and watches them.
- "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Averted in the main villains' plan, but played straight for all the "monsters" the gang encounters before Lena invites them to Moonscar Island. It's why the gang disbanded.Chris: Got a little boring, eh?
- Skeptic No Longer: Fred's denial of the supernatural vanishes very quickly.
- Spanner in the Works: Lena and Simone's decision not to make wax dolls out of Shaggy and Scooby ends up being one of the deciding factors of them missing their deadline in the climax.
- Stab the Scorpion: After much criticism from Velma, Beau picks up a large rock, and it looks like he's going to hurt her with it. Instead, he throws it in front of her, revealing that she was about to step in quicksand. She thanked him, but she still sees him as a suspect.
- Start of Darkness: As told via Flashback by Lena and Simone — they originally gained dark powers to get vengeance on the pirates that destroyed their home, but the price of the power turned them to evil.
- Status Quo Is God: Mystery Inc. has broken up? Not for long.
- Averted with the events of Zombie Island, which saw the series introducing more real monsters for the gang in many of their future adventures to come.
- Take That!: While dressing for dinner, Fred puts his old ascot on, then says "Nah." and throws it back into his suitcase.
- Theme Tune Cameo: Fred whistles the theme song to Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? at one part.
- Time Skip: The movie begins with a flashback of a routine mystery, then progresses several years after the disbandment of Mystery Inc. Daphne hosts a popular talk show, Fred produces her show, Scooby and Shaggy work as security at an airport, and Velma owns a store selling mystery books.
- Took a Level in Badass: Sure, she would lose them in the next few movies, but Daphne.
- Trailers Always Spoil:
- One of the alternate posters for the film features Jacques in his were-cat form.
- In addition, the trailers promise "this time, the monsters are real", and at least one used the tagline during the scene of the vampire bat monster chasing Scooby and Shaggy... but just a few moments before, it showed the monster being unmasked as a fake.
- Undercover Cop Reveal: Beau, although not in a way that matters to the plot.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Simone and Lena invert wearing a monster costume like previous Scooby-Doo villains by being monstrous werecats underneath their human disguises.
- Voodoo Doll: Used by Simone and Lena at one point.
- Walk Into Camera Obstruction: With Lena as she is showing Fred to his room.
- Wham Line:
Velma: Her story about Simone getting dragged away by zombies wasn't true. I saw the footprints of Simone's heels. She wasn't dragged, she walked down that tunnel.
- Before, that moment, Velma made an interesting observation that foreshadow what Lena and Simone are planning.
Fred: It's the gardener.Daphne: No!Fred: It's the fisherman.Shaggy: No!Fred: It's the ferryman.Fred: Maybe it's... Real?
- Fred encounters a zombie, and attempts to remove its mask:
- What Happened to the Mouse?: A Running Gag throughout the movie is Scooby chasing Simone's cats every time he sees them. The leader of Simone's cats is a white cat that torments Scooby more than the others, but it suddenly disappears from the movie while the others are still constantly seen. Even during the ending where the cats are shown to have boarded the ship with Scooby and co., leaving the island, the white cat is nowhere to be seen, not even in the post credits scene where Scooby makes peace with the cats.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Simone and Lena.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Fred. All his theories and guesses about who could be faking the ghost and zombie appearances on Moonscar Island, and why they'd be doing it would probably be right, if it wasn't for the fact that this film is a Deconstruction and Reconstruction of the Scooby-Doo formula by showing what happens when the usual "Scooby-Doo" Hoax gets averted.
- You Meddling Kids:
- Your Costume Needs Work: When the gang captures a lone zombie, they initially believe it to be an obvious fake, an unusual case of Genre Savvy for this franchise. Unfortunately for them, in this case they're Wrong Genre Savvy.