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Western Animation: Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island

"Mystery, Inc. is back in business!"
Velma

The 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 packed into the cassettes of several Warner Bros. 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, 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." That's the price that comes when you Shoo Out the Clowns.

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 for a kid's film.

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.

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.
  • 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. Both Type II.
  • 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 turn into Werecats during the harvest moon.
    • Technically, the ladies did want the transformation powers. The actual curse was that they were now force to feed on peoples life energy if they wished to keep on living themselves.
    • 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
  • Big Eater: Scooby and Shaggy, duh.
  • The Brute: Jacques.
  • Casting Gag: Possibly the casting of Adrienne Barbeau (Catwoman from Batman: The Animated Series) as Simone Lenoir.
  • Cats Are Mean: Scooby has an ongoing rivalry with Simone's cats. Also, Simone and Lena are really 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 Distressed Damsel (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!).
  • 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 and arguably the plantations owners (since it was a 'plantation') come back as zombies and successfully manage to hold off the villains long enough for the spell to be broken
  • Deconstruction: There are some elements of this in the film.
  • The Dragon: Lena.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: The movie was adapted from the story of an unmade episode of SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron.
  • 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: 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 crocodile 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.
  • Fire-Breathing Diner: Scooby and Shaggy after eating the Moonscar Island peppers.
  • Foreshadowing: 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.
  • Forgotten Birthday: Inverted. At the beginning of the reunion, Daphne tells her friends that she got so caught up in her work, she didn't realize her birthday had arrived until everyone else showed up to surprise her.
  • 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.
  • Genre Shift: From a straight Scooby-Doo story, to a supernatural horror mystery film.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Simone and Lena pray to their cat god so that they can revenge on the pirates that murdered their friends and family. They succeed, only to become cat monsters that suck the life out of others.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: After Fred drops the camera into quicksand, 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).
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The zombies fight off the villains at the end long enough for the spell to be broken resulting in their final deaths as well
  • 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.
  • Incongruously Dressed Zombie: A rare justified case.
  • In Memoriam: To Don Messick, the original voice actor for Scooby-Doo who had passed away the previous year, just before recording began.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: Averted. There isn't a single mention of Mardi Gras in the entire film.
  • Jerkass Victim: It's hard to feel sorry for Morgan Moonscar's fate.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: The first thing that the villains do is murder Morgan Moonscar and his men.
  • Last Minute Hookup: Velma and Beau.
  • Mook DLE: First of four direct-to-videos animations for the franchise.
  • 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.
  • No Immortal Inertia
  • 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 Moonstar, but his pirate crew, other inhabitants, Civil War soldiers, and past tourists.
  • 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 Zombies Are Different: Very different. Not the flesh-eating kind or the brain-eating kind.
    • Or the evil kind.
  • Plot Hole: When Scooby and Shaggy first find the voodoo dolls and pick them up, their counterparts levitate into the air. However later on people hold the dolls and they don't levitate at all.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Many would even contest that this is the best Scooby-Doo story ever. Hands down.
  • Putting the Band Back Together
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • The gang unintentionally interfering with a villager's attempts to catch a catfish named Big Mona.
    • Dog? Where?
    • Scooby Doo and Simone's cats. That is all.
  • 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.
  • Lady Not Appearing On This Cover: Poor Daphne got cut off when this movie got packaged together with Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders, and the cover designers had to fit both posters on the front.
  • 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.
  • Serial Killer: The zombies turn out to be people being sacrificed/killed by Simone, Lena and Jacques.
  • Start of Darkness: As told via Flash Back by Lena and Simone - they originally gained dark powers to get vengeance the pirates that destroyed their home, but the price of the power turned them to evil.
  • 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.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: Beau, although not in a way that matters to the plot.
  • Walk Into Camera Obstruction: With Lena as she is showing Fred to his room
  • What Happened to the Cat?: 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.
  • Voodoo Doll: Used by Simone and Lena at one point.
  • You Meddling Kids:
    Simone: I've had enough of that meddling dog!
  • 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.

Scooby-Doo Direct-to-Video Film SeriesHorror Western AnimationScooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost
    WesternAnimation/Scooby-Doo Direct-to-Video Film SeriesScooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost
Scooby-Doo in Arabian NightsThe Renaissance Age of AnimationSonic the Hedgehog: The Movie
Scooby-Doo Direct-to-Video Film SeriesWestern Animation of the 1990sThe Secret Files of The Spy Dogs
Zombie WaffeZombie Stories    
Scooby-Doo Direct-to-Video Film SeriesLong RunnersScooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost
Scooby-Doo Direct-to-Video Film SeriesTurnOfTheMillennium/Western AnimationScooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost
Scooby-Doo Direct-to-Video Film SeriesWestern AnimationScooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost
Scooby-Doo in Arabian NightsFilms of the 1990sScream
The Glasses Gotta GoImageSource/Western AnimationNot a Zombie

alternative title(s): Scooby Doo On Zombie Island
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