It’s no secret that the world of Scooby-Doo is more complicated than it might first appear, but in uncertain times, the Scooby Gang may be just the heroes we need to survive – and the Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated incarnation may just be the apotheosis of the Scooby Gang!
The Scooby Gang first appeared in 1969’s Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, a Saturday morning cartoon series on CBS. Featuring a laugh track and the “flower power”-style minibus known as the Mystery Machine, the Scooby Gang solved spooky mysteries by speaking truth to power.
Several reincarnations later, Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated premiered in 2010. Originally aired on Cartoon Network, you can watch all 52 chapter of the series right now on Netflix. Here’s thirteen reasons why this spooky mystery series is the perfect cartoon for Halloween 2020!
1. Intergenerational Conflict
First and foremost, Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated recognizes that at their heart, Scooby-Doo stories are about intergenerational conflict. We all know the expected formula: the Scooby gang investigates a supernatural occurrence and ultimately demonstrates that the phenomena is actually a ruse created by a not-so-supernatural person – who would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!
Scooby-Doo is a story about the younger generation – those aforementioned meddling kids – refusing to stand idly by while the older generation maintains their control on the world through lies, deception, and by keeping others in fear.
Mystery Incorporated further highlights how complicated intergenerational conflict can get by including conflicts between the Scooby Gang and their parents, as well as with the older generation of mystery-solving teens, the previous Mystery Incorporated (who have indeed lived long enough to see themselves become the villains).
One of the cornerstones of the Scooby Gang ethos is skepticism. Think about it: if the Scooby Gang took whatever lie they were being fed at face value, then they wouldn’t be setting traps or investigating the “supernatural” to determine the actual cause of the phenomenon.
However, one lesson the Scooby Gang repeatedly learns is that those who want to conceal something do not appreciate when people start asking questions!
3. Powerful People Concealing Secrets
Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated frequently reveals that people in power are responsible for perpetrating the “supernatural” crimes. In many cases, the reason that the powerful have resorted to such outlandish shenanigans is to ensure the status quo remains intact. In other words: powerful people don’t want to yield their power.
However, the show also shows how power dynamics can quickly become more complicated. Throughout the series, Sherriff Bronson Stone (played with typical aplomb by Patrick Warburton) is never an outright villain, but he serves as an authority figure who is frequently unhelpful if not outright antithetical to the gang’s investigations. While his heart may be (more or less) in the right place, he is extremely susceptible to the machinations of the rich townsfolk (who often use him as an unwitting pawn in their schemes).
And further still, some of the main series antagonists are the Mystery Incorporated gang from the previous generation, demonstrating how the folk heroes of yesterday become antagonists for younger people whose hope to change the world for the better has yet to be compromised.
4. Ulterior Motives (Or: it’s always capitalism under the mask)
From the very beginning of the series, the Scooby Gang faces some significant pushback from authority figures of all kinds – not the least of which is distributed by their respective parents.
Few of the adults that comprise the establishment bother to conceal their motivation for pushing back against Mystery Incorporated’s attempts to uncover the truth about the spooky shenanigans around Crystal Cove. The town’s status as “The Most Hauntedest Place on Earth” yields huge economic gains for those who profit off the supposed hauntings, and they don’t want to risk their profit stream – that is, their stream of profits!
As a result, the efforts of the Scooby Gang to uncover the truth are often met with animosity by the moneyed classes of Crystal Cove.
One element that sets Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated apart from other incarnations of the Scooby Gang is the fact while it begins with more episodic, “monster of the week” style storytelling it eventually gravitates towards a more serialized, continuity-based narrative.
While stories based on ongoing narratives can come with certain risks attached – like the need for audiences to avoid missing an episode to keep up with the story, or the possibility that the show will be cancelled before the story’s conclusion can be reached…
6. A complete, conclusive narrative (2 seasons, both streaming on Netflix)
…all 52 episodes from both seasons of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated are currently available for streaming on Netflix, so you can rest assured that you won’t miss a single clue or be left with an inconclusive ending when you begin this series.
7. Vincent Van Ghoul
Vincent Van Ghoul was a character that was originally released in the 1985 series The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo. In that series, Vincent Price, whose seminal spooky movie appearances also served as inspirational for the character, voiced Van Ghoul for all 13 episodes of the series, which only saw the heroes collecting 12 of the 13 eponymous ghosts.
Maurice LaMarche (who has channeled Price in other instances during his prolific voice over career) voiced Van Ghoul when he appeared in Mystery Incorporated. And that isn’t the only time LaMarche played the character, either: he later reprised the role for Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of the 13th Ghost!, a 2019 digital and DVD release that finally concluded the story begun in the 80s TV series.
8. Harlan Ellison
While renowned speculative fiction writer Harlan Ellison may have had a personality that would make most cartoon characters wonder if they were in danger of being eclipsed, he appears in multiple episodes of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated as a fictionalized version of himself.
One way or another, you are probably already aware of some of Ellison’s work. In addition to writing many prose short stories, novels, and even selling a story to EC Comics, he also wrote scripts for many television shows, including The Flying Nun, The Outer Limits, and the original script for the Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.”
Still not enough to convince you Ellison was as animated a character as anyone else who appears on the show? According to former Marvel EIC Jim Shooter, after an incident in which Bill Mantlo wrote a story for The Incredible Hulk that ripped off an episode of The Outer Limits written by Ellison, Ellison had agreed not to bring a plagiarism lawsuit in exchange for a nominal sum and a lifetime subscription to everything Marvel Comics published. Jinkies, that’s a lot of comics! I sure hope Ellison didn’t lose his glasses…
9. Aware of the Scooby gang’s heritage
Over the course of the show’s two seasons, many scenes take place at the Crystal Cove Spook Museum. Owned and operated by Velma’s parents, the exhibits displayed in the museum reference many of the mysteries the Scooby Gang has solved over the decades (and across several different incarnations, no less).
The series pays homage to the Scooby Gang’s longstanding counter-cultural role by playing them against the establishment created by the older generation. While the “flower power” minibus may not qualify as a contemporary symbol of those working against the establishment, the Scooby Gang nevertheless continues to occupy this archetypical role in the suburban setting of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated.
10. Excellent cast
Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated also boasts an amazing cast, headlined by voice over legend Frank Welker as Fred Jones – a role he originated in 1969. Welker also plays Scoobert “Scooby” Doo, a role he has played since 2002. Matthew Lillard plays Shaggy Rogers, a role he has occupied in both previous animated incarnations as well as in the 2002 and 2004 live action movies. Grey DeLisle plays Daphne Blake, a role she first stepped into for 2001’s Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase. And rounding out the Scooby Gang is Mindy Cohn as Velma Dinkley, a role she first played in 2002’s What’s New Scooby-Doo.
But the excellent casting doesn’t end there. The supporting cast is also filled with fantastic voiceover actors. Lewis Black, Vivica A. Fox, Udo Kier, Tim Matheson, and Frances Conroy play the previous, corrupted generation of Mystery Incorporated with sinister, villainous flair. And in a metafictional flourish, Linda Cardellini, who played Velma in live action on the big screen, plays Marcie “Hot Dog Water” Fleach, Velma’s love interest.
Plus, there are plenty of amazing guest stars over the show’s two seasons. Mark Hamill appears in two episodes as the Crybaby Clown, Amy Acker (Superman: Red Son) plays Scooby-Doo’s love interest (no, I’m not kidding), plus appearances by Clancy Brown (LOST), Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants), Billy West (unaired Invader ZIM pilot), John Dimaggio (Futurama), Kevin Michael Richardson (The Batman), Mindy Sterling (Cheers), Matt Lanter (Star Wars: The Mandalorian), Carlos Alazraqui (Reno 911), Cree Summer (Inspector Gadget), Julie Bowen (DuckTales), Phil LaMarr (Static Shock), James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), George Takei (Star Trek), Jim Rash (Community), and more.
11. A storybook setting
Crystal Cove is a storybook setting that boasts itself to be “the Most Hauntedest Place on Earth.” Located on the coast, the town is rendered in pastel color, without harsh lines delineating the colors, which evoke watercolor storybook illustrations. But, you know – it’s a storybook filled with monsters!
12. Traps! Traps!! Traps!!!
How do you overcome an enemy who has a significant advantage? How can a disenfranchised minority possibly hope to bring balance to a horribly skewed power dynamic? One strategy is to use a trap!
Over the course of the series, Fred’s affinity for traps is frequently played for laughs. However, the value of Fred’s fixation becomes increasingly clear as the story progresses and we see the variety of villains felled by Fred’s trapping acumen.
While the Scooby Gang is frequently faced with adversaries who have the advantage, traps give the teens a chance to upset the situation and gain the upper hand. The antagonists under the spooky masks are unscrupulous in their methodology, after all, so it stands to reason that the Scooby Gang must do everything in their power to even the score.
13. Meddling Kids
It may be true that the only thing that’s necessary to allow evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing – but fortunately, that’s not the Scooby Gang’s M.O.!
It’s pretty likely that the Scooby Gang has accumulated quite a few enemies over the years – after all, powerful people really hate it when their immoral plans go awry. But luckily, it seems as though villains really do lack imagination, and they just reach for the same tired lies and deception strategies one generation after the next.
Just remember: they’ll get away with it, too – if not for you meddling kids!