Scooby-Doo is arguably the most iconic Hanna Barbara series, but this ’90s film is by far the franchise’s best movie and likely the boldest.
Scooby-Doo is the most famous Hanna Barbara property, and it’s not close. The adventures of the talking dog and Mystery Inc. have spanned over 50 years and produced multiple series, films and spinoffs to success and acclaim. The formula of the group finding a haunted house, chasing the ghost and finding clues before unmasking the spirit as an elaborate hoax as a part of a scheme still holds up decades later, which is why series, including things like Velma, are still being produced.
Though the formula introduced in Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! stayed largely the same over the years, there have been variations in every presentation. The New Scooby-Doo Movies focused on guest stars, Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated told long-term stories, and the less said about Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, the better. But the late 1990s presented a series of animated films, one of which is objectively the best the Scooby-Doo franchise has ever produced.
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island Is the Franchise’s Peak
Premiering in 1998, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is not only the best film or show the franchise produced but the most ambitious. After the gang goes their separate ways after each mystery is solved the same way, Mystery Inc. reunites to find real ghosts and monsters. Their travels lead them to Moonscar Island, hosted by residents Simone and Lena, where hauntings and disappearances run rampant. They soon find evidence of a real haunting but remain skeptical until they find out the zombies that plague the island are real.
The gang gets caught between running from countless zombies and unraveling the mystery of the disappearances. But they’re soon led into a sacrificial chamber, where it’s revealed the zombies were the good guys trying to warn them, and their hosts were immortal werecats that lure people to the island to drain their life forces every harvest moon. After the gang solves the island’s mystery, there is a sense of catharsis after they find a supernatural mystery. But there’s also unease in the idea that the monsters they fight are no longer just human.
Zombie Island Reinvigorated the Scooby-Doo Series
The Scooby-Doo franchise was stuck in a rut before Zombie Island. The same set-up, natural explanations and human antagonists in a monster of the week format wore thin and kept things kid-friendly. But Zombie Island introduced dark and more sinister storylines and made creatures real. In the villain’s explanation, they note how their people were killed by Pirate Morgan Moonscar and driven into the swamp to be killed by alligators. That is echoed in the presentation as the villains graphically turn to dust after being defeated. The story and themes subverted the typically goofy and lighthearted exploits of Scooby and the gang.
Aside from the story and dark premise, Zombie Island’s presentation is something to be celebrated, from its visuals to its soundtrack. The animation is easily the best in the series, with smooth motions, darker shadows to add to the scares and more expressive characters with a higher budget. The sound and soundtrack added to the tension and legitimized the production values, including the iconic zombie chase scene set to Skycycle’s „It’s Terror Time Again.“ Both story and presentation were beyond compare for the series and set a high standard.
The series from here released several great sequels before new series and films took over. While not the first or last great moment in the franchise, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island remains the gold standard. And that’s because it presented a mystery and supernatural characters like never before.