When it comes to hardcore well versed Scooby Doo Fans… we’re not one of them. But for a brief (oh so brief) period in the late nineties, Hanna Barbera thought it’d be a good idea before the live action movie to feature the Scoobies solving actual paranormal cases that they presumed were originally just scams and con jobs. “Zombie Island” is one of the best (and few) examples of Scooby-Doo done well and correctly with a case the entire gang gets in on that is creepy and actually risks their lives, in the end. With animation I’m never above being experimental, and my faith in “Zombie Island” was rewarded with a wicked and creepy little yarn about the Mystery Machine group re-uniting after a long stretch on their own.
Velma owns a book store, Daphne and Freddy work for a tabloid show and Scooby and Shaggy do… something in their truck. Nevertheless they re-group once more to investigate the odd hauntings taking place at a New Orleans mansion where the owner, a rich aristocrat, is claiming to be haunted by the ghosts of undead pirates. Most of the animated movie is darker and grimmer in atmosphere which gives way to some spooky sequences involving the gang trying to debunk hauntings that they soon capture on video in an effort to learn the secrets of this mansion and this island. Along the way there are some conflicts set up including Freddy’s romantic fascination with one of the mansion’s residents, Velma’s fascination with the shifty gardener who is always at the wrong place at the wrong time, and the inevitable run in with actual zombies.
The confrontation with the zombies is rather creepy even for a kids film as Shaggy and Scooby barely escape the clutches of a horde of the walking dead, all of whom have their purpose that aren’t quite revealed until the climax. The gang who struggle to unveil the hook to this mystery gets much more than they bargained for when they learn there is an actual mystery taking place and it has nothing to do with criminals or bank robbers using projectors and computer effects. What do the zombies want? Why are they stalking the island? What does Simone have to hide? What is the gardener’s intentions toward this residence? And do the zombies eventually tear open Daphne’s innards and feast on them? No. Bu the aforementioned questions are applicable.
Save for a wicked soundtrack and sharp animation that is much different than its predecessors due to the directors who instill a thick Asian tone to the character models, “Zombie Island” boasts a bevvy of wonderful voice performances by skilled veterans like Billy West, Tara Strong, Frank Welker, Jim Cummings and Mark Hamill, respectively. Best of all Adrienne Barbeau plays the enigmatic aristocrat Simone who harbors secrets of her own once we reach the surprising finale that is a rather entertaining departure from the typical “Scooby Doo” tedium. I’m very open minded when it comes to animation and “Zombie Island” is a very good and speedily paced “Scooby Doo” installment with a period in Hanna Barbera history when they were looking to re-invent the franchise and eventually just gave up. Sadly we were never given anything else of this caliber in the Scooby Doo franchise again, but for an experiment in the series, “Zombie Island” is the best with a respectable follow up with “The Witch’s Ghost.” I highly suggest it for animation buffs looking for a new flavor with Scooby.