Contemplating headless snowmen always puts Judge Lacey Worrell in a holiday mood.
Our reviews of What's New, Scooby-Doo?: Safari, So Goodi! (Volume 2) (published May 19th, 2004) and What's New Scooby-Doo?: Ghosts On The Go (Volume 7) (published March 24th, 2006) are also available.
The Mystery Inc. gang solves the mystery of the Headless Snowman!
With a strict adherence to the formula that made the original episodes of Scooby-Doo beloved by the last two generations, what's old is new again on What's New Scooby-Doo? Volume 4: Merry Scary Holiday.
Facts of the Case
Scooby and his friends Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, and Velma drive around in their bright green Mystery Machine (which is actually a fancy, psychedelic conversion van), often running into mysteries while on vacation or on the way to a different destination. Unable to refuse a challenge, they trap all manner of ghosts and mischief makers, restoring peace and order to the lives of those who seek their help.
Four episodes are included on this release:
• "The Scooby-Doo Christmas Special": The gang is on its way to Daphne's uncle's condo for Christmas vacation when a damaged bridge forces them back to the town of Winter Hollow. Winter Hollow is haunted by an evil snowman with intimidating fangs and a ghostly laugh, who has the ability take off his own head and throw it at unsuspecting children who come too close. Consequently, the townspeople refuse to celebrate Christmas. It's up to Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby to find out who or what is behind the mystery of the snowman.
• "Homeward Hound": The International Dog Show is the setting of this episode. The gang arrives to find that it is being haunted by a cat creature who is terrorizing the canine entrants and their owners. Shaggy runs into an equally groovy female counterpart named Meadow, who owns a dog named Moonbeam and talks like a Valley Girl. Could it be love?
• "Toy Scary Boo": Velma's quest to secure some last-minute Christmas gifts leads the gang to Happy Toyland, a massive toy store where toy spacemen, military action figures, and Barbie-like dolls come to life each night. Velma is suspicious immediately, believing there is a real-world cause for the seemingly otherworldly happenings, especially when she and the rest of the group encounter a shady security guard and an ornery store manager.
• "Recipe for Disaster": Shaggy and Scooby are given the opportunity to make a holy pilgrimage to the factory where Scooby Snax are produced. On the tour, they meet the eccentric owner and his daughter, who happens to be allergic to Scooby Snax. The factory is being haunted by a monster covered in Scooby Snax dough. Will the gang solve the mystery? Will Shag and Scoob manage to wangle a lifetime supply of Scooby Snax in the bargain? What do you think?
The evil snowman in the opening episode, although far too scary for children under the age of five, is a terrific creation, reminiscent of the Chucky doll from the Child's Play movies. If there isn't already an officially designated snowman phobia, this episode may just inspire one. The ending, however, is a complete cop-out, and a letdown ensues once the perpetrator is unmasked, most likely because of the Christmas theme.
The remainder of the episodes, while still entertaining, pale in comparison to the appeal of the first. What saves them from appearing trite and mundane is the fact that they follow the traditional Scooby formula of the opening with the introduction of a forbidding adversary, the gang's travels to places with plenty of likely suspects, the ubiquitous musical interlude where the gang runs from the ghost or monster, a group effort to foil the ghost, and a final unmasking where the phrase "meddling kids" is music to the ears of rabid Scooby fans in living rooms everywhere.
Those with a keen eye for detail will notice that these newer episodes contain frequent use of modern technology to assist the gang, such as laptop computers, surveillance cameras, and cell phones. As always, it's great fun to try to figure out who is behind the mischief before the end of the episode, much like watching Murder, She Wrote.
These episodes look and sound great on DVD; the colors are sharp and bright, and the audio is excellent quality. It is heartening to see a French language track as well as Spanish and French subtitles, given Scooby's worldwide appeal. Too often, releases of television shows, and children's shows in particular, offer only an English language track and no subtitles.
Voice actor Frank Welker, who voices Fred and Scooby for What's New Scooby-Doo? has amassed an astounding 500 credits on the Internet Movie Database. He is a prolific contributor to Disney movies as esteemed as Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, Stitch! The Movie, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. He has also worked on memorable cartoons such as Transformers, Jonny Quest, and SuperFriends. His body of work from the mid-1980s alone is staggering. Casey Kasem returns to voice Shaggy, and The Facts of Life's "Natalie," Mindy Cohn, voices Velma quite convincingly.
This DVD comes with some charming extras; those of you who remember the original episodes will delight in the two-and-a-half-minute music video montage that features ghosts from the various Scooby incarnations, especially Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?. The "Legend of Winter Hollow Challenge" is worth a try; players must help foil the evil snowman by locating items like Scooby Snax and cakes to give Scooby and Shaggy the energy they need. The only feature that is truly lacking is the segment that discusses the creation of Scooby toys. Parents, be warned: This is a commercial masquerading as a special feature. And it's not masquerading very well, because the intent is readily apparent: You've seen the movie, now go buy the toys!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Hardcore Scooby fans will immediately experience déjà vu during "Toy Scary Boo" and "Homeward Hound," which causes the overall appeal of those stories to lose some points. The cat creature seen in "Homeward Hound" is almost identical to one of the earlier Scooby episodes from the series' original run, "Who Was That Cat Creature I Saw You With Last Night?" In that particular episode, Daphne's aunt was hypnotized by an unscrupulous psychiatrist and turned into a cat creature who robbed jewelry stores at night. "Toy Scary Boo" is immediately reminiscent of the original episode in which the gang visited the Dilly Dally Dolly Factory; there were plenty of toys that came to life there as well. The headless snowman episode bears a very slight resemblance to another early Scooby Halloween episode about the Headless Horseman, but the other plot details are different enough to enable it to stand on its own.
Despite a recycling of old story lines on two of the episodes in this collection, this is a DVD that will be enjoyed by the entire family. Scooby is like Dick Clark: He will forever be part of our collective pop-culture consciousness. And a welcome one at that.
A solid addition to stockings hung with care, everywhere.
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