|Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island|
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island promotional poster
|Directed by||Hiroshi Aoyama
|Produced by||Davis Doi|
|Written by||Davis Doi
Mary Kay Bergman
|Music by||Steven Bramson
|Editing by||Paul Douglas|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Home Video|
|Release date(s)||January 13, 1998|
|Running time||69 min.|
|Followed by||Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost (1999)|
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is the first of a series of direct-to-video animated films based upon the Scooby-Doo Saturday morning cartoons. The movie was produced from 1995 to 1998 and was released on January 13, 1998, and it was the first Scooby-Doo movie to be produced by Warner Bros. Animation, though distributed by Hanna-Barbera Cartoons. The Mystery, Inc. gang, which includes Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne and Velma, travel to Moonscar Island which is located in the Louisiana bayou. The film was directed by Hiroshi Aoyama, Kazumi Fukushima, and Jim Stenstrum, based on Glenn Leopold's unfinished Swat Kats episode "The Curse of Kataluna", and written by Leopold and Davis Doi. The film and later following two films had a darker tone then the original cartoons, seeing how, to try to bring more attention to the films, the monsters were made real. The song "It's Terror Time Again", sung by Skycycle, played after Scooby Doo and the others found out that zombies were real. The title track was performed by Third Eye Blind.
The movie opens with a somewhat horrific chase scene involving Mystery, inc. being pursued by a green troll-like monster. After a fortunate accident by Scooby, he is caught and discovered to be a counterfeiter. This is revealed to be a retelling by Daphne on her television program; after years of unmasking phony ghosts, the Mystery Inc. gang have gone their separate ways. Daphne and Fred go off to start a successful investigative TV series (Coast to Coast with Daphne Blake), Velma opens a mystery bookstore, and Scooby and Shaggy bounce from job to job, including work as customs officers at an airport, from which they are rather quickly fired after eating all the confiscated foodstuffs. However, when Fred decides that the next episode of Daphne's show should be about tracking down real ghosts, he reassembles the gang and brings them all to Louisiana.
After encountering many "men in masks" ("just like the old days"), such as a nerdy-looking guy in a lobster-man suit in a canned shellfish factory, an old man in a man-vampire bat (smilar to Man Bat) suit at a graveyard, a ghost which that turns out to be a hologram, and a zombie policeman, that turns out to be a middle-aged woman, the gang arrives in New Orleans, and are invited by a cook named Lena to visit Moonscar Island (evidently based on Avery Island, Louisiana, which, like Moonscar Island, is an island formed by bayous and on which chili peppers are grown), the home of her employer. The island, Lena claims, is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of a pirate named Morgan Moonscar. Although the gang is skeptical (except for Shaggy and Scooby, of course), they decide to go along with Lena and visit the island. On the way, Velma tells the gang that Moonscar Island is the home of many unexplained disappearances over the years.
The gang arrives on the island and meets Lena's employer, Simone Lenoir, a beautiful Transylvanian American woman, who explains about the haunting of Morgan Moonscar. En route to the island, the gang also meet Jacques, who runs the ferry from the island to the mainland, Beau, Simone's hunky gardener and Snakebite Scruggs, a grungy fisherman (after Big Mona, a catfish) and his hunting pig, Mojo. The first two-thirds of the film play out like a regular Scooby-Doo cartoon, with the gang checking out clues and working to prove that the "ghost" is just a person in a mask. Scooby and Shaggy are chased by Scruggs's warthog, Mojo, and end up falling inside a big hole. While trying to get out they accidentally pull down some of the wall they were trying to climb, revealing a skeletal arm. A mysterious green fog-like energy appears and envelopes the skeleton, causing it to fall out of earth. The bones are then joint up to mount a complete human skeleton, which then continues to transform, grisly gaining skin and hair, until it finally transforms into the zombie of Morgan Moonscar himself. While trying to escape, Scooby and Shaggy bump into Beau, who's a bit suspicious. Daphne, Fred, Velma, Lena and Simone go from the bushes. Scooby and Shaggy bring them to the hole, but it's empty. While the sun sets, Simone invites the gang to her house to stay for a night. As the gang is dressing up for dinner, Shaggy sees the ghost of a Confederate colonel in the mirror, to which Simone explains that the plantation area of the island was a temporary headquarters for a Confederate regiment in the American Civil War period.
Later that night, Scooby and Shaggy eat in the Mystery Machine, to keep Scooby from chasing Simone's cats (one of the movie's running gags). However, they burn their mouths by eating too much spice. Both them rush to the lake to refresh themselves, when suddenly the sinister green energy which previously reanimated Morgan Moonscar's corpse reappears and deposits itself into the soil of the lake, causing a big army of zombies to reanimate and emerge from the lake to attack them. Due to Shaggy's bad driving skills, the Mystery Machine sloughs in a muddy bank, forcing him and Scooby to flee on foot. Fred, Daphne and Velma go to look for them, but bump into Beau. They split up. Fred and Daphne finds Scooby and Shaggy (Daphne accidentally uses martial arts on them as she felt something was on her back) trying to escape as they discover an unconscious zombie (this zombie passed out due to Daphne's martial skill). Fred thinks this is just "another man in mask", but rips the zombie's head out. It turns out that the island is home to real zombies. Scooby, Shaggy, Fred and Daphne separate. Fred and Daphne hear Lena's screams and run to save her. Daphne trips down on a stone and the camera falls into a quicksand pond, which it sinks into. Fred and Daphne reunite with Velma and Beau (Velma started to grow suspicious on Beau because "he is never nearby when something strange happens around" and decided to accompany him wherever he goes). Scooby and Shaggy discover wax-made dolls with the looks of Fred, Velma and Daphne and play with them, causing the real versions to do the same (in a classic voodoo doll trick), but the play is interrupted by the zombies. Fred, Daphne, Velma and Beau come back to Simone's mansion and discover a secret passage under the main ladder. They find Lena and she tells them that the zombies kidnapped Simone and dragged her through the passage. Daphne, Fred, Velma, Lena and Beau find a secret chamber. Velma sees the footprints heading into the chamber are Simone's (meaning she wasn't "dragged") and starts to question Lena about Simone's "kidnapping".
The zombies - including Morgan Moonscar himself -, however, turn out to be the good guys: Simone, Lena and Jacques are revealed to be the villains, and they are actually werecats who drain the lifeforce out of people at every harvest moon to preserve their immortality - or else they'll have their own souls drained out and will die - and the zombies were their many murdered victims (pirates, spice traders, Confederate soldiers, gangsters and tourists alike) who were just trying to alert them about the three villains, but couldn't, due to a very obvious speech impediment. Simone and Lena find the voodoo dolls with Fred, Daphne, Velma and even Beau's looks and tie them up.
Before the cat monsters begin the ceremony, Velma questions their knowing about Moonscar's treasure, making Simone reveal the origins of their rituals: back in the 1700s, she and Lena were part of a group of settlers who wanted to make the island their home. One night, during the Harvest Moon, while the settlers were celebrating their successful harvest, Morgan Moonscar and his pirates came ashore and chased the settlers, except for Lena and Simone, into the bayou where they were eaten alive by crocodiles. Shocked in horror and heartbroken over their fellow settlers' deaths, Lena and Simone begged their cat god to curse the pirates, and after the wish was granted, they killed the pirates by draining their lifeforces. The wish, however, came with a price: Lena and Simone were cursed as well and, over the years, as more people came to Moonscar Island, they took the lifeforce from them as well. Soon, Lena lured more people to the island, and they granted Jacques immortality in order to gain a ferry driver to bring even more people to be victims of the horrible ritual.
Scooby and Shaggy apparently come to the rescue. The gang, along with Beau, who is revealed to be an undercover police officer, defeat the cat-creatures (when it seemed they were cornered, the time for the werecats to drain enough lifeforce had expired and their skin disintegrates away and their skeletons implode into dust) and break the curse, freeing the zombies' souls to rest in peace. After the zombies' souls disappear, the ghost of the Confederate colonel thanks Scooby and the others for helping lift the curse. Fred and Daphne become a couple again. Daphne is upset for losing the camera, but the gang cheers her up and they go home. Just when the ferry is departing, Scooby manage to grab the edge, but his foot got caught then sling shot him in the air. He flew pass Snakebite when he finally caught Mona, but escape out of his net, leaving him stouted "Darn tourists!". Scooby landed safely in van's opened window. Before Scooby can enjoy a chili pepper sandwich, he discovers that Simone's cats, now homeless, have followed the gang onto the ferry.
Just before the credits, Scooby, now acting more friendly towards the cats, gives them a saucer of milk. However, the cats' eyes emit a sinister-looking light glow, as Scooby gets a little frightened and finishes the movie saying his catchphrase with some fear in his voice.
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island featured real monsters instead of simple bad guys in masks. This was heavily promoted before its release including a tagline used during commercials stating, "This time, the monsters are real." This theme would be followed up in several subsequent direct-to-video Scooby-Doo animated films released in the late-1990s and early-2000s. Although real monsters had previously appeared in most of the 1980s Scooby-Doo series and features, this continuity was ignored with the characters said to be encountering real monsters for the first time. After Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase, the direct-to-video Scooby-Doo movies would not feature real monsters again until Scooby-Doo and the Goblin King, which came out ten years after Zombie Island did. The tone of the three supernatural-themed movies were much darker and frightening then the original cartoons, as shown in Zombie Island for being the first Scooby-Doo movie to have both on and off-screen deaths (the main antagonists and pirates respectively).
In addition the film also makes no reference to Scrappy-Doo, restoring the original line-up for the show. In this movie and the next three, a new Mystery Machine was used that looked like a bus instead of a van, possibly to add in realism in the films as well to reflect the era of when the films were made.
The videos sold well and received generally positive reviews in the press, leading to a series of future direct-to-video Scooby-Doo feature films, and a new television series, What's New, Scooby-Doo?. The movie currently holds a rating of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes.