Getting Animated: ABRACADABRA-DOO by Dini, Burnett, Lee

Getting Animated: ABRACADABRA-DOO

Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo

Produced by Warner Brothers Animation

Directed by Spike Brandt

Written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, and Misty Lee

Starring the voices of Frank Welker (Scooby-Doo/Fred), Matthew Lillard (Shaggy), Grey DeLisle (Daphne), Mindy Cohn (Velma), Dave Attell (The G.P.S.), Dani Harmer (Madelyn Dinkley), Jeffrey Tambor (Calvin Curdles), James Patrick Stuart (Merlin Whirlen), Brian Posehn (Marlon Whirlen), Crystal Scales (Crystal), more.

Available on DVD

Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo marks the fourteenth original direct-to-video animated feature starring Mystery Inc. since “Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island” arrived in 1998.  Obviously, this iteration of the gang has carved their own niche in the market, leading to the three-season “What’s New, Scooby-Doo?” and continuing past that series’ finish.  This new installment is significant for a few reasons, with special resonance for comics fans.

Certainly, one of the important pieces here is the arrival of Matthew Lillard to take over the vocal role of Shaggy.  Legendary Casey Kasem retired from voice acting in July 2009 after playing the likes of Robin (in the Super Friends) and Shaggy countless times.  Lillard, as you know, played Shaggy in the two live-action theatrical films.  While his particular approach takes a bit to get used to, by film’s end I barely noticed (which, in this situation, is strong praise).

Another behind-the-scenes talent note of significance is the writing team.  Alan Burnett , of course, has written in animation for years, taking part in an enormous number of DC and Disney projects.  Paul Dini was part of the hugely successful “Batman: The Animated Series”, has written for television shows like “Lost”, and has an impressive list of comics credits to his name.  Dini’s wife, Misty Lee, is a multi-talented stage magician, noted for being the inspiration for some of Dini’s projects as well as her uncanny resemblance to Zatanna.

So hey, why Misty Lee as a co-writer?  That’s easy.  Refer to the title.  The new movie deals with some creepy goings-on at a Hogwartsian school for up-and-coming magicians.  One of the students is Velma’s younger sister Madelyn, who nurses a long-term crush on Shaggy.  It turns out that a gryphon has been terrorizing the area, forcing students to flee and potentially closing down the school.  The gang, of course, smells a mystery, and get to work.

Though I generally enjoy the Scooby movies (and my five and three-year-old sons LOVE them), I’d have to note that the actual animation quality of this particular installment seemed to take a bit of a step up.  The elaborate magic bits seem totally at home in this story, and the sibling connection added a bit more gravity to the overall dilemma.  Familiar notes abound, such as Daphne and Fred’s occasionally contentious relationship, but some fresher elements, including Dave Attell’s brief, demented turn as the Mystery Machine’s new G.P.S. also add to the fun.

Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo demonstrates that’s there’s still plenty of life left in the characters, particularly for young audiences.  Of course, I wouldn’t be quite truthful if I didn’t allow that there’s also plenty for parents and adults that actually get rest to enjoy, too.

Fun Fact: The October 27th,  1984 episode of “The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries” was titled “A Halloween Hassle at Dracula’s Castle”.  It featured the gang (plus Scrappy, sigh) helping out Dracula and other monsters that were being menaced by a ghost.  It turned out that the ghost was part of a plot by evil lady magician Chandra to get her hands on the magic moonstone medallion.  The writer of this particular tale?  Paul Dini.

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