Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is the eleventh incarnation of Hanna-Barbera’s Scooby-Doo animated series, and the first incarnation not to be first-run on Saturday mornings. Also known as Mystery Incorporated or Scooby-Doo! Mystery, Inc.
The series was produced by Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network and premiered in the United States on Cartoon Network on April 5, 2010.
Mystery Incorporated returns to the early days of Scooby and the gang, when they are still solving mysteries in their home town, though it makes many references to previous incarnations of the franchise, not least among them many cases and creatures from the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!.
Episode by episode, the series takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the classic Scooby-Doo formula (similar to A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!), with increasingly outlandish technology, skills and scenarios making up each villain’s story, and a different spin on the famous “meddling kids” quote at the end of every episode.
Contrasting sharply with this, however, are two elements that have never been used in a Scooby-Doo series before: a serial format with an ongoing story arc featuring many dark plot elements that are treated with near-total seriousness, and ongoing relationship drama between the characters.
The series pays extensive homage to the horror genre, drawing on many works from film, television and literature in both parodic and serious ways, from horror movie classics like A Nightmare on Elm Street, modern films such as Saw, television series Twin Peaks, and the works of H. P. Lovecraft, alongside the classic monster horror movies shown in the previous series. Other Hanna-Barbera characters occasionally guest-star, including Captain Caveman, Jabberjaw, Speed Buggy, The Funky Phantom, Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, and more.
As was the case with the previous three instalments in the franchise, Mystery Incorporated redesigns the main characters, this time into a retro look that returns them to their original 1969 outfits, with some small changes (such as Velma now wearing bows in her hair).
The series is also the animated debut of Matthew Lillard as the voice of Shaggy after he portrayed the character in two live-action films, Scooby-Doo (2002) and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004). Casey Kasem, the original voice of Shaggy, now voices Shaggy’s father. Linda Cardellini, who played Velma in the live-action movies, is the voice of Hot Dog Water, a recurring character in the series.
Fred Jones, Jr., Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, and Scooby-Doo are a team of teen mystery solvers who live in the small town of Crystal Cove, the self-proclaimed “Most Hauntedest Place on Earth”.
The allegedly “cursed” town’s long history of strange disappearances and ghost and monster sightings form the basis for its thriving tourist industry; as such, the adults of the town (chief among them being Fred’s father Mayor Fred Jones Sr. and Sheriff Bronson Stone) are not happy that the kids are debunking all the supernatural goings-on that bring in so much revenue as the overwrought schemes of charlatans and criminals.
In addition to the traditional cases they always solve, the team finds itself being nudged into the uncovering of a dark secret that is hidden in the past of Crystal Cove. Following cryptic hints from a faceless mystery-man known only as “Mr. E.” (a play on “mystery”), the gang unearths the legend of a cursed Conquistador treasure, the secret history of Crystal Cove’s founding Darrow Family, and the mysterious, unsolved disappearance of four mystery-solving youths and their pet bird—the original Mystery Incorporated.
Standing in the way of their solving this mystery, however, are the romantic entanglements pulling the kids apart: Shaggy finds himself unable to put his new romance with Velma ahead of his longtime friendship with Scooby, while Daphne pines for a trap-obsessed Fred, who obliviously struggles to realise he shares her feelings, too.