Scooby-Doo returns to Zombie Island

A clip from Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island

Will spooky sequel finally rip off the mask?

In 1998, Scooby-Doo was already old in human years — the clue-sniffing canine was about to mark his 30th anniversary as an American television icon when Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island kicked off a 20-year direct-to-video animated movie tradition that continues today, as the franchise marks its 50th year. (Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? first debuted on TV in September 1969.)

Now that animated film series comes full circle with Scooby Doo! Return to Zombie Island. Some lucky folks at San Diego Comic-Con got to catch the world premiere screening — but if you weren’t there, you won’t have to wait long to see it yourself: the movie is coming Sept. 3 to digital and Oct. 1 to DVD.

This is not to be confused with the big-screen animated project expected to come out in summer 2020, which has flipped the script on the Scoobyverse by incorporating a wider Hanna-Barbara “cinematic universe” and unceremoniously dumping longtime Shaggy voice actors such as Matthew Lillard. (Fear not, though — Lillard’s still Shaggy for now, at least as of Return to Zombie Island.)

These lower-budget animated Scooby movies have been dipping into the nostalgia well as of late, with the previous entry — Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of the 13th Ghost — serving as a sequel to one of the Saturday morning TV spinoffs, 1985’s 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo featuring Vincent Price.

Return to Zombie Island looks to be following in that movie’s vein, by revisiting an “unsolved caper” — one that was unabashedly and un-debunked-edly supernatural — and apparently giving the meddling kids of Mystery Inc. some closure by letting them rip off the rubber mask after all, even after all those years. At least, that’s kind of how Curse of the 13th Ghost played out, and the trailer for Return to Zombie Island has hints of this approach as well:

Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island trailer

Let’s face it: There’s enough iffy Scooby material implying spooks are real to keep the franchise going for another 50 years if they use this tactic alone. The original Zombie Island’s marketing hinged on the “this time it’s real” conceit, and follow-ups like Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost and Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders followed suit. They weren’t alone, but — thankfully for eternal skeptics like super-sleuth Velma Dinkley — adventures where the supernatural phenomena are real are still the exception rather than the rule.

Disturbing fact: I actually own most (and possibly all) of these direct-to-video mysteries on DVD. My favorite? Scooby-Doo and the Loch Ness Monster. Abracadabra-Doo Lillard’s first animated appearance as Shaggy after playing him in the live-action feature films and succeeding the great Casey Kasem in the cartoons — is a close second.

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