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Mystery, Inc. is back in business!—Velma
The year is 1998. Most people would have considered that the Scooby-Doo franchise had pretty much run its course. It'd been 7 years since A Pup Named Scooby-Doo was canceled, and the only things that remained of the franchise included a made-for-TV-movie in 1994 called Scooby Doo in Arabian Nights, and reruns of exploits from decades past.
Then, out of nowhere, came something totally unexpected. Children and parents everywhere stared in amazement at one thing: a trailer packed into the cassettes of several Warner Bros films...
The trailer had sleek animation, dark colors, and featured a seemingly truly dark and potentially scary movie... and it featured Scooby-Doo and Shaggy running for their lives. The title? Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. The tagline? This time, the monsters are real. It was short, but it was enough to send kids everywhere into a furor.
Cut to 1998. Parents and kids grab the video off of video and rental stores' shelves. They're expecting something fun, nothing more dangerous than the average Scooby mystery. To their horror-filled delight, the latter assumption turned out to be wrong.
In honor of Daphne's birthday, Fred invites her, Scooby, Shaggy, and Velma to a long-awaited Mystery Inc. reunion. The five of them travel to New Orleans in order to find real monsters to discuss on Daphne's talk show. After effortlessly exposing several creature impostors, the gang accepts an offer to visit Moonscar Island. The island is home to a French chili pepper plantation owner named Simone Lenoir, and has become the site of several disappearances over the years. While there, our heroes grapple with zombies and voodoo, death becomes a real threat, and the adventure grows legitimately dark and scary for a kid's film.
With a warmly received journey into relatively mature writing, Zombie Island marked a, or the, high-point in the Scooby-Doo franchise. The film, as mentioned before, is beautifully animated -- moreso than any incarnation before and still unmatched today -- with a literally dark and realistic feel to it. On top of that, it featured a somewhat cynical/mature look at what happened to Mystery Inc. after their adventures were done (which would be touched on again the The Movie, but with less success). Characters were more fleshed out and three-dimensional, especially the newly empowered Daphne.
The irrelevant pop songs of past cartoons gave way to Alternative and Metal music. The story appealed to older viewers with honest-to-goodness death as part of the backstory, and the end result for the gang if they didn't win.  And the best part of it all? No contrived story with a guy in a mask... just like the ads promised, they were real. Stinkin'. Zombies. Probably the only complaint the movie generated was, "it's too scary for young Scooby fans."
The success of Zombie Island lead to the creation of three more videos covering mysteries Scooby and the gang would solve as adults. However, while they took many of the same conventions as Zombie Island, they also brought back several of the old ones. For example, in Scooby-Doo and The Witch's Ghost, Daphne returned to being The Chick, the animation wasn't as dark, and there was even an old-fashioned Scooby-Doo Hoax in addition to the Witch's Ghost. The success of the new movies caused a complete revival in the franchise, bringing What's New Scooby Doo, and a series of newer increasingly cheaper animated videos to the TV screen.
This film provides examples of the following Tropes:
- Agent Scully: Fred takes his sweet time accepting the possibility that real zombies and ghosts are pursuing them.
- Anti-Villain: Simone and Lena may be life-draining cat creatures, but their origins were extremely tragic.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Simone and her servant Lena prayed to cat gods for the power to protect their island from pirates. The gods granted them such power, but also cursed them to turn into Cat Girls during the harvest moon.
- One could also argue that Scooby and the gang suffered this trope after Daphne expressed desires to meet real monsters.
- Big Damn Movie
- Big Eater: Scooby and Shaggy, duh.
- Casting Gag: Possibly the casting of Adrienne Barbeau ( Catwoman from Batman the Animated Series) as Simone Lenoir.
- Cats Are Mean: Scooby has an ongoing rivalry with Simone's cats. Also, Simone and Lena are really Cat Girls who gain immortality by stealing visitors' souls.
- The Stinger shows that Scooby and Simone's cats eventually made peace.
- Character Development: Daphne retains her more pro-active personality from The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo, and takes it a step further by never once really being a Distressed Damsel (at least, not when others weren't in as much trouble as she).
- Chekhov's Gun: The cloth Velma uses to clean her glasses. Later, Simone and Lena use the cloth to power a Velma voodoo doll.
- Fred's ascot serves a similar purpose in this movie.
- Covers Always Lie: The castle on the poster only appears briefly at the beginning of the movie. Most of the movie takes place on a plantation.
- Darker and Edgier: When it first came out, this was the darkest interpretation of Scooby Doo in existence. It's still one of the scariest.
- Dark Is Not Evil: The zombies. They are scary undead monsters...that are just trying to save others from suffering their fate.
- Death Equals Redemption: Morgan Moonscar and his fellow pirates and arguably the plantations owners (since it was a 'plantation') come back as zombies and successfully manage to hold off the villains until long enough for the spell to be broken
- Deconstruction: There are some elements of this in the film.
- Dolled-Up Installment: The movie was adapted from the story of an unmade episode of SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron.
- Expy: In one of the direct to TV animated videos made several years later, Pirates Ahoy, they blatantly reused the design for Captain Moonscar for their main pirate monster.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: The death of the cat people. Also the death of the former inhabitants of Moonscar Island. Being forced to go into a lagoon where alligators just wait for their meal? Charming.
- Family-Unfriendly Violence: In Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island there are a few examples of this, one zombie has his head ripped off and two get cut in half.
- Earlier than that, the guy in the monster suit in the intro gives Fred a nasty gash on his back.
- Foreshadowing: Zombie Island has several signs linking to the end of the mystery, including one in one of the chase sequences, where a Zombie gives Shaggy a vine to pull Scooby out, at first, it looks like just a gag involving the whole "monster helps them to save themselves", but it foreshadows that the Zombies are not as evil as they're made out to be.
- Scooby and Shaggy wonder who it was that made the wax dolls.
- Lena invites the Scooby Gang to Moonscar Island...even though the zombies and the ghosts all seem to be telling them to stay away.
- The zombies get more restless at night. Only Morgan Moonscar appears during the daytime.
- Velma discovers that parts of Morgan Moonscar's ship were used to build the pepper plantation.
- One of the ghosts is a Confederate colonel. Many of the zombies are Confederate soldiers.
- It's indicated that something horrible had happened to Morgan Moonscar and his pirate crew.
- Forgotten Birthday: Inverted. At the beginning of the reunion, Daphne tells her friends that she got so caught up in her work, she didn't realize her birthday had arrived until everyone else showed up to surprise her.
- Genre Shift: From a straight Scooby-Doo story, to a supernatural horror mystery film.
- The Greatest Story Never Told: After Fred drops the camera into quicksand, the gang fears that no one will believe their adventure occurred. They realize Simone's only surviving servant Beau can act as a witness, but even he doubts anyone will believe them.
- Heel Face Turn: It happened to Morgan Moonscar and his crew after their deaths. The above Foreshadowing entry makes clear that they don't want to kill the gang: in spite of being real zombies, they want to scare them away from the area (which was ironically a much more noble version of what most of the series' previous villains wanted to do).
- Heroic Sacrifice: The zombies fight off the villains at the end long enough for the spell to be broken resulting in their final deaths as well
- Human Sacrifice
- Jerkass Victim: It's hard to feel sorry for Morgan Moonscar's fate
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: The first thing that the villains do is murder Morgan Moonscar and is men. Morgan deserves it.
- Last-Minute Hookup: Velma and Beau
- Mythology Gag: Fred tries on his orange ascot while getting ready for dinner at Simone's mansion, but tosses it aside after realizing it looks ridiculous.
- No Immortal Inertia
- Not a Zombie: A rare case of this reaction being completely justified given the characters involved. Both Averted and played straight. the avert is one of the Mysteries the gang is doing involves a zombie ship captain (which happens to be a woman in the coustume). Played straight with not only Morgan Moonstar, but his pirate crew, other inhabitants, Civil War soilders, and past tourists.
- Oh Crap: Several characters, several times throughout the film. One in particular that stands out is Fred when he finally gets it that the zombies really are real, and really are trying to kill them ...or not. The zombies are actually trying to scare them away so the real villains won't sacrifice them to their cat god.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Very different. Not the flesh-eating kind or the brain-eating kind.
- Played for Laughs: The back cover claims that even though the monsters are real, the movie will be Scooby's funniest adventure yet. While the movie takes the concept of Scooby meeting real monsters very seriously, especially in comparison to such TV movies as Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers, there are some gags, of course, so Your Mileage May Vary over whether or not that synopsis's claim is true.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Many would even contest that this is the best Scooby-Doo story ever. Hands down.
- Putting the Band Back Together
- Redemption Equals Undeath: Morgan Moonscar and his pirates were brutal killers in life, but even in their undead state, they try to scare people away from the area so innocents don't suffer the same fate as they did.
- Romantic False Lead: Daphne and Fred develop crushes on Beau and Lena, respectively, invoking each other's jealousy.
- Running Gag:
- Scooby and Shaggy sampling some of Simone's spiciest peppers.
- The gang unintentionally interfering with a villager's attempts to catch a catfish named Big Mona.
- Dog? Where?
- Scooby-Doo Hoax: Averted in the main villains' plan, but played straight for all the "monsters" the gang encounters before Lena invites them to Moonscar Island.
- Lady Not Appearing On This Cover: Poor Daphne got cut off when this movie got packaged together with Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders, and the cover designers had to fit both posters on the front.
- Stab the Scorpion: After much criticism from Velma, Beau picks up a large rock and it looks like he's going to hurt her with it. Instead, he throws it in front of her, revealing that she was about to step in quicksand. She thanked him, but she still sees him as a suspect.
- Serial Killer: The zombies turn out to be people being sacrificed/killed by Simone, Lena and Jacques.
- Start of Darkness: As told via Flash Back by Lena and Simone - they originally gained dark powers to get vengeance the pirates that destroyed their home, but the price of the power turned them to evil.
- Theme Tune Cameo: Fred whistles the theme song to Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? at one part.
- Time Skip: The movie begins with a flashback of a routine mystery, then progresses several years after the disbandment of Mystery Inc. Daphne hosts a popular talk show, Fred produces her show, Scooby and Shaggy work as security at an airport, and Velma owns a store selling mystery books.
- Took a Level In Badass: Sure, she would lose them in the next few movies, but Daphne.
- Undercover Cop Reveal: Beau, although, although not in a way that matters to the plot.
- You Meddling Kids:
Simone: I've had enough of that meddling dog!
- Your Costume Needs Work: When the gang captures a lone zombie, they initially believe it to be an obvious fake.
- ↑ Although the back cover mentioned that they do make it out alive.