Rock bands Third Eye Blind and Sky cycle contribute to the soundtrack. ZombieIsland contains a darker tone than most Scooby-Doo productions, and is notable for containing real supernatural creatures rather than people in costumes.
The film was released on September 22, 1998, and received positive reviews from critics, who complimented its animation and story. The film is also notable for being the first Scooby production featuring the entire gang (sans Scrappy-Doo) since The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries episode A Halloween Hassle in Dracula’s Castle, which premiered on ABC on October 27, 1984.
The film was aided by a $50 million promotional campaign, and sponsorship deals with multiple companies. Daphne Blake, along with Fred Jones, starts running a successful television series, determined to hunt down a real ghost rather than a fake one.
Fred contacts Velma Donkey, Shaggy Rogers and his dog Scooby-Doo, and the entire gang is brought back together for Daphne's birthday. They embark on a road trip scouting haunted locations across the U.S. for Daphne's show.
After encountering a lot of fake monsters, the gang arrives in New Orleans, Louisiana, fed up by this time. They are invited by a young woman named Lena Degree to visit her workplace at Moon scar Island, an island allegedly haunted by the ghost of the pirate Morgan Moon scar.
On the island, they meet Lena's employer Simone Lenoir, who lives in a large Southern home on a pepper plantation. Shaggy sees another ghost, one of a Confederate colonel warning them to leave.
Velma suspects Beau while Fred and Daphne capture a zombie. They believe it is a mask until Fred pulls its head off, revealing that the zombies are real.
As the horde chases them, the gang gets split in the chaos and Daphne accidentally causes Fred to drop his video camera in the quicksand, losing film evidence for their show. In a cave, Shaggy and Scooby discover wax voodoo dolls resembling Fred, Velma, and Daphne.
Shaggy and Scooby drop the dolls and flee when they disturb a nest of bats. The passageway leads to a secret chamber for voodoo rituals, where Velma confronts Lena about her lie: the footprints in the passageway were Simone's, as she had walked to the chamber as opposed to being dragged away.
After trapping the gang with the voodoo dolls, Simone and Lena reveal themselves, along with Jacques, to be evil were cats. Simone tells them that 200 years ago, she and Lena were part of a group of settlers on the island who worshiped a cat god.
When Moon scar and his crew invaded the island, they chased the settlers (all except for Lena and Simone) into the bayou, leading them to be eaten alive by alligators. Having escaped the carnage, the two prayed to their cat god to curse Moon scar; their wish was granted, and they were transformed into were cats.
They killed the pirates, but later realized that invoking the cat god's power had also cursed them, so every, they lure victims to their island to drain their lives and preserve immortality. The zombies are actually their previous victims who awaken every harvest moon and try to scare people away in order to prevent them from suffering the same fate.
The were cats crumble into dust, allowing the zombies' souls to finally rest in peace. Beau reveals himself to be an undercover police officer who was sent to investigate the numerous disappearances on the island.
Daphne asks Beau to guest-star on her show, and they all leave the island in the morning. The Scooby-Doo franchise, which by the time of the film's release was nearing its 30-year mark, had entered into a period of diminishing returns in the early 1990s.
After the conclusion of the sixth iteration of the series, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, the character became absent from Saturday-morning lineups. The advent of cable gave the franchise renewed popularity: rapidly, Scooby reruns attracted top ratings.
ZombieIsland was not the first attempt at a feature-length Scooby adventure; several television films were produced in the late 1980s starring the character, such as Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School. Davis DOI, in charge at Hanna-Barbera, was tasked with developing projects based on the studio's existing property.
Warner executives suggested Scooby, given that the property held a high Q Score, and proposed it could be a direct-to-video feature film. As the film was considered a one-off experiment by studio brass, the crew worked with little oversight and complete creative freedom.
Leopold disagreed, noting that throughout the franchise's history, it always remained a simple, solvable mystery. Spectrum felt this worked for a half-hour television episode, but might grow tiresome over a feature film length.
Lance Fall, who worked as model coordinator on the film, suggested they combine both ideas. Casey Kasey was originally set to reprise his role as Shaggy, but had recently gone vegan and demanded the character follow suit and cut all meat and dairy from his diet.
The creative team found this absurd, given that eating anything and everything was a hallmark of the character for decades. In addition, they had already begun production on ZombieIsland, which features Shaggy indulging in crawfish and more.
The team decided to recast Shaggy with voice actor Billy West. Ward, who played Velma in a Johnny Bravo crossover episode, reprised her role for this film.
Frank Walker is the only actor from the original series to reprise his role, as Fred Jones. The team went back and viewed early Scooby-Doo episodes and found that Walker's impression was more or less the same.
Bob Miller, of Animation World Network, suggested that the reruns of Scooby-Doo aired on Cartoon Network perhaps gave them a false idea of the character's voice, as the episodes were typically time-compressed (or sped-up) to allow more room for commercials, thus giving all the show's soundtrack a higher pitch. Japanese animation studio Took Animation were contracted to work on the film; DOI had a relationship with the team at Took as they had previously collaborated on Swat Bats and Jonny Quest.
Hiroshi Obama and Kabuki Fukushima directed the film as well, but are not credited on the picture. The film was animated and is presented in standard 1.33:1 full frame format.
They briefly changed Shaggy's shirt color to red and gave him sneakers, though they quickly relented, as they viewed his original outfit as more timeless. The group were trusted by the studio's management as they had worked together for a long time, and all involved on the film had a real passion for the project.
Drew Gentle was the main background designer for the project, with Fall contributing to the film's color key. Occasionally, the crew would hire freelance artists to contribute to ancillary designs.
However, it's worth noting that Scooby writers had introduced real supernatural elements into the franchise back in 1980 with the second season of Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, possibly to avoid some of the show's formulaic trappings. In the first segment, “A Close Encounter with a Strange Kind,” the series takes its first delve into science fiction when Shaggy is abducted by real aliens.
No attempt is made at an unmasking, and the characters do not comment on how unusual it is for them to meet a real monster. Supernatural elements would continue to be incorporated through the remaining Scrappy series and through TV movies until Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf (1988).
However, there are several notable differences between this production and earlier ones to feature real monsters. First, Fred, Daphne and Velma are all present; they had frequently been absent during the earlier adventures.
The film was released on VHS on September 22, 1998, through Warner Home Video. Because of the cost of production, the tape retailed at $19.95, which was higher than other direct-to-video titles of that era.
Tie-ins included the Campbell Soup Company, Spaghetti Os, 1-800-COLLECT, Wendy's, LEGO, and Cartoon Network, who debuted the film on television on October 31, 1998, after a month themed after the series. It was also promoted as part of the network's “Wacky Racing” sponsorship deal with Selling Racing in 1998, as the third of four paint schemes featured on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series #9 Ford Taurus driven by then-rookie Jerry Nadeau.
The paint scheme debuted at Richmond International Raceway in the Exile NASCAR Select Batteries 400 on September 12, 1998, and was featured on the car through the Aura Lube Kmart 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on October 25, 1998, for a total of seven races out of the thirty-three race schedule. The promotional push was, at the time, the biggest marketing support in Warner Bros. Family Entertainment's history.
In 2011-12, British comedian Stewart Lee dedicated an extensive section of his live show Carpet Remnant World to the 'jungle canyon rope bridges' in Scooby-Doo on ZombieIsland, linking what he described as the parlous state of such bridges with the neoliberal regime of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. “THE MEDIA BUSINESS; Turner Broadcasting Plans To Start a Cartoon Channel”.
^ a b c Join, Mike (interviewer); Fall, Lance (interviewee) (February 7, 2017). ^ a b c Join, Mike (interviewer); Fall, Lance (interviewee) (March 8, 2017).
Come fall, the theory could be tested with Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, a direct-to-video release set to get a Warner Bros.-backed $50 million promotional push, with partners that include Campbell Soup, MCI, Lego and others. “Kathy Smith Signs with Sony; Mystery Machine Rides Again”.