Review : “Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island” (Film)

Well, I was in the mood for some silly comedy horror, so I thought that I’d take a look at an animated film from 1998 called “Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island”. Although I rediscovered “Scooby-Doo” a year or so ago – thanks to both seeing a few episodes of “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated” and reading an excellent Lovecraftian dark comedy parody novel called “Meddling Kids” by Edgar Cantero – this film completely passed me by at the time. In fact, it also passed me by during my childhood in the 1990s too for some bizarre reason.

In fact, I only ended up finding this film after watching a couple of 1990s nostalgia-based videos by the horror movie critic Ryan Hollinger and being intrigued enough to get a second-hand DVD of it, even though I already knew quite a bit about the film’s story from the reviews.

Note: The 2003 UK DVD edition of “Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island” is actually a double-sided disc that allows you to choose between watching the film in 4:3 or 1:33 (?). I ended up choosing 4:3 for this review, mostly because this side of the disc seemed to be less scratched/smudged.

Anyway, lets take a look at “Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS. The film itself contains some FLICKERING LIGHTS (lightning effects mostly), although I don’t know whether they are intense enough to be an issue or not.

The film begins with a dramatic scene set in a creepy old mansion, where the Scooby gang are being chased by a monster. In a twist that will surprise absolutely no-one, the “monster” actually turns out to be a man in a costume who is trying to scare the “meddling kids” away from his counterfeit money factory in the mansion’s basement.

Sometime later, the Scooby gang grow up and go their separate ways. Scooby and Shaggy end up working (incompetently) for US customs and Velma opens a bookshop. Fred and Daphne stay in the paranormal investigation business, albeit for a TV show hosted by Daphne. During a chat show interview to promote the next series of the show, Fred has the idea to get the old gang together to join in with the production.

What could possibly go wrong?

Needless to say, their next few cases all involve people dressed in silly costumes. Daphne is disappointed that they haven’t found any real evidence of the paranormal. But, whilst visiting New Orleans, a local woman called Lena happens to overhear their complaints and suggests a visit to her employer’s chilli farm on a haunted island on the bayou called Moonscar Island….

An invitation to a haunted island? What fun!

One of the first things that I will say about this film is that it’s a rather amusing comedy horror film, which also has some rather cool-looking artwork too. Although some elements of it are a bit like an extended episode of the TV show, this film actually does a few innovative things with both the show itself and the zombie, werewolf and vampire genres too. Plus, some early parts of the film also reminded me a little of a much more light-hearted version of Edgar Cantero’s excellent 2018 parody novel “Meddling Kids” too 🙂

In terms of the film’s comedy elements, they’re reasonably good. Although some of the show’s trademark food-based jokes do seem a little bit over-used in this film (and there’s a slightly random running joke about Scooby not realising that he’s a dog), the film’s comedy elements still work really well. The scenes involving ghosts, monsters and zombies are played in a hilariously melodramatic way that is just fun to watch, plus the film also has a wonderfully self-referential sense of humour too.

Not only does the film include a montage scene showing the Scooby gang unmasking numerous villains but, throughout the film, Velma and Fred keep trying to think of classic-style theories about what could be behind the strange events on Moonscar Island. Still, this film relies a lot on slapstick comedy and food-based humour. Quite a lot of this is actually really funny but, as I said earlier, it sometimes feels a little over-used and the film would have probably been even better if there was a bit more variety in the humour. Still, this is a reasonably small criticism.

Yes, these food-based scenes are very funny but they would probably work better as more occasional moments.

The film also makes excellent use of character-based humour too – with the scenes showing what the Scooby gang get up to after they “retire” from solving mysteries being some of the film’s funniest moments. Whether it is Scooby and Shaggy working as customs agents trying to stop food smuggling or the fact that Velma has opened a horror-themed detective novel bookshop, these amusing details really help to add a little bit of extra depth to the characters whilst also emphasising their wonderful weirdness (and how they only really seem to thrive when investigating the paranormal).

Seriously, the customs-based scenes are some of the funniest moments in the film.

In terms of the film’s horror elements, they’re surprisingly good. Although this film will only actually scare younger viewers who have less experience of the horror genre, the film’s horror elements are actually handled in a vaguely “serious” way that is more dramatic than the original TV show.

Not only are there a few brilliantly dramatic set pieces (such as ghostly writing appearing on a wall in a way that might remind you of the Overlook Hotel from “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines) and a relatively grim and creepy backstory, but the film’s plot also allows for some wonderfully random plot twists that wouldn’t be entirely out of place in an old-school 1950s horror comic too 🙂

So, this is where “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” got the idea for that terrifying jump scare from! Who would have thought it?

Yet, despite the gleeful silliness of the film’s plot twists, the film’s story is actually quite well-structured. Not only is there some clever visual foreshadowing of a later plot twist, but the fact that only Scooby and Shaggy actually see anything paranormal for part of the film also adds a tiny amount of tension and drama to the story. Plus, as wonderfully bizarre as the plot is (seriously, think 1950s horror comic 🙂 ), everything in the film actually makes sense in context.

The film’s backstory is fairly dramatic too – with random cat-worship, evil pirates and alligator-related deaths portrayed in a reasonably “serious” way. Still, although the film touches on some of the historical context of 19th century Louisiana, this is very airbrushed (eg: the film presents the sides of the US civil war in a “neutral” way and, despite being set on a plantation – albeit a “pepper plantation” started by spice traders- the film doesn’t mention slavery). Yes, the film was aimed at kids but – even in the 1990s – things like “Horrible Histories” were able to explain the grim parts of history in a way that was accessible to younger audiences. So, the airbrushed history here is more than a little bit odd.

As mentioned earlier, this film actually does something innovative with the zombie, vampire and werewolf genres. Although the zombies are initially presented as frightening (and can also turn into ghosts too), they actually turn out to be trying to protect the Scooby gang by warning them away from the island. Plus, although the film includes a few Voodoo doll based scenes, the zombies aren’t actually traditional Voodoo zombies, but are the victims of werewolf-like cat monsters who have survived for centuries by draining people’s life-force in a vampiric kind of way. And, yes, it’s also awesome to see a “Scooby-Doo” story where the monsters are actually real for once.

Not to mention that it also allows the film to include a hilariously macabre twist on the usual “unmasking” scene too 🙂

Plus, I have to praise the design of the zombies too. If you’re a fan of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden (and you should be – they’re amazing), one of the really cool things about this film is that the zombies seem to be at least slightly inspired by the band’s famous mascot too 🙂

Hmmm… Must be one of Edward T. Head’s long-lost cousins.

Talking of designs, I cannot praise the artwork in this film highly enough 🙂 This film is made using traditional animation and this allows for all sorts of cool painted backdrops that look absolutely spectacular, not to mention that the slightly larger budget (compared to the TV show) means that the animation also looks a bit smoother and more seamless than the old cartoons from the 1960s/70s, whilst still being very reminiscent of them too. Seriously, like with other TV shows like “Cowboy Bebop“, 1990s animation has a wonderfully distinctive look to it that is always awesome to see 🙂

Seriously, this is a really cool-looking cartoon 🙂

Musically, this film is very ’90s too 🙂 In addition to a few pieces of classic-style “creepy” music, the film includes a couple of rock/pop-punk style songs that are wonderfully ’90s in the best way possible and even come vaguely close to the lighter and more melodic edge of the heavy metal genre at times too 🙂 Seriously, I really miss the days when this type of music was a lot more popular. The 1990s were awesome.

All in all, this is a really fun and amusing comedy horror film that is definitely worth watching. Not only does it have a reasonably well-structured, if gloriously silly, plot that also does some innovative things with familiar horror monsters but it’s also a really cool-looking piece of visual art too. If you enjoy old-school 1950s horror comics, have read Edgar Cantero’s “Meddling Kids” and/or just miss the 1990s, then you’ll probably enjoy this film.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a four.

Today’s Animation (11th September 2018)

Well, it has been way too long since I last made an animation. So, I thought that I’d make a neon-drenched cyberpunk style animation that is very loosely based on both my more distant memories of visiting Port Solent and my memory of a car journey to the cinema there to see “Blade Runner 2049” (and, yes, I make these art posts ridiculously far in advance).

As usual, this animation is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Port Solent Runner” By C. A. Brown

Review: “The Animatrix” (Short Film Collection)

Well, for today, I thought that I’d take another look at a really interesting collection of short cyberpunk films from 2003 called “The Animatrix”.

Although I saw these short films when I was a teenager (including seeing the first short film at the cinema), I pretty much completely forgot about them until I happened to see a really cool “Blade Runner”-themed anime short by Shinichiro Watanabe last year. A while later, I read that he had also directed one of the shorts in “The Animatrix”. So, I thought that I’d revisit it.

Before I review this short film collection, I should probably point out that – to get the most out of it – you need to have watched all three “Matrix” films (yes, even the second two films!). Although the collection does include several stand-alone stories, quite a few of them rely on the viewer having some knowledge of the “Matrix” films. Likewise, this review may contain some mild-moderate SPOILERS.

Plus, I should probably also warn you that “The Animatrix” contains some FLICKERING LIGHTS– although I don’t know if they’re fast or intense enough to cause issues.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “The Animatrix”:

“The Animatrix” consists of nine short animated cyberpunk films (revolving around the mythos of “The Matrix”) by a range of artists and directors. These films include everything from historical drama, classic science fiction, film noir, traditional cyberpunk, surrealism and dystopian sci-fi.

One of the first things that I will say about this collection is that almost every short film has a different art style. So, on a purely visual level, it’s a really interesting collection. These art styles include everything from various types of anime, to more European-style art, to early 2000s CGI, to vaguely Richard Linklater-style surreal realism, to trippy 1960s-style artwork. Seriously, there is a really interesting blend of art styles.

Like this example of vaguely European-style anime art.

To this “Playstation 2 game cutscene”-style example of early-mid 2000s CGI. It really hasn’t aged well…

One awesome thing is almost every film in the collection takes an intelligent approach to lighting. Many of the films either contain beautiful high-contrast lighting or ominously dystopian gloom. Best of all, even the scenes set during bright summer days often have a very harsh and stark quality to them. Seriously, I cannot praise the lighting in this collection highly enough!

The best examples of high-contrast lighting can be found in a short film called “Beyond”.

In keeping with the gothic atmosphere of the “Matrix” films, most of the stories have a slightly gloomy or dystopian tone, with few to no happy endings to be found. But, the collection contains a really good mixture of thrilling action, chilling horror and tragic science fiction.

However, although some of the stories work well within their 8-10 minute running time, a few feel like they’re trying to do too much or too little. A good example of this is probably “Program” – where the story ends with an unforeshadowed plot twist and the sense that it’s just a small segment of a much larger story.

This is contrasted with the two-part “The Second Renaissance” which, although it contains some cool “Blade Runner”-style location designs, “realistic” anime art, some vaguely Indian-style art, some Isaac Asimov-esque plot elements and some chilling scenes of horror, often feels a bit too expositional.

Yes, there are some cool “Blade Runner”-style parts, but there’s also a lot of exposition too.

Then again, it’s designed to be a history lecture from the distant future, so this might explain the exposition-filled narrative style. Although it’s cool that the Wachowskis wanted to show the backstory to the “Matrix” films, I can’t help but think that this backstory would work better as a graphic novel or a prose piece than an animated film.

On the positive side, the stand-out films in this collection include films like “A Detective Story”. This is a film noir-style anime directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, which follows an old-fashioned gumshoe who has been hired to look for Trinity.

Although the plot of the film isn’t that complex (although there are a decent number of background details etc..), it is wonderfully atmospheric and stylish. Not only do a lot of the background details have an “old newspaper” kind of look to them, but there’s also stuff like steampunk technology, jazz music, and almost monochrome artwork too. Plus, it’s a cyberpunk film noir anime from the creator of “Cowboy Bebop” 🙂

In other words, it’s awesome 🙂

Then there’s “Beyond” – which follows a teenage girl who is looking for her lost cat. Whilst searching, some local boys tell her about a “haunted” house where the laws of physics don’t apply. The house is, of course, a glitch in the Matrix.

This film has a vaguely “Studio Ghibli”-like quality to it and yet also somehow manages to contain a good mixture of slightly creepy “Silent Hill”-style horror and light-hearted whimsy. It’s awesome!

Seriously, it contains everything from whimsical “Studio Ghibli”-style scenes…

…To ominous “Silent Hill”-style moments 🙂

There’s also “World Record”. This is a film about an elite athlete who exerts himself so much during a race that he briefly disconnects from the Matrix.

Not only does this film tell a focused, self-contained, character-based story – but the art style is really interesting too. It has a hint of art nouveau, a hint of anime, a hint of old western comics and probably a load of other stuff too. Seriously, the visual style of this short film is really distinctive and unique.

Seriously, the art style in this short film is really unique 🙂

There are also a few films that sit somewhere in the middle. “Final Flight Of The Osiris” is a good example of this.

Although it includes some beautifully sensual romantic moments, some dramatic robot-based scenes and some backstory to the events of one of the two “Matrix” sequels, it isn’t perfect. For starters, the dated CGI animation looks like something from a cutscene in a Playstation 2 game and, secondly, the story sometimes seems like it is more “style over substance”. Plus, it’s kind of depressing too.

What? A film titled “Final Flight Of The Osiris” isn’t a feel-good comedy?

Likewise, although “Kid’s Story” includes some cool “fluid realism”-style animation (that reminded me a little bit of Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life”), the actual story of the film is somewhat generic. Yes, it provides some backstory for one of the characters in “The Matrix”, and Neo makes a brief appearance too. But, it’s neither bad nor good.

Yes, the vaguely “Waking Life”-style animation in a few scenes is really cool, but the story is kind of generic.

“Matriculated” probably fits somewhere in the middle too. Yes, the premise of the film is a really interesting one (eg: several human survivors try to convince a captured robot to join them via a VR simulation). However, the visual style of a lot of the film is too surreal for it’s own good. Plus, although the ending to this film is brilliantly chilling, it is also somewhat confusing too.

Ha! Let’s scare the robot into joining our side with this freakishly bizarre simulation!

All in all, even though this collection is something of a mixed bag and is aimed firmly at fans of the “Matrix” trilogy, there’s some really cool stuff here. Yes, this collection is a bit on the gothic side of things (so, don’t expect it to be a “feel good” collection) – but this is handled fairly well. Plus, even though it isn’t perfect, it’s still worth watching just to check out some of the creative art and animation in many of the short films.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it might just get a four.

Today’s Art (19th June 2017)

Well, today’s animation was kind of interesting. Originally, it was a digitally-edited painting – which was something of an experimental painting (where I tried out a couple of new techniques [like adding ink after adding paint]), that didn’t turn out too well. So, I decided to turn it into an animation.

Originally, this animation was also going to contain rain too, but this didn’t look too good – so I left it out.

As usual, all three of the paintings and/or animations in this post are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Neon City Experiment" By C. A. Brown

“Neon City Experiment” By C. A. Brown

ANIMATED Cyberpunk Art Preview :)

[EDIT: I’ve just replaced this animation with a slightly slower version (since I was worried that it flickered too quickly), which also has a smaller file size – so it shouldn’t take ages to load]

Well, although the full version of this digitally-edited painting won’t be posted here for literally ages (so, it’s also a glimpse at some of next year’s art), as soon as I finished making it earlier today, I just had to turn it into a small animation and, well, I felt like showing it off. Enjoy 🙂

As usual, this animation is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Intersection (Animated Preview)" By C. A. Brown

“Intersection (Animated Preview)” By C. A. Brown

Experiencing 1990s Animation Nostalgia (As An Artist) – A Ramble

2016 Artwork 1990s Animation nostalgia article sketch

Although this is an article about how becoming an artist can change how you see familiar things, I’m going to have to spend the whole article talking about a recent experience when this happened to me.

This is mainly because I think that this example is quite illustrative but, if you’re not interested in hearing me ramble about myself, the 1990s and old animated films, then it might be worth skipping this article.

As regular readers of this site probably know, I’m a fan of the 1990s. Although I only really realised how cool this decade was in recent years, it happened to be the decade I grew up in. So, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I started to become nostalgic about it.

In a few years, I’ll probably get nostalgic about the ’00s too. This will be incredibly freaky when it happens because I remember that decade a lot more than I remember the 1990s. This, I think, is part of the charm of the 1990s – it’s a decade I have memories of, but was too young to fully appreciate at the time. So, it’s both familiar and fascinatingly unfamiliar at the same time.

Anyway, nothing seemed to epitomise this more than when I happened to see a couple of Youtube clips of animated movies that I’d seen at the cinema when I was a kid in the 1990s. Namely Disney’s “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame” and DreamWorks’ “The Prince Of Egypt“.

Now that I’m well into my twenties (and I make art regularly), I was absolutely bowled over by both clips. Both of the scenes I saw seemed to fit into my aesthetic sensibilities a lot more than I expected – whether it was the ominous evening skies and gloomily ornate Egyptian temples in “The Prince Of Egypt” or the gothic buildings and fiery musical scenes in “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame”, I was astonished at just how… well… cool these films looked.

In fact, they actually inspired me to make a series of gothic horror paintings, based around the theme of “creepy buildings”. Here’s one painting from the series:

"Grim's Gallery" By C. A. Brown

“Grim’s Gallery” By C. A. Brown

The clips of these two films that I saw seemed like genuine works of Art. They seemed like epic, detailed visual masterpieces that really showed off the power of animation.

They made me think of how old Japanese art is described as “pictures of the floating world”. Of how a fictional world made from nothing but traditional drawings can somehow seem both excitingly different from reality, but also hyper-real at the same time.

At first, they seemed like the kinds of movies that were wasted on a younger audience. They seemed like the kinds of movies which, with a few slight changes, could have been released as mainstream Hollywood movies rather than kids’ movies. They also made me understand why some people obsess about Disney movies even when they’re adults…

Of course, these days, animation (mostly thanks to Anime and animated TV shows like The Simpsons etc..) is seen as a genre for all audiences in the west. But, back in the 1990s, mega-budget Western animated films were only really for kids. And, well, I have to wonder how many cinematic masterpieces the world missed out on as a result of this.

Naturally, I didn’t really pay that much attention to any of this when I was a kid. They were just fun animated movies (with too many songs). But, thinking about it, it wouldn’t surprise me if these films were another one of the many “hidden” influences on my own art style.

I mean, I was stunned by how visually similar the clips from these films were to my current art style. How they had a strong focus on detailed line art, contrasting colour schemes, gloomy locations and other things like that. No doubt that the “cool” parts of these films had lodged somewhere in my subconscious and, when I later became an artist, influenced what I considered “cool” art to look like.

But, well, I’ve rambled on for long enough. Still, it’s astonishing how becoming an artist can change my opinions about something as random as the movies I watched when I was a kid. Still, if the art in these films can inspire people without them even knowing, then maybe these films weren’t wasted on a younger audience.

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

(Animated) How To Draw A Shotgun Cartridge

(Note: This will probably be the last “How To Draw” guide for at least a while, since this series will be going on extended hiatus. The rest of my blog won’t be affected [and there will still be daily art posts and articles], but I’ll probably post a slightly more detailed explanation tomorrow. Sorry about this)

Well, I’m experimenting with producing animated “How To Draw” guides at the moment. And for this animation, I thought that I’d show you how to draw a shotgun cartridge (again).

I’m not quite sure what happened with the colours in this animation, but this was about the best I could get it to be.

This animation is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

This animation is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.