Alex is a School of Visual Arts graduate with a passion for media, writing and animation. He writes reviews for film, television and games.
It is no secret that Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Gang are involved in many crossovers. Since the 1970s, Scooby-Doo has been a proud tradition, most notably with the series The New Scooby-Doo Movies. During that time, they encountered celebrities like Don Knotts and fictional characters like Batman & Robin. Some of these movies even had direct-to-video crossovers, most notably with WWE superstars and KISS, as well as with Batman: Brave and the Bold. There is a spiritual successor series called Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? in which the gang meets celebrities new and old, as well as fictional characters like Wonder Woman, Sherlock Holmes, and even Steve Urkel!
This year, one crossover has left the cartoon community in a state of shock and anticipation. An animated cartoon cowardly dog meets another animated cartoon cowardly dog. That’s right, Scooby-Doo and the gang officially meet Courage the Cowardly Dog!
While I loved Scooby-Doo when I was a kid, Courage the Cowardly Dog was one of my favorite Cartoon Network shows. My family and I loved the idea of a dog trying to protect his family from random supernatural occurrences. It was dark, funny, and had a variety of memorable characters.
Anyway, audiences have been divided since its announcement. In one sense, everyone is excited to see their favorite cartoon character again after such a long time. Combining these franchises seems like the perfect crossover. Other people, however, were skeptical since Scooby-Doo direct-to-video films had received mixed reviews. In addition, Courage creator John R. Dilworth was not involved, which made fans even more worried. This was originally going to be an episode of Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? Even though I'm in the middle, I'm thrilled nonetheless. Technically, this wasn't the first time these two dogs met. There were promos and commercials where both Scooby and Courage interact. However, that was basically for promotional reasons. Now that this crossover finally came outta nowhere, how does it hold up?
When a swarm of mutated bugs invades Nowhere, Kansas, Scooby (voiced by Frank Welker) and the gang team up with Courage (voiced by Marty Grabstein) to solve the mystery.
A Decent and Faithful Supernatural Mystery
The concept alone intrigued the public, but my biggest surprise was that this movie was written by Michael Ryan. For those of you who don't know, Michael Ryan wrote episodes for Johnny Bravo and Cow & Chicken. In fact, he wrote the episode "Bravo Dooby Doo," where Johnny Bravo met Scooby and the gang. To this day, it remains one of my favorite and funniest episodes. Ultimately, even if John Dilworth wasn't involved, this movie succeeded and both franchises-for the most part-were respected.
The mystery and world-building are the best components of the story. Usually Scooby-Doo is aimed at younger audiences, so it uses problem-solving solutions which are easy to understand. However, when you mix the real supernatural elements of Courage the Cowardly Dog, the setting of Nowhere, Kansas alone becomes an ingenious setup for the gang to investigate. Of course, there have been Scooby-Doo movies with real monsters in either a serious or humorous way. In this case, the pieces that make this mystery stand-out are the build-up and the history of Nowhere itself. Not to say that the clues are complicated or anything, it plays with expectations and would leave you guessing who’s behind all this till you are surprised at the end. The movie is also character-driven where the characters interact and work naturally with each other. Sure, there are a couple of arcs that are a bit predictable, but everything else makes up for it.
As a Scooby-Doo movie, it follows the lighthearted tone and gags that fans would expect. At the same time, the movie also pokes fun at them, especially at the beginning and end. This may sound controversial, but the movie felt more like a standalone Courage movie than a Scooby-Doo movie. To be clear: I am not saying that including Scooby-Doo wasn’t a bad idea. It felt satisfying that there was effort and consideration put into Courage without Dilworth’s input. The noteworthy moments are the countless references and Easter Eggs that will trigger a nostalgic feeling. Even the characters retain their personalities from the source material. As an aspiring artist, I’d appreciate projects like these. Even with that love, this movie still reminds us that is still a Scooby-Doo movie and the climax manages to keep both franchises in balance without overdoing it.
At times, the movie would lighten the mood with some comedy. Comparing to “Bravo Dooby Doo," the humor is more hit-and-miss. Most of the jokes hit, especially with some legit funny lines. There are also recurring gags that I honestly wished there was a bit more polish. One scene, which I will not discuss, will make audiences either laugh or roll their eyes. Then again, what do you expect out of a crossover like this? It is most likely due to the tamed tone since these types of movies are aimed at children. Then again, it is just a nitpick.
Nonetheless, thanks to Michael Ryan’s writing, there was a decent amount of effort that made a crossover between Scooby and Courage satisfying.
Solid Visuals of Both Worlds
When thinking of the art styles of both Scooby and Courage before the trailer, it sounds impossible for these types of visuals to clash. Thankfully, after watching this movie, the animators found a way to make it work.
Starting with the character designs, the Scooby-Doo characters continue the Hanna-Barbera direction where the humans are down-to-earth and Scooby is animated. For the Courage the Cowardly Dog characters, they remain very faithful where the human characters have a mix between abstract and realistic while Courage himself is more cartoony, in terms of shape and expression. It’s not every day when you see a bean-shaped, magenta-colored Beagle.
Since this is a direct-to-video movie we’re talking about, the character animation is limited. Granted, it does elevate whenever there is an action sequence or chase scene, which are entertaining to watch. At the same time, given its budgetary limitations, the animation of Courage is restricted when compared to the actual show. You see, the original show gave its animators the freedom to make Courage’s reactions and facial expressions as smooth and energetic as possible. The movie, at least, did the best they could to replicate it with the resources they had. CGI would also sometimes be used for depth or vehicles during the chase scenes.
Speaking of resources, the background animation on Nowhere, Kansas is atmospheric. Every attention given to detail is authentic and exquisite as if the Mystery Gang literally entered another world without feeling out of place. The recurring location is definitely the Bagg farmhouse, which always feels comfortable yet always the target for strange occurrences. But, once we get to the new locations, that is where the spirit of Courage the Cowardly Dog shines. The Mayor of Nowhere’s mansion is literally filled with pictures, statues, and artifacts of Courage’s foes. Not only does it give something for Courage fans to point out but also helps give historical context about Nowhere. The mansion also contains that mysterious and creepy factor that any Scooby-Doo fan would recognize. It’s basically a literal artistic combination between these shows’ locations. Without giving too much, there is one creative and inventive scene where an ancient artifact changes a different art style onto the characters, including 8-bit pixel art.
I’d give credit to the opening credits where both characters are displayed and credited in a colorful, carnival. It is possibly a callback to the They Might Be Giants’ music video about Courage. The songs “Game of Life” and “The Opposite of Fear is Fun” are fun and catchy to listen to. It is also neat that the sound mixing uses Hanna-Barbera sound effects with the musical score composed once again by Jody Gray and Andy Ezrin.
It may not be perfect animation, but the movie’s visuals proved that they are solid enough of both worlds.
Basic Yet Charming Cast
No matter which incarnation of Scooby-Doo you watch, the Mystery Gang's personalities are likely to remain largely unchanged. While this may have been the case, these characters would occasionally spice up their roles and still continue to be adored for generations to come. For this crossover, they did...depending on who you are talking about.
Let’s start with the characters that have a point to the story. Scooby-Doo and Shaggy Rogers are the scared yet comedic duo with a huge appetite. They are portrayed as Courage’s new friends after learning they share common interests. They also act as motivators for Courage whenever a situation arises and he must overcome his fears to save them. You could tell where the predictability comes from. Despite that, seeing these characters interacting makes it worthwhile. The other character is Velma Dinkley, the brains of the group. At first, this movie would play this joke about her finding a Wi-Fi signal for information on the mystery but later plays a significant role when her tablet receives information from Courage’s computer. It is also humorous how she tries to comprehend the logic and mystery behind Nowhere. As for Fred and Daphne, they have their moments but don’t contribute much.
The characters from Courage the Cowardly Dog haven’t changed and are still loveable as they were. Courage is the timid yet brave dog that is willing to protect his owners from supernatural danger. Muriel Bagge is the compassionate yet naive elderly woman and her husband Eustace is the grumpy, cold-hearted farmer that only cares about money. As mentioned before, there are cameos and references throughout the movie, but that would lead to spoiler territory. The only new characters are the sketchy Mayor of Nowhere and his intimidating servants Mr. and Mrs. Glockenspiel.
Simple or not, the voice acting is what helps give these characters more personalities. The veteran Scooby-Doo actors, including Frank Welker, are always enjoyable. My inner child screamed with joy when most of the original actors reprised their roles. Marty Grabstein is delightfully funny as Courage and Thea White is sweet and genuine as Muriel. Sadly, this is Thea White's last performance as Muriel, since she died from liver cancer two months ago. Eustace Bagge is an interesting topic because he was voiced by different actors throughout the show’s history. Veteran voice actor Jeff Bergman voiced Eustace since he previously voiced him for Cartoon Network’s 20th-anniversary promo. When comparing the past performances, Bergman did a good job of sounding closer to the original actor Lionel G. Wilson. These characters are not complex, but the voice acting will make you remember what made these characters timeless.
This movie literally came outta nowhere and showed that anything is possible with Scooby-Doo crossovers. Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog is a surprisingly fun and sentimental experience that honors both franchises. As a direct-to-video film, it may not offer anything groundbreaking with a fixed animation budget and a few predictable moments. Then again, there was a passionate amount of effort with a thoughtful mystery, inventive visuals, legit humor, and charming voice acting. I’d highly recommend this movie to die-hard Scooby-Doo and Courage fans, especially with the latter. Anyone who is new to Courage, watch some episodes first before watching this movie. For those that are unsure, rent it and decide for yourself. It's worth watching digitally instead of getting it on DVD. Don’t get me wrong; it is optional to buy it. The catch, though, is that it lacks substance in bonus features and only contains three different Scooby-Doo episodes. They didn’t even bother with putting in Courage episodes. Then again, all four seasons of Courage are available on DVD. Who knows what the future will hold for both of these cowardly dogs? But, if there’s anything to learn from this movie, it's that a crossover can work when given to the right hands.