DTV Wonders: Scooby-Doo in Arabian Knights

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Scooby-Doo as a franchise has been around since 1969 menaing it will turn 50 next year, and this film nearly killed it at age 25 in 1994.  A Pup Named Scooby-Doo ended in 1991 and no new Scooby-doo episodes were made until 2002 due to the franchise being saved in 1998 by Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.  Now as a fan of the franchise I had to check out what nearly killed it.

It starts with Scooby-Doo and Shaggy having a magic carpet taxi ride.  The animation is changed to better match the frame story, but that looks distractedly odd.  To make it worse no one’s mouth closes all the way, until they do in the frame stories.

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They arrive and get a job as a royal food tester.  They then eat everything, realize they are professional poison checkers and will die from it.  They then also realize the Caliph now has no food and will kill them for it.

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They accidently break his glasses and Shaggy hides in drag.  The blind Caliph mistakes Shaggy for a suitor and his future wife thinking he is beautiful, smart, and witty.  Clearly he needs a woman with the last two traits to complete him.  Shaggy’s brilliant plan is then to tell him a story so boring it will put him to sleep.  I suggest remembering that audience.  Shaggy thinks the most boring story is about Yogi Bear in a rip-off of Disney’s Aladdin.  There many good descriptions of Aladdin and Yogi-Bear but boring is not one of them.

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Frame story one is Aladdin (the Disney version) but gender flopped with Aliyah-Din.  I will definitely hate her more now that I have to constantly type that name.  Just replace the Blue genie with Yogi-Bear as a genie and this is what the film uses in 1994, two years after it came out.  It has many problems like most of Yogi’s jokes are him begging his master to wish for a picnic basket, which he does constantly.  The Prince (no name given) does a big speech about not falling for love at first sight, which is then exactly how he falls in love (lust to be exact) for Aliyah-Din.  Jafar’s counterpart has a boss who is an emerald voiced by Tony Jay.  He then disappears after one scene making him pointless and a waste of money in hiring Jay and animating it.  Its climax and twist ending is just awful.  Also it is just a dull rushed version of the Disney film, and overall it is not good and takes up way too much of the film.

It does have some redeeming qualities.  Aliyah-Din wears a light brown cloak mostly, and with how few female protagonists do that it is refreshingly different.  While this is clearly a coincidence it also has two genies (Yogi and Boo-Boo) just like the original story.

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The big help is Jafar’s counterpart Haman.  I legitimately like watching him.  I do not like the Jafar archetype, an obviously evil villain who is already high up and wants to go a little higher.   There is nothing about Haman’s appearance that indicates villain and for any viewers who have not seen the Disney film will probably be surprised he is the bad guy until it is revealed.  He also does not rely on a magic mind control staff.  He is simply good with his words and legitimately convincing that he is just trying to help, and many of his scenes from Disney’s Aladdin are an improvement because of that.  One reason Prince is not married is Haman is telling him he should not rush marriage choices, a good message that most people would listen to, and it fits his agenda of keeping the Sultan heirless to help him take over later.  How does he get Aliyah-Din to enter the cave?  He tells her the Sultan has a great disease and only the lamp can save him.  He tells her it very humbly and is very polite.  Even when he snaps he apologizes saying that his brief anger was due to his worry about the Sultan’s health (very reasonable).  While the villain cannot save the film he is a major benefit keeping it watchable.

This story takes up most of the runtime, and apparently Scooby-Doo in Arabian Knights lacks a certain thing promised, like Scooby-Doo characters.  Yogi-Bear should have been marketed.  Yikes Aliyah-din only takes up 34 minutes?  It felt way longer.  Well as expected this does not put the Caliphate to sleep.  Surprisingly he does love the story and is even more in love with Shaggy.  Shaggy now makes the right choice to tell him an unromantic comedy, and this is actually a big improvement and the only full part worth the watch.  It stars the mostly forgotten Hanna-Barberra character, Magilla Gorilla.

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This next part is simple good comedy with Magilla mistaking Sinbad’s raiding ship as a cruise ship.  They then hunt down various treasures with hijinks ensuing.  There are still two problems.  The previous story is just boring and by this time I am not interested any more.  Also the first treasure hunt is the longest and also not fun to watch.  The second one is the great one which involves Magilla and Sinbad being on a roller coaster with jewels all around it, as they try to steal the valuables while avoiding all the death threats.  This is also where Sinbad becomes a great comedic villain.  He has a good mix of legitimately caring for Magilla and the flaw of being more interested in the treasure.  The third voyage is mixed, but Sinbad keeps it funny.  When Sinbad loses everything I am kind of sad to see it, because I really enjoyed him and felt he was going through character development from a greedy criminal to a caring boss.

The film ends with the Caliph deciding the fun of the stories made him forget his hunger.  Shaggy and Scooby are made royal story tellers.

This film fails in context.  It should have been advertised as a Hanna-Barberra film, not Scooby-Doo who hardly has any role.  The Sinbad story should have been first.  Give the audience a short good comedy before the main event that way they could enjoy the better one and then at least go into the second one already happy.  If not that then greatly shorten the Aladdin story and make Sinbad more than a comedy by adding in a real arc for Sinbad.  That had plenty of potential for it, but it was only treated as a tacked on epilogue to the main event despite being vastly superior.  While not the worst Scooby-Doo movie I have seen it is the one I think the fewest people would like. It is really bad.

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