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The gang goes on a trip to check on Velma's younger sister, Madelyn. She's been studying stage magic at the Whirlen Merlin Magic Academy, where apparently there have been sightings of a giant griffin. The gang decides to investigate.
As a child, this reviewer was a huge fan of Scooby Doo. At 24, she still is. While 'Haunted Holidays' may not be Scooby Doo at his best, it's still incredibly entertaining with all of the ingredients that makes the franchise so loved present and is one of the better direct to video Scooby Doo specials.
There really is not much to criticise here with 'Haunted Holidays'. With the inclusion of all the standard Scooby Doo tropes, parts of the special does feel very predictable. Velma has also had a much less likable personality since 'Mystery Incorporated', she isn't quite as bitchy or annoying here as she has tended to be in recent years and her main function of being the brains of the group has been maintained, but she has been more caring and resourceful before.
However, the animation is great with a nice mix of classic Scooby Doo and new Scooby Doo. It is very vibrant, atmospheric and beautifully draw, and attention to detail is typically meticulous. The music is groovy when appropriate and haunting when also appropriate, while the writing and jokes are typical Scooby Doo and range from very funny to hilarious with an endearing goofiness too at times.
While predictable, the story is efficiently paced while never rushed and diverting without being convoluted or simplistically obvious, the mystery is a solid one and entertainingly and atmospherically told in the classic Scooby Doo mould, Shaggy and Scooby's pivotal friendship is charming, funny and affecting and the villainous snowman is a very convincing villain, quite scary and cool (plus he can shapeshift, with the giant spider guise being one of the special's coolest and most visually striking moments).
Sometimes in Scooby Doo the perpetrator is a complete surprise and then there are other times when it is rather obvious as a result of a shortage of suspects (a common problem in the still entertaining 'Be Cool, Scooby Doo!', and even a couple of episodes of 'Scooby Doo! Where are You?' had this too). Luckily, 'Haunted Holidays' is a case of the former. Apart from some reservations with Velma, the characters are very engaging and drive the narrative and mystery very well. Shaggy and Scooby are particularly well done, while Fred and Daphne are similarly likable and the supporting characters are no less interesting.
Voice acting is terrific, Frank Welker, who has been voicing Fred since the beginning, is still going strong and his Scooby voice is growing on me. The standout is Matthew Lillard, who, when he first started voicing the character from the start of the post-Sander/Schwartz era, had big shoes to fill from the late Casey Kasem, which can't have been easy at all, and does a fine job.
All in all, very good holiday fun. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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