Worlds Collide in "Scooby-Doo and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery"
A Titanic Team Up Years in the Making!
Even after 40 years in the business, KISS is still finding new ways to spread awareness of its rock & roll brand around the world. Lately they seem to be on a mission to induct the younger generation into the KISS Army. In 2015, they went after the Japanese youth market during their 40th Anniversary Tour there by teaming up with the massively popular "J-Pop" group Momoiro Clover Z for a successful single ("Yumeno Ukiyoni Saitemina," a.k.a. "Samurai Son"). Once KISS returned home to the U.S., it was time to re-introduce themselves to America's kids by teaming up with one of their idols - cartoon legend Scooby Doo! The 24th (!) full length feature in the long running series of Scooby-Doo direct-to-video movies, Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery, was released in July 2015.
My 8 year old son loves Scooby-Doo and my KISS fandom runs pretty deep, so naturally when he ran up to me in Wal-Mart with this DVD in his hand, pleading, "Ooh Daddy, look! Can we get this? Come on, we HAVE to get this!" there was no way that I could possibly refuse!
When we sat down to watch Scooby-Doo and KISS, I couldn't help but wonder why it took so long for this collaboration to happen. After all, the band and the 'toon were both insanely popular during the 1970s, and Scooby's creators at the Hanna-Barbera animation studio were also behind KISS' semi-legendary live action movie debut - 1978's notorious made-for-TV turkey KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. (Wait... I may have just answered my own question. Haha!) If you've seen Phantom, then you know that it was essentially a Scooby-Doo adventure with KISS in place of Shaggy and the gang. As it turns out, the storyline of Rock and Roll Mystery does resemble Phantom quite a bit. KISS fans have joked for decades about what a Phantom sequel might look like, and this long overdue animated team up is probably as close as we're ever going to get.
If you want to get technical, this is actually the second KISS/Scooby crossover - the band made a brief appearance in a 2003 episode of What's New Scooby-Doo?, but that was little more than a cameo and Paul Stanley was the only band member who lent his voice. All four of the current KISS members provide their own voices in Rock and Roll Mystery, but in keeping with their larger-than-life mystique, they're never referred to by their "real" names - just their superheroic "character" names. Therefore Gene Simmons is "The Demon," Paul Stanley is "The Starchild," Tommy Thayer is "The Spaceman" and Eric Singer is "The Catman."
The film opens at KISS World, the band's massive, all-KISS, all-the-time theme park (which does not actually exist yet...but I'm sure if Gene Simmons had his way, it would!), where two roller coaster repairmen (voiced by Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes) are attacked by a screeching, smoke-spewing "Crimson Witch." Park owner Manny Goldman (Garry Marshall) realizes that the witch is scaring away ticket buyers and threatening his bottom line, so he puts out a call for the "hottest mystery solvers in the world" to help figure out what's going on before KISS' big Saturday night concert at the park.
Enter the Mystery Machine gang, who are so psyched to be meeting their favorite rockers in the flesh that they arrive at the park in full KISS makeup - except for the perennially dorky Fred, who admits that he's (GASP!) not really a KISS fan - he prefers a clean-cut vocal group called "The Five Ascots." (KISS recorded a short ditty as the "Ascots" exclusively for this film!) Fred likes them even less after his longtime crush Daphne - who's apparently quite the KISS fan-girl, who knew? - takes every possible opportunity to snuggle up to the Star-Child. It must be noted that the cartoon version of KISS is a lot younger looking (and a lot buffer) than their real life counterparts, most of whom are pushing retirement age nowadays.
KISS as "The Five Ascots" - "Don't Touch My Ascot"
The Plot Thickens
The first half of Rock and Roll Mystery follows the same plot as pretty much every Scooby-Doo cartoon ever made - the Mystery Machine gang snoops around looking for clues and bumping into various supporting characters, who then become suspects, along the way. Shaggy and Scooby irritate everyone by constantly obsessing about food, and then the villain suddenly appears and chases everybody around for a while. Eventually KISS reveals their secret super-hero powers to the gang when they battle the Crimson Witch, whom they learn is searching the park for "The Rock" - a huge black diamond (hah!) whose mystical powers are the source of KISS' unique abilities. As an added bonus, the diamond's energies also keep a cosmic bad-guy known as "The Destroyer" (haha!) from breaking through the dimensional wall between Earth and the band's home planet of "KISSteria" (yes, really).
The Crimson Witch gets hold of the Black Diamond eventually, of course, and uses it to tear down the barrier and bring forth The Destroyer. Thus, KISS and the Scooby gang travel to KISSteria to kick some cosmic butt, rock n roll style, aboard the band's giant guitar shaped space craft. (I would like to point out at this juncture that I am not making any of this up.) Since this portion of the film borrows heavily from KISS' 1970s Marvel Super Special comic books which cast the band as super heroes, it makes a strange sort of sense that these action scenes resemble the cosmic battles seen in Jack Kirby's classic Fantastic Four comics of the early 1960s. The stylistic similarity will go over the heads of most of the kids who are watching, but for an old comic book nerd like me, it was a nice unexpected touch. I will not reveal how the story ends but I will say that yes, a character actually says "I would've gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling KISS!" Shoot, I would've been disappointed if they didn't use that gag...
Summing it up
All in all, I enjoyed Scooby-Doo and KISS a lot more than I expected to. Like most grown up fans of the band, I thought the idea was "silly" when I first heard of it a few months ago but the cast and crew obviously put a lot of work into making the movie enjoyable not only for their pint sized target audience, but also for their parents, who will have plenty of fun catching the various in-jokes and KISS references, like the various minor characters who are named after classic KISS songs or album titles ("The Elder," "Chikara," "Shandi Strutter," "Delilah Domino," etc.). My favorite running joke made numerous jabs at the band's notorious merchandising mastery - every time a character needed a tool, a flashlight, or some other random item, KISS' manager would suddenly appear out of nowhere to offer them the KISS-branded version of it...at a grossly over-inflated price, of course!
Another nice touch that only longtime KISS nerds are likely to notice is that when the KISS members "power up" into their super-heroic personas, each one glows with a different color. These colors correspond with their "characters'" background colors on the covers of the 1978 solo albums (Demon: Red, Starchild: Purple, Catman: Green, and Spaceman: Blue.) ...yeah, I know. I need to get out of the house more often.
Nicely animated, frequently funny and packed with a killer soundtrack featuring wall-to-wall KISS music, Scooby-Doo and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery was a great way for an aging rocker and his spawn to while away 90 minutes on a summer afternoon. My 8 year old summed the film up thusly: "Best. Scooby-Doo Movie. EVER!" - and he should know because he's seen most of them. We give it two paws up in a Scooby Snack formation!!