How Scoob! Gives Spooky New Life to Beloved Characters
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! debuted way back in 1969. Created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears for Hanna-Barbera Productions, the show skillfully combined comedy, mystery, supposedly supernatural shenanigans and weird, of-the-moment cameos, all housed inside a groovy, minimally animated aesthetic. Since then, Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and, of course, Scooby-Doo, have barely taken a breath, starring in a number of additional series, spin-offs, direct-to-video movies, a pair of live-action features and an episode of Supernatural. But now the Scooby Gang will be back on the big screen for the first time since 2004’s Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed with Scoob! – and you’ve never seen them like this.
ComingSoon.net was lucky enough to be invited to the Warner Animation Group offices in Burbank, where we saw a handful of scenes from the new movie (opening May 15th) and were able to chat with director Tony Cervone, who has been involved with the Scooby-Doo franchise since 2008. Up until we walked into the conference room, surrounded by production art and character designs, the movie was still largely a mystery. After our tour through Warner Animation Group and seeing the footage, we have a good idea of what to expect from the highly anticipated new movie.
“This is an opportunity to animate Scooby and Shaggy and the gang [how] they should have been animated, the way they could have been animated,” Cervone told a select group of journalists. “No one has ever seen this – including me. This has been a great opportunity to make a big, fun movie and animate it in a way that’s never been done before. This is the greatest Scooby-Doo animation that’s ever been done. It’s shocking sometimes.”
Getting a feeling for the movie’s setting was hugely important to Cervone. “As a long-time L.A. resident, I wanted L.A. to be represented. Like Spider-Verse was set in New York, this one is clearly set in L.A,” Cervone said, referencing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for the first (but not last) time that day. Based on everything we saw, from the footage to the concept art, the team behind Scoob! is aiming for that Into the Spider-Verse/Lego Movie style of self-reflexiveness and potential surprise (anybody can show up!), with Scoob! wrapping everything up in the familiar trappings of an origin story.
“We see why this weird group of mystery-solvers formed to begin with. Then we go into a mystery that is more personal than one we’ve told before because the key to the mystery is one of the gang,” Cervone explained. “We go all over the world, we meet other Hanna-Barbera characters that we get to reintroduce in a fun way, and if we get to do more of these movies we’ll introduce more of those characters.” (That’s another way that Scoob! looks to follow in the footsteps of The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – by inspiring a new animated franchise.)
And, true to these introductory goals, the first section of the film we saw had Shaggy meeting Scooby-Doo, who is then an unnamed stray on the streets of Venice Beach. Shaggy is clearly lonely (he even listens to a podcast by Ira Glass about solitude), eventually coming upon Scooby, who is getting hassled by police. (We finally learn that he was named after Scooby Snacks and not the other way around!) And the two fast friends share a sandwich on the beach. Later, Shaggy shows Scooby his room (littered with Easter Eggs, for sharp-eyed viewers) and gives him his iconic dog collar. It’s simple and sweet but there is definitely a very modern edge (the movie opens with 2Pac and Dr. Dre’s “California Love”) with truly stunning animation courtesy of Dallas, Texas-based animation house Reel FX (a studio that has a long history with Cervone and Warner Animation). On Halloween, Shaggy and Scooby (dressed as their favorite superheroes Blue Falcon and Dynomutt) meet the younger versions of Fred, Velma, and Daphne, as they investigate a haunted house (and possibly make a huge trick-or-treating score).
But the Shaggy-Scooby (eventually voiced by Will Forte and Frank Welker) relationship is one of three human/canine pairs in the movie, with the other two relationships being between superhero Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) and the villainous Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) and Muttley. “They’re all really strong relationships and they are different and reflect on one another,” Cervone said. “It’s not an accident that we have three dog-and-human pairs.”
The second sequence that was screened had the grown-up version of the gang in a diner. “You have to give the audience what they want but that can’t be the only thing you give them,” Cervone said in his introduction before the sequence was screened. “This origin story is more, this bigger story is more, this modern version is more. But it’s the same.” This sequence also includes a truly bizarre celebrity cameo and, for some reason, Shaggy and Scooby singing “Shallow” from the recent, Oscar-winning version of A Star Is Born. The sequence showcases the great dynamic between the gang, with the new voice cast of Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, and Forte really shining through. They’re all great, embodying the characters we all know so well in a fresh way while still remaining familiar.
In fact, Cervone has a theory about where Scoob! takes place: “I do think there are different timelines within the property, but this is a different timeline. This is a slightly different universe, it’s not the classic universe and it’s not the Mystery Incorporated universe.”
The next sequence follows what happens when Shaggy and Scooby are mysteriously abducted (leaving the rest of the gang to search for their whereabouts). Instead of a UFO, though, they’re beamed aboard the Falcon Fury, the high-tech spacecraft used by Blue Falcon, Dynomutt and Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons). “It’s so beyond the state-of-the-art, there isn’t’ a single button or switch in the entire ship,” Cervone told us. “Everything is holographic. It’s manned by a holographic crew. We took inspiration from luxury yachts.” And it really is cool: it feels very much like the Enterprise from 2009’s Star Trek. And the dynamic between Dynomutt and Blue Falcon isn’t something that you’d expect (it’s too good to ruin here).
Following this sequence, we were shown a scene aboard Dastardly’s ship the Mean Machine, which Cervone compares to “the inside of an old PC.” He’s separated from Muttley, so he has created an army of little robotic servants. And he’s after Scooby. (For reasons that they didn’t reveal to us on our tour/preview.) We do know that he’s after the skulls of Cerberus, alluding to the mythological beast, which will undoubtedly bring about certain doom for our favorite mystery-solvers. “This is a bigger adventure story than it is a typical mystery story,” Cervone tantalizingly promised. This final sequence was sharp and intense, while still being funny and suspenseful – basically all the things you expect from a Scooby-Doo mystery.
But with Scoob!, Cervone and his team seem to have elevated it to something beyond simply what you’d just expect. Everything we saw that day was unexpected – it was bigger, better, more beautifully designed than every – and it pointed towards a movie that will be able to attract new fans to the franchise while paying homage to everything that came before it in a really exciting way. After seeing the footage, it’s going to make the wait until May even longer.