Scooby-Doo Where Are You was one of Hanna-Barbera’s biggest successes, if not THE biggest. A mystery series for kids that showed you can do a detective story without murder (good luck finding one for adults–it’s all murders there), it’s a simple formula that only fails when it isn’t used. Four kids and their “talking dog” (although later characters, even in Scooby’s own family, would make it seem like he has a speech impediment) find mysteries all over their town, and later around the world (even Jessica Fletcher eventually had to get out of Cabot Cove), all involving villains trying to scare people with elaborate fake hauntings, monsters, and aliens. As long as they stay with the mystery formula everything is fine. Yes, even when they introduced Scrappy. It was only when they abandoned mysteries during the Scrappy years, or shows like The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby-Doo or Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue, where they started getting it wrong. Sure, I enjoy some of the movies where Scooby, Shaggy, and Scrappy met actual paranormal creatures, but it only really works when tied to a mystery like the early direct-to-video movies. I could frankly do a multi-part article about each of the series but maybe I’ll save that for when Scoob! hits theaters.
While the Variety article I’m using for this commentary doesn’t give a release date, Scoob! is what the other theatrical Scooby films should have been…an animated movie that seems to at least be trying to be faithful to the original while trying something new. I have no problem with this if they do it right. The announcement came during an animated film and television festival in Annecy, France. It will be in CG rather than traditionally 2D animated because computer-generated is the new hotness and apparently they want to turn everything computer animated, even the live action. (For example the Lion King remake.) Speaking for Warner Animation Group were director Tony Cervone, executive VP Allison Abbate, and production designer Michael Kurinsky along with Reel FX’s Bill Haller, the animation supervisor. Reading the article I have mixed feelings about whether or not this movie will qualify, but they’re doing better than most of the remakes out there right now, and I’m hoping it’s a step in the right direction.
(Abbate) added: “A lot of these characters were born from TV or books, come from the world of 2D. So how do we make CGI fabulous motion pictures of the things we would usually see on a smaller screen?”
You could start with 2D. Why does it have to be CGI? She had just talked about the legacy of the series, that the show has always been on TV, although I would add sometimes it was only reruns back when Cartoon Network believed in a variety of programming types instead of wacky comedy with a subversive edge.
One key is not to loose the charm of the original, Cervone argued, getting up from his panel desk to screen with a sense of reverence what he explained was the first ever model sheet of Scooby and the gang in history, drawn by Iwao Takamoto, and visibly carrying a 1969 date.
“When Iwao created Scooby Doo, he wanted to create a very charming dog that was full of personality but wasn’t perfect. So he got a book, found out what are the rules for a championship great dane. Then he broke every rule,” Cervone said, to laughter from the audience.
Cervone talks about how the character was designed to be imperfect, that he was lovable for his personality and his ties to his friends, especially Shaggy. That was where the live-action movie design failed. Scooby’s design wasn’t created with the real world in mind but a cartoon world and attempting to make him “realistic” looking just made him look terrible. While you can update the characters slightly, Scooby is an iconic design, which was a problem when they tried to come up with his CG model
At first, in tests, the animators tried to clean up Scooby, making him more realistic Scooby, taking advantage of CG. They ended up going back, however, to a figure much closer to the original.
“You have to listen to the characters, because they will tell you what they want to do. Scooby and Shaggy just kept telling us: ‘I just want to be Scooby and Shaggy,’” Cervone recalled.
I wish more of these…I’ll just call them “re-creators” realizes this. It might have brought less early hate to the new She-Ra for example, or whatever it is they’re doing to Carmen Sandiego.
There are ways, however, of remaining subliminally faithful to the original, while introducing change. Kurinsky proposed a game. He flicked up on the screen pantone color charts used for characters and then challenged the spectators to identify the characters. Some audience members were able to do so instantly for all the main figures. (They won some Scooby Snacks).
That’s because Kurinsky went back and used the pantone colors of the original. But, when working in CG, applying solid color for a cell painted character isn’t a walk in the park. To get Scooby right, Kurisnky had to create a pantone for the great dane in light, in mid-tone, and in shadows, he said.
At least they’re putting in that kind of effort to make Scooby feel right between animation types. The only other time I’ve seen that is in the Disney Junior Mickey Mouse shows (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Mickey & The Roadster Racers) where Mickey’s ears look like they did in 2D from the side, a way to keep the same Mickey profile from all angles. It’s one of those attention to detail things that may or may not be necessary but is welcome so long as they aren’t counting on Easter Eggs for nostalgia but are actually trying to make something faithful. Of course we should actually look at the one released image of his design.
Okay, it works. We also get a decent fur pattern that’s hard to do in a 2D cartoon, but that’s really the only benefit here. Scooby looks okay but what about the rest of the gang and their slick ride?
One way to update “Scoob!” was costume and props. Character design modified the cut of Shaggy’s shirt. The psychedelic Mystery Machine van took on more tech stuff on its roof. Daphne was given a dress that “felt like it was from 1969 in a more contemporary way, kind of high end,” Kurinsky said.
WAG and Reel FX created a “fashionable jock version” of Fred, gave him a smart phone but – shock horror – took away his trademark orange Ascot neck scarf.
The article’s writer, John Hopewell, doesn’t seem to know that this isn’t the first time Fred lost his ascot. It’s not a must-have I guess although it his is particular fashion quirk, like me wearing hats outside of the house, but it didn’t hurt him in the early direct-to-video animated movies or What’s New Scooby-Doo. It was only added back into his wardrobe recently as creative teams wanted to put them back in something resembling their classic look as early as Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated and some of the more recent movies. They tried changing Shaggy’s shirt before but like Shaggy himself said, “why mess with a classic look”? During the 13 Ghosts and made-for-TV movies he went with a red shirt but it otherwise looked like a shirt he’d wear before going back to classic green for Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island. I’m curious to see what the teched-out Mystery Machine will look like but we have on occasion seen computers or other gadgets inside the van. (Not counting the Wacky Races style doodads they stuffed into it for Be Cool, Scooby-Doo of course.)
“‘Scooby Doo’s’ original animators couldn’t do full-blown ‘Tom and Jerry’ type of animation, however. They were on a limited budget. There was things in the animation that I’m sure that they would have wanted to do,” Haller said. He hoped that “Scoob!” will now finally do some of them, capturing “the softness in Scooby Doo’s jowls, how soft and pliable those ears are, the loose lips.”
Apparently Hopewell also didn’t bother looking up how to spell Scooby’s full name right and I would think the editor would have fixed the replacing of quotation marks with italics for the names, but it’s not like I don’t make my own mistakes. I also don’t have an editor and make $0 on this site. (Less if you factor in the annual URL fee I have to find a way to pay in October.)
Anyway, that distracts from Haller’s statement about what he’s “sure that they would have wanted to do” and that now he will. Scooby’s had higher budget animation productions from some of the more recent shows to those direct-to-video movies I keep mentioning. I’m not sure he really needs to mess with much. This is why following only the original cartoon may not be the best solution. Sure, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and Be Cool, Scooby-Doo don’t have the art style they’re going for, Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue was ironically clueless, Mystery Incorporated had a darker tone except for that one dream episode where Scooby teamed up with other HB mystery solver team sidekicks (although I wouldn’t call Captain Caveman a sidekick since he was the one to catch the bad guy and save the Teen Angels), but the rest were all good examples of how to animate the gang right. (Unless I missed one.)
Then finally the article gets to the really important detail: the story. That’s where most of these remakes are failing, not in the character design. While they couldn’t say much (this is a work in progress after all), we got a few hints.
Ultimately, much of the originality of “Scoob!” will come from its plot set-up. It’s an origin story. “For the first time ever, see how a little homeless puppy first met a young boy named Shaggy to form one of the most famous friendships of all time, and how the two of them went on to help launch Mystery Incorporated,” Warner Animated Group promises.
It adds: “The film takes audiences to the four corners of the globe and will reveal something amazing about Scooby-Doo’s true heritage and destiny that will shock everyone – including Scooby-Doo – and. have an unexpected impact on the world.”
What is it these days with Hollywood lying about being first at stuff? Meteor Man had an all-black cast superhero story long before Black Panther, Captain Marvel was not the first female superhero or action hero (Ripley, Sarah Connor, Alita, Wonder Woman’s movie came out first…we’re ignoring Uma Thurman and low-budget movies like the Cynthia Rothrock filmography), and this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Scooby’s origin. Maybe on the big screen and learning his heritage might be something new depending on where they go, but both A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and the live-action prequel TV movie The Mystery Begins covered the formation of Mystery Inc and how Shaggy and Scooby met. It’s not new ground.
In another departure, its all-star ensemble cast features Will Forte as Shaggy, Gina Rodriguez as Velma, Zac Efron as Fred, Amanda Seyfried as Daphne and Tracy Morgan as Captain Caveman. Frank Welker – who, remarkably, worked on the 1969 original – returns as Scooby-Doo.
I’m admittedly curious how they’re getting Captain Caveman into this, but why are they using these people? If you’re doing an animated Scooby movie why not use the current animation voice actors? You’re even using one. Welker replaced the late Don Messick after Casey Kasem for some reason got Scott Innes pulled off for his Shaggy portrayal (Innes voiced Shaggy and Scooby at one point, Kasem returning for What’s New–long story) and the current voice is Matthew Lillard, the only good casting choice from the terrible live-action theatrical movie. Otherwise Welker has always been Freddy Jones. Mindy Cohan has done a good turn as Velma (although I think she has a different VA now) and Grey DeLisle has been Daphne for years. Why are you not using these people and have the celebrities (which Cohan is since she was on The Facts Of Life and Lillard has done plenty of movies besides Scooby-Doo) play the guest roles? I’m also not sure about Morgan as Captain Caveman because his voice doesn’t really match and I don’t see him sounding anything like the late Mel Blanc. We started out strong but we seem to be falling as this goes on.
Yet it is the care and craft of the animation and direction and production, described in terms that not only fascinated but moved an Annecy audience, which ensures that, in ultimate terms, it still channels much of the charm of the original.
We haven’t actually seen anything except color matching and an admittedly good conversion of Scooby.