Movies

A Very Nerdy Discussion With ‘Scoob’ Director Tony Cervone About His New Film And The History Of Scooby-Doo

As I admitted to Scoob! director Tony Cervone, I was a little skeptical of Scoob!. Primarily because of the title, because it had an air of Poochie in it. Like it was trying to be “cool.” Of course, I tried to say this to Cervone in a diplomatic way – especially since I wound up liking the movie – without bringing up the name “Poochie.” Of course, as soon as I ask this, Cervone was quick to call me out, “You mean it in a Poochie kind of way?”

Yes, there’s an origin story in Scoob! where all the characters are kids, but this only takes up maybe the first 15 minutes of the film before Scoob! transitions with a very clever montage of adventures, which is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? opening credits and theme song. Which is something that many adults will see and it’s impossible for it not to tug at our nostalgia sensors.

Cervone, who has been in animation long enough to have seen it all at this point, is obviously a pretty big Hanna-Barbera nerd and has a million stories. And here, he does share a few of those. Including one about how the assassination of Robert Kennedy led to the cancellation of cartoons that were deemed violent – which put Hanna-Barbera in a position of having to come up with a whole slate of new characters almost instantly. And, yes, one of them was Scooby-Doo.

I wasn’t sure what to expect because with the title — I thought this was going to be a different take. But then the movie won me over early when you recreated the opening sequence from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?.

Well, good. I’m glad that you’re responding to that, because recreating the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? main title really kind of happened late in the game.

That’s surprising.

Actually, the decision to do it took a long time, and then we finally did it at the end – so late in the game that we were like there’s a whole bunch of sets that don’t exist anywhere else in the movie. There’s all of a sudden all those extra characters to create! And we’re like, can we do this? Really, the folks at Reel Effects, who did the animation, they were like, we want to do this. We will figure it out. That sequence is a lot of smoke and mirrors. We only created everything we absolutely needed. Like the spooky space kook can’t animate very much. You could animate only enough for what you’re seeing for like 12 frames.

It seems so natural that’s in there that I would have never guessed that that was a late addition.

That’s Best Coast who recreated the song. It was just right before COVID hit. We’re like, “Are you sure you can do it,” and they’re like, “Yeah, we want to do it.” It was really cool, but everyone really pitched in and came together. It was almost like an extracurricular project to get it done. I’m just saying it just to show you how much people loved it.

Warner Bros. should release that on YouTube or something, to advertise the movie.

That’s a great idea.

Because adults would watch that and be excited.

You know what? I’m going to pass that idea along. I think that’s a really great idea. We were like, well, are kids going to care? We were then like, why wouldn’t they care? Do you know what I mean?

I’ll be honest, when the title was announced, Scoob!… It sounded like it was going to be this hip, cool for kids thing…

You mean it in a Poochie kind of way?

Exactly. But I didn’t want to say that. But that’s exactly what I was thinking. And then I watched it and it is like watching a great episode of Scooby-Doo. I think if people see that opening, adults will be like oh, okay, this is also for me.

Yeah. I think that’s great. As soon as I hang up, I’m sending that email out. I think that’s a great idea. Because, I mean, the whole movie is a love letter to Hanna-Barbera.

Yes, it is.

There are only a couple shots in there that aren’t in Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, which kind of just helped establish Fred’s love of the Mystery Machine. Also, part of it is we wanted to keep Scooby and Shaggy together. In season one, the next shot was Shaggy in a bathtub. But we had so little time, we were like we can’t make a wet Shaggy. So, in season two, they’re in garbage cans in the alley, like we did, so we just stole that shot from the season two opening, not the season one.

I like that back then they decided that they needed to differentiate the opening credits for the second season.

That was Hanna-Barbera. Hanna-Barbera was pretty bold, and I learned that from them, from talking to them. They were just like, try it. You want to try that? Try it. If it doesn’t work, stop doing it. There’s a lot of different animation styles in this movie that are all kind of happening at once, and it made me nervous. Scooby and Shaggy are animated in a completely different style from the rest of the gang. And Dastardly has his own animation style. And Blue Falcon has his own. From an animation perspective, they’re all completely different styles. I was like, is this going to work? I was worried about it for a long time, but then finally I’m like, these are the people who made Laff-A-Lympics. They didn’t care as much, so just go for it.

Laff-A-Lympics was great.

I’ll tell you a story!

Go ahead.

I was animating something once, something with Penelope Pitstop, and I couldn’t really figure out how her head connects to her body. And Iwao Takamoto was still around and down the hall, so I brought my animation over to him, who was the designer of Penelope Pitstop. I described the difficulty I was having and he said, “If I knew I’d be looking at this 40 years later, I would have taken longer than 45 minutes to draw it.”

That’s a great answer.

I don’t mean to say that as if it was a bad design. But they didn’t know they were making classic characters. They were just cranking out classic characters. He didn’t know when he drew that, they didn’t know they’d be looking at Scooby-Doo for the rest of their life. They thought it’s going to live for one or two seasons and be over.

When you look at the Scooby-Doo history, they were trying to make a show about a band that solved mysteries, and the dog didn’t have much to do with it, right? And then they kept getting rejected, and it kept shifting, and then finally it was something that got accepted and that became Scooby-Doo.

Right, and its influences are all over the place. You know the story. There’s actually a great article I just read online in, I believe, on the Smithsonian website, which ties the assassination of Bobby Kennedy to the creation of Scooby-Doo.

What?

Scooby-Doo was created because of a big reaction to violence in cartoons.

Oh, right. Like Space Ghost

Right, and Johnny Quest in particular, but there was a bunch of public anti-violent, public outroar.

I thought you were going to say Sirhan Sirhan watched Scooby-Doo or something.

No, no. Bobby Kennedy thought cartoons were garbage and much too violent. Then, after he was assassinated, there was a giant public outcry that we need to do something about violence. It is one of the things that started that anti-violence movement, which led to the cancellation of Johnny Quest and the green light of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?.

So that’s why they had to come up with stuff so quickly, to replace a slate of other stuff.

Right, yes. That, I knew for sure. I asked Joe Ruby and Ken Spears directly about all that. I know all the stories from them. So, yeah, they definitely were like what are we going to do? We have to stop making what we’ve been making and do something new in like three minutes. Luckily, Archie from the Archie cartoons had also premiered the year before.

Yes, and had a hit song, “Sugar Sugar.”

Right, it had a hit song. So that’s why at one point they were conceiving that it’s kids in a van in a band that would solve mysteries along the way.

And then after Scooby-Doo, then came similar shows like Speed Buggy, which also had a lanky guy in a green shirt.

We had fun with that in Mystery, Incorporated. We took all the Scooby-Doo rip-offs, Speed Buggy, there’s Jabberjaw, and put them all in one cartoon. That was pretty fun.

Jabberjaw is in your new movie. In the end credits.

Yeah. Jabberjaw, Atom Ant, and Grape Ape. They were all in the movie at one point, and then eventually, as we were making the movie, we were like this is a 90-minute movie and we’ve got 48 characters in it. They wound up getting cut out, but they’re ready. They’re on the sidelines ready to jump in. I do consider those end credits as part of the continuing story, so it should be considered canon, I guess. For a moment, the Falcon Fury, the Blue Falcon Ship, was intelligent. And we were going to make it stutter like Speed Buggy. We were going to give it basically Speed Buggy’s voice. Our idea, the behind-the-scenes idea, would have been Blue Falcon bought Speed Buggy at some point and then took his brain out and built the Falcon Fury around it.

That’s a lot to explain to an eight-year-old kid.

Yeah, I know. If you think this movie is nerdy now, there are versions that are mega nerdy.

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