Fifty years after Scooby-Doo first premiered, director Tony Cervone figured it was high time to tell the story of how everyone’s beloved talking dog first met his future best friend, Shaggy, in the all-new animated feature, Scoob!
“Scooby-Doo premiered in 1969 and has been on the air ever since. I believe there are 19 different TV series based on him to date,” argues Tony Cervone, who spent several years working on Scoob! before realising that Scooby and Shaggy have always been the most important players in the Mystery stories and how come we don’t really know how they met?
“We kept thinking of different storylines and every time it was the relationship between Scooby and Shaggy that interested us the most,” he says.
“Then we started asking questions about how did they first meet and how did they meet the gang? What was their first mystery?
“It didn’t start out as an origin story but then it became the only thing that made sense – putting their friendship at the emotional core. This is a big, giant, goofy adventure movie but with friendship at its heart.”
If Spider-Man is synonymous with New York City, then Cervone wanted to place California at the centre of the Scooby-Doo universe with scenes from Beverly Hills and Hollywood.
“Growing up in Chicago, I learned all about California from Scooby-Doo but sometimes that has been forgotten in different adaptations,” he says.
If Scooby-Doo fans are familiar with the young adult versions of the fab five, then Scoob! takes audiences back to their childhood, where a painfully shy Shaggy first adopts our favourite four-legged friend at Venice Beach.
Fast forward and the five – voiced by Zac Efron (Fred), Amanda Seyfried (Daphne), Will Forte (Shaggy), Gina Rodriguez (Velma) and Frank Welker (the voice of Scooby Doo since 2002) – become firm friends, tasked with their first mystery, involving future longtime nemesis Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) and his canine cohort, Muttley (Billy West).
Delighted by his all-star voice cast, Cervone says, “Everyone pushed their roles a little bit. It’s important the characters remain who they are but it’s interesting to let the actors do their work. Gina’s Velma is not the same as everyone else’s Velma and Zac Efron’s Fred is not the same as Frank Welker’s Fred but it’s still Fred. A lot of people have played Hamlet over the years.
“Zac was always my first Fred. He has great voice skills. Fred is not the brightest character in the world but he is earnest and believes everything he says so you want an actor who can do those things with his voice,” he says.
A long-time Scooby fan, Efron says, “I always felt that Scooby was there. When I wanted to relax and go to my safe zone, there was this group of teenagers that you could look up to, that went on benevolent missions to help people and solve crimes.”
As an adult, he remains a fan and even has his own Mystery Machine. “I love vans!” he laughs. “When I was growing up, my grandpa had a van, one of those pop-top Westfalia camping models. I wanted to turn it into the Mystery Machine. But now I have my own van, a [Mercedes] Sprinter, which I take all over.”
With Fred, he wanted to keep it real. “He’s a real earnest, honest character but he’s still a lot of fun. When I was watching it as a kid, Fred felt like the safest; like he could handle his business and lead the gang,” says Efron.
Gina Rodriguez was the first among the Scoob! cast to sign on, telling Cervone four years earlier how she wanted to become the first Latina Velma.
“I think everybody loves an origin story. Audiences would be curious about how this group of friends got together and now they get to see that,” she says.
A lifelong Scooby fan and dog lover, Amanda Seyfried enjoyed the challenge of creating a more relatable Daphne. “My first memory of Scooby-Doo is how comfortable and safe I felt exploring ghost stories. I became really obsessed with ghost stories when I was young. I think it was an opportunity to let my imagination go wild, and the Scooby-Doo group really made me feel like it was exciting and safe to do so along with them.”
In directing Seyfried towards a more sincere portrayal of Daphne than seen in previous iterations, Cervone says, “The two hardest characters are Daphne and Fred because if you go to the old show, there’s not a lot of information – it depends on the decade. There’s karate Daphne; Daphne who loves cosmetics, journalist Daphne… Our Daphne is very heartfelt and empathetic.”
Mark Wahlberg proves his comic chops as the impossibly vain Blue Falcon with Ken Jeong as his sidekick Dynomutt.
“Mark is Brian, the son of the original Blue Falcon. Brian has inherited his father’s costume and his father’s sidekick, Dynomutt, who is very critical of him,” says Cervone.
“But Brian has no idea how to be a superhero and has much to learn, even from Scooby and Shaggy – there’s a good opportunity to learn from those two famous cowards because when two fearful characters face up to their fears and do things for each other, that’s a great influence and example. The joke is that everyone calls him Brian until he finally deserves to be called Blue Falcon. It takes a whole movie.
“Mark has a brand and we have fun with that brand and he really enjoyed rolling with this.”
In the role of Shaggy, Will Forte says, “I don’t ever remember the world without Scooby-Doo. I just feel like he’s always been there. It’s been a part of my life since I was a part of the world.
“It is such an honour to be a part of this movie in general but, to be a part specifically of that moment where people find out how Scooby and Shaggy met, is particularly special.”
And if Scooby seems to talk a little more than previous versions, Cervone points to previous Scooby-Doo history. “Scooby talks a lot depending on what era. The old Mr. Barbera rule was that Scooby should never say more than five words.
But in Scoob! he has a lot more to carry because he’s the star of this movie so he needs to be able to communicate a little more clearly.
“In our world, nobody is alarmed by Scooby or Muttley talking.”