Exclusive: ‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You Now! special’ to be like ‘Friends: The Reunion’ but with a twist: Director Jonathan Stern

Jonathan Stern

The classic Hanna Barbera characters, the four teenage mystery solvers — the confident Fred, sophisticated Daphne, intelligent Velma, and cowardly slacker Shaggy and their easily frightened but often hungry dog Scooby-Doo — have been entertaining the world from the past 52 years in the various forms, right from animated series, live-actions movies, comic books and more! And now, the mystery gang is all set to make a comeback ⁠in a Scooby-Doo, Where Are You Now! Reunion Special on 29 October on The CW. Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby-Doo will be seen investigating a mystery while celebrating the legacy of the franchise during this one-hour special.

Hosted by Janel Parrish (Pretty Little Liars), special guests joining the Scooby gang include author Jerry Beck, Karamo Brown (Queer Eye), producer Tony Cervone (Scoob!), Seth Green (Family Guy), Olivia Liang (Kung Fu), producer David Silverman (The Simpsons), animator Tom Sito, Mitch Watson (Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated), “Weird Al” Yankovic and Cheri Oteri (Saturday Night Live). Jonathan Stern writes, directs and executive produces the special. 

Speaking about how Scooby-Doo and his friends have been enthralling the viewers over the years with no signs of slowing down, Stern shared with AnimationXpress, “The things that made Scooby-Doo characters work well 52 years ago are the reasons that they still perform well today. We all have been watching it since we were kids. They are spectacular, original, unique characters and each one is a fully developed unique character. I can challenge that everyone can say by closing their eyes exactly how they walk, how they  react, what they wear etc. This fandom is never ending. Scooby-Doo is similar to James Bond II, the John Connery; he never ages and never stops playing James Bond.”

Here is the excerpt of the interview:

How is the new Scooby-Doo, Where Are You Now! animated special different from the existing Scooby-Doo content?

The characters in our Scooby-Doo reunion special are modelled after the original designs from 1969. During the 70’s and 80’s, Scooby Doo character designs remained exactly the same but some evolution in designs happened in the 90’s and 2000’s; many voice actors got replaced but everything about them remains exactly the same. In live-action movies like Scooby-Doo: The Movie and 3D animation Scoob!, the creator just did the window dressing and what makes it different is the basic surface level stuff. In terms of writing the characterisation of the characters, that has never changed. However, while writing for Scooby-Doo special, we were able to take advantage of a sophisticated audience; in fact Scooby-Doo has more adult fans than kids who appreciate this cartoon on a different level. In our special there is a lot of slapstick humour and mere jokes related to how Scooby-Doo characters react and adapt in the current times.

Credits: Abominable Pictures/The CW

What is the idea/inspiration behind creating this nostalgic Scooby-Doo special?

(Laughs) It is kind of funny. There is no specific reason to make this special, it’s just we all want to see more Scooby-Doo shows. We just thought ‘It’s time for a special’, so we created this special.  

There is a wave of reunion specials on TV right now. Rather than doing a classic clip show, we thought we would create something awesome and here we are, with the Scooby-Doo reunion special!

With comedy being your forte, what kind of gags can the audience expect from this special?

In this reunion special, Scooby-Doo characters are returning back to Warner Bros. Studios to reminisce where they had their production, where they were being filmed, and how they have been working for more than 50 years. So on a deeper level we do not really see Velma, Fred, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby as characters but as professional actors who are recollecting their happy and bad times at Warner Bros. backlot. Here, one can see how these characters are playing professional ghost hunters, however, they have the same name, personalities and character traits. We added a lot of jokes and humor about what it is like to be an actor playing an iconic role from 50 years and rather than being in some haunted mansions or out in the spooky world, this time Scooby and the team stick together at Warner Bros. backlot. Fans can enjoy a lot of classic comedies featuring the iconic Scooby characters.

This is your first time working on an animated show. How was the overall experience? What were the key details you had to keep in mind? 

I have certainly done many pilots but it didn’t go before but Scooby-Doo, Where Are You Now! Reunion special is the first to come out and this is a hybrid live-action and animation special. Making the live-action work with animated characters created a different rhythm and tone than all animated versions. The live-action actors acted more cartoon-like and cartoon characters acted like human, but during the making, it takes a lot of faith as these elements are created at different backgrounds, time, places and the people; all have to come together in the end as live-action and storyboards are going to be developed into animated characters. We just have to trust the process that they will all come together, but not being able to see things happening in front of your eyes and everything taking place in your mind and hoping everything will line-up and fix is a little bit challenging.  

Credits: Abominable Pictures/The CW

Tell us more about the upcoming special; what will be the storyline and what should the audience expect from it?

It is the 52nd  anniversary of Scooby-Doo, the cast members Velma, Fred, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby come back to Warner Bros. backlot to relive the moments they enjoyed together. This special is more like a F.R.I.E.N.D.S reunion at first as they reminisce about how they made the show, original auditions, some outtakes and share their bonds and memories. The producer of the show has brought them here because the studio is haunted and she needs their help in that haunting. However these characters are not qualified for this as they have never done ghost hunting in “real life” but the producer convinces them and says, “Well you’ve been doing these stories 1,000 times in 52 years, you know this better than anyone else, you have to solve this finest monster.” And that’s how it becomes a classic Scooby-Doo story.

Can you throw some light on the process of executing the idea and finally the animation?

The idea was unusually born out of watching reunion specials going on and I have just watched the F.R.I.E.N.D.S Reunion special. It was so revealing and we wanted to tell the story of the Scooby-Doo cast who have their own behind the scenes stories. While writing the special we visited the backlot with the head animator, storyboard artist and walked around the backlot. One of the fine aspects of imagining a show and putting it altogether was the big chasing that happens in the prop house. The studio prop house has 100 years of prop history, so it was interesting to imagine what the gags would be like if the ghost was chasing Scooby and Shaggy in the prop house. We acted as the ghost for Shaggy and Scooby to know what their physical gags were.  In this special for the first time you will witness the animated Shaggy and Scooby hiding around live-action props.

How has the experience been working with Warner Bros. Animation?

It was quite exciting and wonderful to work with Warner Bros. I have already worked with them and I know a lot of people over there. The animation department just loved the Scooby characters. They broaden more jokes, more ideas, they keep the characters faithful to who they are. Sometimes if I get off track, the voice actors keep me honest, sometimes when I give them dialogues they would say, ‘Shaggy never says that’. Look out for the cameos of other Hanna Barbera characters!

What challenges did you face while coming up with this animated special?

One of the biggest challenges is to work in a hybrid animated live action show. There is so much to improvise and we keep on making changes till the post-production. In terms of writing, I kept re-doing the script throughout the show. Another challenge is how to make Scooby-Doo special different and inexpensive from other Scooby shows but stay faithful and not break the rules. The rules for Scooby-Doo are universal and we can’t break the rules as the audience won’t accept it if we break them.     

 Does the original voice cast reprise their role in this special or will a new cast join in? 

The voice actors in this special are the same artists who have been lending their voices for the last several years. Frank Welker, the voice of Fred and Scooby, has been doing the voice of Fred since day one. Matthew Lillard is doing the voice for Shaggy, so these voices are a bit familiar.

Lastly, any exciting projects in the pipeline? 

Our new comedy series, which is about a police murder, Moroville is coming to Netflix in few months and I am also working on a couple of projects.