Color and music figure prominently in “Scoob!,” an origin story about how the gang on the classic 1970s Saturday-morning cartoon first become acquainted. Warner Bros. is offering the animated film — which features the voices of Will Forte (Shaggy), Zac Efron (Fred), Gina Rodriguez (Velma), Amanda Seyfried (Daphne) and Frank Welker (Scooby) — on VOD starting May 15.
“It was great to find out where the characters meet and what their first mystery is,” says director Tony Cervone. “And it was cool to do it in a big, special and fun way.”
More from Variety
- 'Matrix 4' Cast Adds Eight Weeks to Production Schedule in Wake of Shutdown (EXCLUSIVE)
- 'Scoob! The Album' Soundtrack Features Collaborations Galore
- Europe's Film Commissions Assemble National Safety Protocols as Film, TV Production Slowly Restarts (EXCLUSIVE)
Cervone, an animation veteran, has worked on projects including “Space Jam,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Pinky and the Brain.” With “Scoob!,” his feature directing debut, he mixes classic touches with fresh ideas to help fans hark back to familiar tropes without letting the look get stale. “It’s a dance,” he says of finding the right balance.
Color was one way to achieve that equilibrium. “It’s a colorful show,” Cervone says, “yet so much of the adventure happens at night.”
Cervone collaborated closely with production designer Michael Kurinsky (“Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse”) to develop the movie’s palette, a process that began by devising a color script — a way to map out the color, lighting and emotional beats of an animated film. For “Scoob!,” the script stretched across an entire wall, Cervone says.
Kurinsky’s main goal was to avoid making the movie look photoreal; viewers needed to know they were watching a cartoon. That meant the designer was never afraid to push the color in “Scoob!” because “they were never afraid to push color in the original,” he explains.
Kurinsky had three major environments to design in “Scoob!” — that of the gang, the Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs). “I wanted to give each one of these worlds and the characters in them their specific palettes so that when that character was ‘winning’ or was the one in control of a scene, I would make the lighting and colors reflect that,” Kurinsky says. “The gang’s palette was based on the Mystery Machine colors. Blue Falcon’s is his signature bright blue and Dastardly’s palette consists of violet, acidic yellows and rusty reds.”
Kurinsky also considered relative size and textures in creating his cartoon look. Shaggy, Scooby and the gang meet for the first time while trick-or-treating and stumble across the Rigby House. It’s haunted, but the new friends must enter it to retrieve Shaggy’s lost candy.
“I wanted to give each one of these worlds and the characters in them specific palettes so that when that character was in control of a scene, the lighting and colors reflect that.”
Michael Kurinsky, production designer
“We looked at a lot of the spooky houses that were designed for the original shows and saw that they pushed the proportions of things like the turrets and roof peaks,” the designer says, “so that’s how we approached the exterior of the Rigby House.”
For the interior, he aimed for a claustrophobic feel, making the young gang feel trapped. “We looked closely at the painterly style of the original ‘Scooby-Doo’ backgrounds and asked for things like wood textures to have a bit of a hand-done quality,” Kurinsky notes.
Cervone spent a great deal of time finding the right music for the film. He had a temp score, but “it didn’t sound like what the film should sound like,” he says. Composer Junkie XL (“Terminator: Dark Fate,” “Mad Max: Fury Road”) managed to serve up the film’s sonic duality: the fun, thrilling and scary elements of classic “Scooby-Doo,” underscored with a hip-hop beat. “The music delivers what you expect and takes you places you don’t expect at all,” Cervone says.
The director is particularly proud of a synthesizer-driven horror suite that accompanies the Rigby House scene. “The music cues in that scene hark back to the way it was,” he says.
Similarly, when it came to editing, Cervone leaned into the unexpected. “We use handheld camera movement” to give the film its visceral energy, he says.
Though much of the original series took place at night, Cervone says he wanted to open the film in bright sunshine — the opposite of what audiences typically associated with “Scooby-Doo.”
“I don’t know why,” Cervone allows, “but that meant California to me.” The action is set on the West Coast, with audiences greeted by the 2Pac classic “California Love.”
“You have the beach and the bright colors,” Cervone says. “It was important to ground the story in a real place.”