INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
Don Knotts. Phyllis Diller. Josie and the Pussycats. Mama Cass. The ghost of Paul Revere.
That’s a wacky list, and it’s about to get even wackier: You can add WWE ‘s John Cena, AJ Lee, Triple H, Kane, The Miz, Santino Marella, Sin Cara and Brodus Clay to the notable names, both real and fictional, who have teamed up with Scooby-Doo and the rest of the Mystery Machine gang. In the direct-to-video animated feature Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery, Scooby and Shaggy become involved in a mystery during Wrestlemania, WWE’s biggest show of the year (in both the real and fictional world). There’s a monster, and the WWE Superstars — voicing themselves — lend a hand; veteran actor Charles S. Dutton even appears as a character named Cookie.
Director Brandon Vietti , who co-created the Young Justice animated series, among multiple other DC Comics-based projects, is the, er, ringleader of Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery, and said it was “pure joy” to bring John Cena and Fred Jones into the same world. In an interview with Spinoff Online, Vietti discusses the “loads of fun” he had helming the feature, the inspiration taken from past Scooby-Doo team-ups, translating the muscle-bound WWE performers into the Scooby style and the still-secret DC project he’s working on.
Spinoff Online: Brandon, there’s a lot of inherent fun to be had with a project like Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery, but there’s also the task of taking that premise and making an animated feature out of it. How challenging was that? Did you find the two worlds meshed fairly naturally?
Brandon Vietti: Scooby-Doo and the world of WWE are a perfect combination, so I can’t describe our task of crafting this movie as challenging — it was pure joy! We’re always looking for new adventures for Scooby and the gang, and the world of WWE was fertile ground for a truly unique story. The characters from both sides are larger than life and so well defined that they almost write themselves. They only needed a little push into each other’s worlds and suddenly a Scooby-Doo movie like no other was born.
It was no trouble at all to fold the WWE characters into a traditional Scooby mystery, and it was loads of fun dropping the gang into the world of WWE. And the WWE world is so vast and has such a rich history that I think we only scratched the surface in terms of the number of story possibilities we could work with. In fact, if there was a challenge in making this movie, it was restraining ourselves from exploring all those possibilities to keep our movie length around 80 minutes.
The WWE is not unlike another world you’re familiar with, superhero comic books — it’s got a base of devoted fans, and may seem incomprehensible to outsiders. Were you a WWE fan going into this project? And if not, did it take much research to get up to speed?
I am a big fan of WWE, and I know the world very well. I spent a lot of years watching all the shows and events religiously. I don’t get to follow it as much as I used to because I spend a lot of my time making cartoons these days but it was easy work to drop back into the weekly WWE shows and get up to speed on the current stories and new Superstars. I was even able to attend the 2012 SummerSlam event in Los Angeles prior to starting the Scooby project. I probably don’t have to tell you that “field research” doesn’t get any better than that.
The most intensive research I did for this movie was searching out video reference for wrestling moves. As with superhero powers, each Superstar often has their own signature moves, and I tried to make sure we worked those moves into our movie. The WWE fans are great about posting videos online of their favorite Superstars’ signature moves and I was able to use those videos as pose reference in the storyboards and animation.
On the other side of that question: You’ve worked on a lot of famous characters in animation but this is your first time with Scooby-Doo. Going into this, did the property hold a lot of significance to you?
Like many kids on the planet Earth, I grew up watching Scooby-Doo reruns from the original ’69 series and I loved them! So getting to direct a Scooby-Doo movie was nothing short of a dream come true. For inspiration, I went back and watched all of those first season episodes again as I worked on this movie. Gotta love the classics!
This feature is firmly in the tradition of unconventional Scooby-Doo team-ups, a la Batman and Robin or the Harlem Globetrotters. Did those team-ups serve as direct inspiration?
Everyone that knows Scooby remembers those team-ups! They really left an impression. I think it’s because the Scooby team-ups often involved real-life celebrities. It’s one thing when cartoon characters cross over into each other’s shows but when guest stars from the real world show up in your favorite cartoon world it’s just mind-blowing for a kid! At least it was for me. So, yeah, those original Scooby team-ups were an inspiration for me and I hope WrestleMania Mystery will be the same mind-blowing experience for a new generation of Scooby fans.
And like the Harlem Globetrotters, while somewhat larger than life, the WWE performers are real people, who voiced themselves in the feature. What was the process like of bringing them into an animated world?
All of our Superstars are already experts on a microphone as you can see and hear when you watch them at any WWE event. So they all seemed to feel right at home in our recording booth as our voice director, Collette Sunderman, and I recorded them. However, designing them into the movie proved to be a challenge for us. In trying to keep with the well-established Scooby style we went back and researched old model packs for reference on how to draw heavily muscled men in a classic Scooby style. It turns out that Scooby has never had guest stars as large and muscular as a WWE Superstar! So we had to blaze new design trails into the world of Scooby-Doo for these larger-than-life Superstars.
On Batman: The Brave and the Bold, you dealt with lighthearted, humorous material — do you see Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery as having a similar sensibility?
WrestleMania Mystery falls in nicely with the same comedy sensibility that fans expect from a Scooby-Doo movie. Scooby comedy has evolved over the years as each writer and director has a turn with the characters but ultimately it all feels cut from the same cloth. I think we’ve worked into our movie comedy elements from many eras of Scooby for fans to appreciate.
You’ve also got personal experience mixing unexpected pop culture figures together, with The Batman vs. Dracula. Do you see that as preparing you in any way for this?
I can’t point to The Batman vs. Dracula directly as preparatory material for WrestleMania Mystery. Especially because the Batman/Dracula crossover wasn’t played for laughs like the Scooby-Doo/WWE crossover.
Finally, any chance you can hint at what you’re working on next? It’s been a year since the beloved Young Justice series finished its run — any plans to return to the DC world?
Yes, I am back in the DC Universe! I can’t announce the project I’m working on yet but I’m really excited about it! It’s an entirely new thing for me and not connected to anything I’ve done in the past. I can’t wait to discuss it but it will have to wait a little longer.
Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.