SUSPENDED ANIMATION #263
What happens when you combine a popular, long running live-action television series with a popular, long running animated television series? The result was Scoobynatural that first aired March 29th, 2018 as an episode in the thirteenth season of the series Supernatural.
First broadcast in 2005, the Warner Brothers series Supernatural features brothers Sam and Dean Winchester hunting demons, ghosts and other supernatural beings. The Hanna-Barbera Scooby-Doo characters who hunt supposedly supernatural menaces first appeared on Saturday morning television screens in 1969 followed by numerous spin-off television series, movies and direct-to-video projects.
Scoobynatural was a loving combination of these two series that received critical acclaim for being true to both of the two different “worlds”.
Scoobynatural features live action segments at the beginning and end with Sam and Dean dealing with an unscruplous real estate developer trying to take over a pawn shop.
They are given a free television that is actually haunted and for most of the episode the two heroes are transported into the animated world of Dean’s favorite episode of the first season of the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You series entitled A Night of Fright Is No Delight that originally aired January 1970. It takes place at eccentric millionaire Colonel Beauregard Sanders’ mansion but with some very significant changes.
Dean wants to keep the Scooby gang innocent and free from the knowledge that monsters are real so it allows the episode to play out with the tone and feel of a genuine Scooby-Doo adventure including the iconic chase through the hallway of the mansion and the door gags. Sharp-eyed viewers saw a quick cameo by Scrappy-Doo in that scene.
Among the changes from the original animated series is that an actual ghost is actually hurting and killing people so suddenly there is real danger involved in the situation. The Scooby Gang didn’t start encountering real ghosts until the series The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo (1985). The Winchester brothers team up with the Scooby Gang to try to solve the mystery and get back to their own reality.
“Growing up on the road, no matter where Dad dragged us, no matter what we did, there was always a TV,” Dean tells Sam. “And you know what was always on that TV? Scooby and the gang! These guys, they’re our freaking role models, man. Except Fred; he’s a wad.”
The live action was directed by Robert Singer and the animation by Spike Brandt who among other credits co-directed the straight-to-video Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo film and the 2013 State Farm Insurance commercials with Scooby-Doo.
The Scooby-Doo characters were voiced by Frank Welker (Fred and Scooby), Matthew Lillard (Shaggy), Grey Griffin (Daphne) and Kate Micucci (Velma).
“In the writers room, Eric Kripke and Ben Edlund would always be like, ‘Can we have an animated character?’ But doing that from scratch is a lot of work,” executive producer Andrew Dabb told Variety at the Paley Center for Media’s PaleyFest event in Los Angeles, California in March 2018.
Dabb had a friend named Jeremy Adams who worked in Warner Brothers animation and asked one day if they had ever considered using Scooby-Doo since the characters in the show had already referenced the animated series.
The character of Jack watches a first season episode of Scooby-Doo entitled That’s Snow Ghost in The Rising Son. Dean hopes he and Sam can meet Fred and Daphne in The Playthings. Dean watches the first season episode Hassle in the Castle in Regarding Dean.
Since Warners owned both of the series, they allowed the producers to create a pitch. Adams brought an idea to Dabb in November 2016 which was great timing since in January 2017, the show received an early season thirteen pickup.
The writers immediately began working on a script because of the long time it would take to animate.
The voices were recorded in April 2017. The animators created two-dimensional cartoon versions of Dean (Jensen Ackles), Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Castiel (Misha Collins) to fit into the Scooby-Doo visual style as well as Dean’s iconic Chevy Impala.
“There was an instant energy that was different than anything we had done before because the three of us had never sat in a recording studio together,” Ackles said. “Obviously we work together a lot, but we’d never been in that situation. And it’s animation, so you know you’ve got to go a little bigger. So over-enunciating words and singing life into words is certainly different than what we normally do.”
Cameras captured the behind-the-scenes of the recording, and that footage was included in the Season 13 DVD extras. The DVD also included a deleted scene for the episode where a disguised Castiel, Shaggy and Scooby serve the ghost dinner, ending with Castiel sprinkling the ghost with salt, a ghost weakness. It becomes enraged, forcing them to drop their disguises and flee.
While producers saw the first animatics around the time the actors were recording their dialogue, the rough cut of the full animation didn’t come until the summer of 2017 and saw the final animation in January 2018.
“What we wanted to make clear was our guys are in an episode of Supernatural but the Scooby Gang are in an episode of Scooby Doo with all the rules,” Dabb said. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t crossovers and revelations and things like that, but there were certain things, obviously, that Warner Bros. doesn’t want — like Thelma beheading a vampire.
“There are more steps to this process — animatics, voice recordings — and you’re getting feedback along the way, but we’ve been along so long that, to their credit, they trusted us and let us have some fun.”
It was still considered a regular episode of the live action series with all the elements familiar to its mythology but with the added twist of exploring the animated universe of Scooby-Doo. Over two million viewers watched it when it first aired.
“As you’ll see, from the very first shot in the episode, it’s light,” director Singer said of the tone, “but the idea that our guys hunt real ghosts and [on] Scooby it’s usually a person in a sheet, we’re very true to Supernatural. The Scooby gang isn’t quite sure how to deal with it when they [think] it’s a real ghost.”
Warner Bros. consumer products spent a year designing special merchandise specifically that reflected both “worlds”.
“It is a charming and very funny episode,” Supernatural executive producer Brad Buckner added. “It’s like the better meta episodes, where you have fun with what the show is and now you get two shows to tweak. There’s a certain amount of expertise on a certain brother about what Scooby world is, and we have fun with that.”
Jared Padalecki said, “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we’d do this. I grew up watching it, so to hear that animated you is going to be on the same screen with the Mystery Machine [is] super cool. I want to do a Scooby-Doo season. Scoobynatural, all 22 episodes.”