Those who grew up with all the original incarnations of “Scooby Doo” probably have a better understanding of why the Hanna-Barbera style of animation had a charm all its own. Usually known for being a budget animation studio that provided a more primitive form of cartoons, it didn’t take away the ability to create an appeal that somehow translated to the viewer. If most of that was the voice actors coming ahead of the animation (Casey Kasem as Shaggy forever), there isn’t a doubt the animation style became influential in how we perceive certain cartoon universes.
The above worked the same way in Hanna-Barbera’s “The Flintstones”, hence giving the live-action 1994 movie a strange feel at first. Once you saw it, though, you instantly warmed to it merely because they recreated it to the finest detail, almost to a point where it looked animated. Also, because “The Flintstones” gave sly nods to pop culture, the live-action movie doing the same thing saved the movie from becoming a live-action/animation crossover disaster.
Other movies that deliberately went live-action after being assimilated into our minds as animation have been a mixed bag. Some say “Josie and the Pussycats” was underrated, mostly because it wasn’t on very long as an animated series. Others like “Popeye” and “Fat Albert” (both products of cheaper animation studios) were complete disasters in live-action format.
It’s clear, though, that superheroes are the winners in being the most lucrative animation/live-action crossovers. That only makes sense since the best of them came after the CGI era and when superheroes were finally allowed to acquire darker personalities. But it seems that the cheaper the animation style originally, the more apt people are to reject a live-action movie.
The “Scooby Doo” live-action movies were a strange exception. After several decades of fans assimilating the familiar Hanna-Barbera animation style in the dozens of “Scooby Doo” TV offshoots, how the first 2002 live-action movie became successful is still a mystery machine on its own. When I saw it later on DVD, it didn’t have half the charm of the animation, especially with a CGI Scooby seemingly not fitting correctly into reality. Because the “Scooby Doo” characters live within reality rather than a more surreal world of “The Flintstones”, the producers must have seen the challenges involved.
Yes, when it comes to how all the “Scooby Doo” characters move and act, we’ve all grown up expecting they aren’t going to walk, talk, or overall interact in the same way people do in the real world. While the 2002 live-action movie tried to keep some of the animation style intact with Shaggy and Scooby’s ham-ups, it seemed a little forced. By the time “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed” released two years later, it appeared many finally realized the mistake of placing Scooby Doo in live-action. Critics were very harsh, yet it still made a healthy profit at the box office.
Based on that, the upcoming reboot of “Scooby Doo” is going forward with live-action rather than animation. And it seems like a gamble based squarely on box office rather than perceptions.
Will Live-Action Prevail in the New “Scooby Doo” Reboot?
One advantage to rebooting “Scooby Doo” in live action is that a dozen years have gone by already since the first live-action movie released. As strange as it may feel to some, that’s enough time for a new generation to be born and assimilate the first film on DVD and its TV airings. In fact, it could have been their first exposure to “Scooby Doo” rather than the classic animated TV series.
Some from Generation X may consider it sacrilege that parents from the same generation would expose their kids to the live-action movie first rather than the initial animated 1970s series “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” In those cases, it may have been by happenstance and the kids catching the movie on cable when the parents were gone, or on Netflix.
Ultimately, a new fan divide may have developed for the “Scooby Doo” franchise. It’s a warning of what might happen when an animated series sticks around long enough. Once it gets turned into something different 40 years down the line from its original vision, a new generation may assimilate that first and think of it as canon rather than what their parents initially saw.
In that regard, the live-action reboot will probably be successful once again. And the parents will probably see it with them based strictly on the familiarity and perhaps catching the sly nods to the original series. For the older generation, the latter may be the only thing saving classic animation being turned into live-action movie franchises.