Today, we are lucky to have Jordan Farrell with us for an interview, the writer, director, and animator of his own fan film, Scooby-Doo! The Backstage Rage (you can see more about the film and my review of it here). If you're missing the fan spotlights that I did in September for the 50th anniversary, this interview is sort of in that same format (with some of the same questions). My questions appear in bold, while Jordan's answers are in regular font.
1. How did you originally get into Scooby-Doo?
When I spent a good majority of my childhood in the UK, which I find funny because that's one of two countries to my knowledge, where Scooby-Doo happens to be VERY popular, my family didn't go to the movies a lot, so we had a lot of VHS tapes of old movies, mostly from the 80s and 90s, and I remember one tape being something Scooby-Doo, “Where are You?” to be exact, so much like mostly everyone, my first exposure to the franchise was the show that started it all, after that i got hooked and still am to this day.
2. How did you get into animation and script writing?
Well, for my whole life, I've been obsessed with movies and shows, and I remember watching films like “Gremlins”, “The Dark Crystal”, and “Forrest Gump”, and I realized that I wanted to make movies or write stories. When it comes to animation, I'm very fond of 2D animation, anime, and stop-motion animation. The one animated film that got me wanting to make animation my career was “Castle in the Sky” by Studio Ghibli and the master himself, Hayao Miyazaki. That also helped me form my own personal values of storytelling and animation.
3. Do you have a favorite episode and film of Scooby? Why are those your favorites?
It solely depends on the era, obviously my #1 favorite Scooby film is “Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island”, it’s dark, memorable, the characters are expanded upon very well, great villains, amazing and memorable soundtrack, the animation by Mook is breathtaking and I am surprised that film never got a theatrical release at its time. I also have other favorites such as “Witch’s Ghost”, “Alien Invaders”, “Moon Monster Madness”, “Samurai Sword”, “Abracadabra-Doo”, and “Camp Scare”, and I have the same reasons for those like I have with “Zombie Island”, another thing is that those films done something bold, new, unique, refreshing and game-changing for the franchise in my opinion, those are the type of Scooby films that always attract me the most.
As for a favorite episode, for “Where are You?” it’s “Scooby-Doo and A Mummy Too”, that episode scared me the most, especially the white dots on the mummy’s eyes and the way the mummy ran, I was also in a phase where I was into “The Mummy” trilogy starring Brenden Frasher, I would also love the do a modern adaptation of that episode one day. Other favorites from other shows, “What’s New”, “Toy Scary Boo”, I enjoy the whole size doesn't matter element and evil dolls/toys have always been a particular aspect of horror that I enjoy and I will say that episode kinda influenced my film in some shape or form.
4. What was the process behind writing this film?
It was around the time when I finished my 2nd live action short, that I wanted to make another film and after many failed attempts, I had gotten my Adobe programs at the time, and a tablet and one day, I put on Scooby-Doo for some kids I was babysitting and then the idea hit. I immediately started writing the film back in early March 2018 and finished the script in May 2018. During that period, I had already cast my Scooby gang and announced the film on Facebook in April 2018 and launched a page that same day. I sketched, inked, colored, and animated and did the mouth movement all by myself all on Adobe Photoshop. My friends, Johnathon Romero, Sandra Sands, and Thomas Byrd who voiced Fred, Velma, and Mr. Pietro were also producers on the film as well. When it came to casting my very special cameos, I just simply messaged ToonGrin, Dr. Wolfula, and That Long-Haired Creepy Guy if they wanted to provide a cameo for the film and they said yes. When it came to voice acting, it started around July 2018, two months after animation production had begun. We started with the voice of Scooby, Jacob Gomez and he was a lot of fun to work with, Harrison Garcia was my first choice as Shaggy and immediately got the part and he was excellent to work with. The rest took around a few months to a year to get voice work done. I worked on this whole movie on a laptop on a kitchen table. Otherwise, it was a fun and unique learning experience.
5. Do you have a favorite character to write for? Why?
Well, for main characters/established characters, Shaggy has always been my favorite character in the entire franchise, so when it came to approaching this film as a Shaggy-centered film, I did not hesitate to flesh him out as much as I could, I wanted to make this somewhat of a character study for Shaggy and also exploring a lot of his past and exploring what caused his major anxiety, and that’s where I made the choice to give the villain a more deeper connection to Shaggy’s past. As for minor characters to write for, I quite enjoyed writing Fred and The Ghost Girl, one was giving something new for Fred and found it refreshing to make him the comedic relief this time around, The Ghost Girl was a new original character I created for this film and I loved the way I approached it which I think helps give this film a more deeper and artistic experience.
6. If you could work on any show or movie in the world, what would it be?
That could apply to any show/movie I'm into at the moment, but I would love to show run my own official line-up of Scooby films and a show also. Anything from Cartoon Network also. I would love to make a movie on Gremlins, The Mummy, or Karate Kid.
7. Do you have a favorite villain and why?
The Black Samurai from “Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword”, he’s got an excellent detailed backstory for a Scooby villain, the fact that this guy used to be a noble and heroic person is what stood out to me the most, and that his very own apprentice betrayed him and caused something into the sword he created and transformed him into a dark and sinister force of evil, and his design is so cool and unique and the way the film ends his character was both satisfying and bold at the same time for me, I also love the film’s unique mythology at the same time.
8. In your opinion, what is the best series (or era) of Scooby-Doo?
Well, I could easily say the original “Where are You?” series, but personally I would say “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated”, it has a cool ongoing storyline, excellent character development, a much darker tone, and the animation is amazing and great music as well, it feels as if everything the franchise has built up to, and the series helped reinvigorate the franchise more and more of my casual friends who weren't into Scooby-Doo tell me that they love the show, and my film does borrow heavily from that aspect.
9. What was your favorite part of the movie to write?
Besides Shaggy’s character arc, I think I liked that I was retelling an old Scooby story and doing my own reboot continuity at the same time, the fact that I call my Scooby gang, “The Mystery Five”, which is a reference to what the show was originally going to be called, and the fact that I have it take place at a time where they have only been solving mysteries for half a year at this point. I liked putting my own vibe and tone for it and giving the characters new aspects of their personality. My favorite aspect of writing the film was combining all the 50 years of the franchise and meshing it into a new timeline that I created. I like the call it either the “Grim” timeline or the “Mystery Five” timeline, or the “New Coolsville” timeline.
10. What was the most difficult part of making the movie?
Mainly the time/scheduling issues when trying to get actors to come over/send their lines in, it took us around 8 months to get all of Daphne’s lines, also, I went through 2 laptops, one I had to get rid of, and the 2nd I currently have. Also, there was a lot of figuring out certain aspects of the film that worked and wind up not working. But other than that, it was a long but rewarding process.
11. At the beginning of the film, it says that the film is inspired by the works of John Carpenter. For those not familiar with him, how was this film inspired by his work?
Well, John Carpenter is a well known filmmaker in the horror community and film buffs alike, he’s known as the creator of the Halloween franchise, The Thing, Escape from New York, The Fog, etc. We mainly used elements from the first Halloween film and The Fog, mostly in tone and atmosphere, in the nightmare sequence with Shaggy, he looks out his window to see The Puppet Phantom hiding in between sheets hung outside, staring and Shaggy, he then turns back to the window only to see him gone. The shot is a direct nod to the scene where Jamie Lee-Curtis does the same thing and looks out the window to see Michael Myers. Another shot is where a fog grows near the end of the film and every time something sinister happens in the film, the colors everywhere would change to a very trippy aspect, that is a nod to the sinister scenes in The Fog. Another reference to Halloween is that the villain’s presence is there but you don't fully see what he looks like until the 2nd half of the film.
12. Though it was a very horror-focused film, your movie had a lot of comedy as well. What was your favorite joke in the film?
I liked writing jokes for Shaggy’s dad, I think it helps flesh out Shaggy’s life outside of mystery solving, and I also liked writing for Fred, it was nice to portray him as the bumbling egotistical leader, especially my first trash can joke as well, I also took inspiration from Stifler and his mom from the film American Pie too basically portray Shaggy’s mom as the major laidback and bubbly woman who Fred had the hots for and loves to rub it into Shaggy's face. I especially enjoyed writing Shaggy’s dynamic with Fred as well, as I've always assumed that they have a longer history before they met Daphne and Velma.
13. Besides John Carpenter, were there other specific inspirations that made this film have such a horror movie-like tone?
I looked at a lot of horror movies, mainly ones that took place in the 80s, “Dead Silence” for how the puppets were designed, “Dolls”, and “Puppet Master” for how the puppets behaved, “A Nightmare on Elm St” and “It” for our version of The Puppet Phantom, we looked at more Stephen King works, can't remember which, anything with a kids on bikes approach to it and a small town. The goal was to make this feel like a horror film from the 80s. We also looked at a lot of anime for the more comedic and dramatic moments for characters such as “Clannad” and “Another”.
14. What was your inspiration behind making the Hex Girls such prominent characters in the film?
Well, they are one of my favorite characters from the franchise, and I always remember getting excited whenever they were announced to appear in new Scooby material and the fact that they haven't appeared in anything Scooby-Doo related since “Mystery Incorporated”, and last time I recalled, they were supposed to appear in an episode of “Be Cool, Scooby-Doo”, but don't know what happened. Also the fact that I was turning a 22 minute classic episode into a full length feature film, so that gave me the opportunity to add more characters, and when it came to The Hex Girls, I always liked that they were chill with Shaggy and Scooby a lot, and so when I decided to make them childhood friends, I knew I had something. I looked at a lot of anime and the one cliche that anime has is the childhood friends trope. Thorn I wanted to explore the most especially since she’s the leader and I do have plans in case we get to make a special that focuses on Dusk and Luna. And since I added them in my film, I wanted them to have as much screen time as possible to make it count.
15. What made you redesign Thorn's outfit?
Well, since “Mystery Incorporated” took some creative liberties with The Hex Girls' outfits, I figured why not do that with my versions, I always like redesigning characters in my style while also never abandoning their core aspect. This version of Thorn also has a much different personality than the original does, a goth girl with a cutesy voice, and I wanted the design to reflect that, so I looked at a lot of punk rock and pop music singers from the 80s and borrowed a bit of Madonna’s hairstyle and boosted it up in an over the top anime look, the two hair strings that come out of her head is influenced by the character Nagisa from the series “Clannad”.
16. Why did you decide to make Shaggy and Thorn a couple in the film? Did you previously ship the pairing, or was there some creative thinking behind the inclusion of this pairing?
Well, in my idea for the show, I made the whole Thorn crushing on Shaggy a running gag and I like to imagine this film taking place after the supposed first season, as for them as a couple, they never are officially a couple in my film even by the end, there’s hints of that, but I chose to leave it open for interpretation until we make more Shaggy-centered stories, we do have plans to add Googie, Crystal, and Madelyn in the future in OVA specials to play off an Archie-esque vibe with Shaggy’s arc in my timeline. So, at the moment, they are back as close friends and we’ll see where it goes from there, I never shipped them before, but when it came to creating this new version of Thorn, i thought it was interesting to explore for my universe, I mean the OG Thorn from “Witch’s Ghost”, “Legend of the Vampire”, “Mystery Incorporated”, would never date Shaggy, they are so completely opposite, but this film’s version of Thorn, probably depending on where we go with this saga. There was a lot of creative thinking of making these new versions of the characters as far back as 2015 when I first came up with the idea of doing my own reboot of Scooby-Doo.
17. In one particular scene of the film, a police officer stares at Flim Flam for selling his Lotsa Luck Joy Juice. Is this an implication that Flim Flam's product is some sort of illegal substance?
Nah, we all know that Flim Flam is a con artist and I would say that this version of the character likes to buy/steal a 7-up soda, take the labels off and re-sells them as his own, he’s the troublemaking kid who doesn't get arrested but the cops calls his parents on him, so I like to think that he has a recurring history with them like “here’s that brat that’s selling stuff he doesn't own the rights to”.
18. What made you choose "The Backstage Rage" as your inspiration for making this film?
When it came to picking something to do a remake of, because I've never seen Scooby-Doo retell a story from the past into modern day, so I decided to make my film an adaptation of it, so I had a hard time deciding on what to adapt and then the episode popped on the tv when I had Scooby-Doo on and then the idea hit, the villain and tone was still creepy to this day, there was also this untouched potential it had for a film and I had so many ideas popping in my head, and I knew I had my source of inspiration.
19. What was your creative process behind diving deeper into the Puppet Phantom's backstory? In other words, what made you decide to expand upon the original character?
Well, since this was a feature film that expands on the story of a 20 minute episode, I noticed that The Puppet Phantom didn't have a backstory, like, at all, so I took the opportunity to give him a deep and detailed backstory and especially when I made the choice to [SPOILER ALERT] make the monsters real, and I mean REAL where people do die, I took inspiration from the anime Berserk and Devilman on the friendship that Mr. Pietro had with The Phantom before he transformed. I also looked into a lot of other horror icons like Freddy Krueger and Pennywise for the personality of him and I wanted to make his design to resemble a rusty creepy rotten looking puppet and heavily emphasized his yellow eyes and dark hat and cloak, since those are the stand out aspects of his original design. I wanted this villain to be an extreme disgusting nightmare for the gang, a villain that showed no limits and goes as far as to killing people. I wanted to make this villain even more freaking scary, I wanted him to be HORRIFYING.
20. What do you think has made the franchise so popular that it’s still going strong after 50 years?
The fact that the characters have fun distinct personalities, it appeals to everybody of any age, it always experiments with itself to something bold and new, and it's a group of kids solving mysteries and spooky monsters. I also say the camaraderie with the gang is also what stands out.
21. What direction would you like to see the franchise go in the future?
I would like them to go back to the real monsters approach again, experiment more new aspects of the franchise, take new risks, maybe see an adaptation of the “Scooby Apocalypse” comics, but most certainly I would love to see maybe a remake of an episode or two of some classic Scooby stories into movies like what I did.
22. Do you have any advice for anyone who is looking to go into the world of writing or animating?
Well, all I have to say is the creative process is a very long road and task, but what will help you is that you need to have a passion for it, you don't just create a 2 and a half hour animation all for nothing, you do it because you LOVE the craft of storytelling and animation, you HAVE TO love these aspects, it’s helped me get through and it will most certainly help you as well, also, read and watch a lot of stuff, even stuff that you may not like, analyze what you watch and read, what makes it good, what makes it bad, what makes it special and form it together and write something, also draw a lot, as much as you can. And most of all, have fun doing it.
23. Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Absolutely, we already announced a 2nd film titled “Scooby-Doo! Waters of Atlantis” and that will have a more fantasy adventure vibe with Daphne as the main character, and you can watch the teaser trailer here. You can also follow our Facebook page for future updates and such, and because of my work on my film and gotten me special offers and gigs for other video content. I had the opportunity to voice some characters in an episode of my friend’s webseries “LEGO Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated”, which you can watch the whole series on YouTube to catch up to the season 1 finale special “The Vasquez Mystery” which I not only guest-star as myself, but I also designed the logo for the episode and drew a poster for the special. I’m also a producer on the fan film “Saga of the Swamp Thing”, which is made by my friend who helped out on my film. I also got some original films of my own coming that aren't fan films coming soon as well, and I got an original romance slice of life webcomic series coming soon also. Thank you for your time and for having me here today and be sure to rewatch my film again in the meantime while all of this is coming soon.
Thanks so much to Jordan for taking the time to answer all my questions, and be sure to check out his new fan film, Scooby-Doo! The Backstage Rage here.