That there's a new animated Scooby-Doo film in the works isn't necessarily news (Mystery Inc. has been headlining several animated direct to video features for over a decade, now), but keen-eyed observers might have noted something peculiar about the movie's announced cast and synopsis.
In addition to casting Will Forte as Shaggy, Gina Rodriguez as Velma and longtime voice actor Frank Welker as Scooby, the movie will also feature 30 Rock alum Tracy Morgan as Captain Caveman, a character not typically associated with Mystery Incorporated and its investigations. The synopsis raised even more questions, reading, "The story sees the Mystery Inc. gang join forces with other heroes of the Hanna-Barbera universe to save the world from Dick Dastardly and his evil plans...and this time, we are told, the threat is real."
That synopsis indicates that there are more characters to be announced in the days ahead, and they'll be from all over the Hanna-Barbera universe. Dick Dastardly isn't a villain that's typically associated with the Scooby-Doo, for starters, and his and Captain Caveman's appearance might just indicate that there's a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe in the works. The studio did announce such plans in 2016, saying a film called S.C.O.O.B. would kick things off. However, that movie missed its initially-planned release date of September 21, 2018, getting delayed to 2020, which is probably not coincidentally the release year of this newly announced movie. This new announcement might very well be for the movie that instead launches Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe, though the initial news didn't identify it as such.
Dastardly served as one of the main villains on Wacky Races. He was originally slated to be the villain on Laff-A-Lympics, but he was replaced with his twin brother -- the the Dread Baron -- because Hanna-Barbera was unsure of the rights issues surrounding the character. Wacky Races was revived in 2017 and has already aired two seasons, though considering it's only available on Boomerang's video-on-demand service, it's understandable if you were unaware of its return.
Now, the series' main villain is on a collision course with Scooby and the rest of his crew -- but why stop there? This Scooby-Doo movie could may also bring in any number of Hanna-Barbera's iconic characters, including the Jetsons, the Flintstones and Yogi Bear. From there, Warner Bros. could create spinoff movies designed to build a proper Hanna-Barbera Cinematic Universe.
Warner Bros.' dreams of building a successful filmverse to rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been met with mixed success, but a Hanna-Barbera universe might work. There's a lot of nostalgia for these properties, which feature some of the most iconic characters in animation history. Despite their long histories, those characters are incredibly versatile and easily adaptable to different situations. Shows such as Laff-A-Lypmics, which are remembered fondly, managed to bring together disparate characters (albeit in a continuity-free manner), providing a template for a massive team-up film in the style of The Avengers.
Cinematic universes are big business right now, but there aren't a ton that are geared specifically towards children. Most superhero films are geared towards a PG-13 audience, and might just not be the right fit for kids below a certain age, an issue Star Wars also runs into. Although these age ratings don't typically stop kids from seeing these movies, a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe might just be able to capture the nostalgia of adults while helping to introduce an even younger generation to some of animation's most beloved properties. Plus, they'd be much cheaper to produce than blockbuster films.
The synopsis for the upcoming animated Scooby-Doo really makes it sounds like Warner Bros. is creating the first installment in a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe. Here's hoping this is the case, because we're just saying to see Captain Caveman lead a team comprised of Atom Ant, Blue Falcon, Dynomutt, Jabberjaw and Space Ghost.
The upcoming animated Scooby-Doo film is slated for release May 2020. The movie stars Will Forte as Shaggy, Tracy Morgan as Captain Caveman, Gina Rodriguez as Velma and longtime voice actor Frank Welker as Scooby.