The world premiere of "Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery" was presented to Comic-Con International attendees in the legendary Hall H. The two-hour event was moderated by writer and actor Kevin Smith, who introduced the animated feature to the crowd and then led a lively -- and sometimes playful -- panel discussion.
The event featured all four current members of the rock 'n roll band KISS, the first-ever appearance of the entire group at Comic-Con, as well several of the creators and actors behind the animated film. In addition to KISS band members Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer, and Eric Singer, the panel also featured actors Matthew Lillard (Shaggy), Grey Griffin (Daphne), Pauley Perrette, Jason Mewes, producers/directors Tony Cervone and Spike Brandt and screenwriter Kevin Shinick.
The 70-minute feature, which is mostly animated in the classic Scooby-Doo style, was well-received by the Comic-Con audience. The plot involves a theme park, KISS World, that is being terrorized by a witch-like creature, voiced by Perrette. To get to the bottom of the rock and roll mystery, the Scooby-Doo gang teams up with KISS to investigate.
The members of the band all voice their own parts in the film, which features five classic KISS songs as well as a new track. Many of the concepts and character names are borrowed from the group's extensive catalog of song titles, such as "Black Diamond" and "Beth," while their iconic on-stage personas are distilled down into simpler caricatures that blend in with the world of Scooby-Doo. While Scooby and the Mystery, Inc. gang look no different from the way longtime fans remember them, there are some modern-day touches. CGI animation gives a decidedly different look to some of the more spooky aspects of the story, and the differences in these animation styles clearly pay homage to classic comic book artists like Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko.
Smith began the panel by asking the cartoon's creators how the idea of having these two franchises meet came about. "I took a lot of cough syrup and had a fever dream," Shinick jokingly responded.
"Scooby-Doo and KISS are two American pop culture icons that belong together, and we knew it would work out," said Cervone.
KISS' Stanley supported the notion, adding, "Putting two icons together gave us the chance to do something bigger than either of us."
Lillard echoed the above sentiments, stating, "When you get these icons together and you can make stories that kids can relate to, it's just fantastic."
"When [Warner Bros.] asked me if I wanted to do Scooby-Doo and KISS, I just said yes," said Perrette. "I didn't even know what they wanted me to do."
Smith made a personal observation that his favorite Scooby-Doo episodes were those that teamed up the characters with other franchises, such as Batman and Robin. "It took forty years for KISS to meet Scooby-Doo," said Smith. "I'm twenty years into 'Jay & Silent Bob,' so I'm hoping in another twenty years, Jay and Silent Bob can meet Scooby-Doo." Smith's long-running duo do appear in "Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery" in one sense as both Smith and "Jay & Silent Bob" co-star Mewes have cameos in the opening scene as a pair of amusement park workers. Smith and Mewes semi-playfully addressed the competitive nature of their brief roles as characters only referred to as Worker #1 and Worker #2 by the panel.
"Dude, I never get to talk in anything," Smith, who plays Worker #2, pointed out to Mewes. "We got to do the rollercoaster screaming; I gave a performance I was proud of, because I wanted to be Worker #1, and then you bettered it." Griffin attempted to comfort Smith, bluntly chiming in and telling him that "being #2 is the shit."
Wearing a shirt adorned with multiple patches bearing the familiar KISS logo, Shinick eagerly discussed his excitement about working with the band. "I used to play with a Gene Simmons doll and have him say certain things," said the writer. "Now I'm getting paid to make [the real] Gene Simmons say things. There are certain things you except to see KISS say and do."
"I used to have a Gene Simmons doll too, but made it do very different things," said Griffin. As Simmons sat silent and grinning in the aftermath of Griffin's remarks, moderator Smith retorted, "Do tell!"
Smith asked the four members of the band what it was like to do their own voice acting for the film, and all spoke positively about the experience. "I'm always comfortable in front of a microphone, because I'm not the ham, I'm the whole pig," Stanley elaborated, to the laughter of the crowd. "But I found it different because I wanted to create the animated version of the Starchild different from what I am on stage, so it had a slightly different timbre to it." Decades as KISS' frontman undoubtedly gave Stanley the confidence to try his cords at voice acting, and that experience also led him to briefly work the panel's crowd the same way he has done countless times during the band's concerts. Stanley motioned to each section of the Hall H crowd, urging them to cheer on command. Stanley then leaned into the mic and confidently boasted, "I can also part the red sea."
Stanley pointed out how the band's early involvement in the comic medium helped set the stage for this collaboration. In reference to the first KISS comic, "Marvel Comics Super Special" #1 which featured a cover boasting that it was "printed in real KISS blood," Stanley reflected back to the band's involvement in this creative effort. "We flew to upstate New York, and ceremoniously poured our blood into the vat of red ink [at the printer]; and I was very happy they didn't ask anything for the yellow." When the crowd's laughter subsided, Stanley continued. "KISS has always tried to put our heart and soul into everything we do. We've always been KISS, but we've also separated into an iconic entity." It was that iconic status that Stanley felt helped make this team-up possible.
Simmons referenced that same flight and the band's -- or at least his own -- love for comics and animation. Simmons said that he "grew up geekier than any of you out there," to which Stanley silently nodded in affirmation. Simmons spoke of the band and their management sharing the flight with Marvel's Stan Lee. Simmons said that his star-struck younger self put his foot in his mouth when he made an inadvertent disparaging remark about Lee's late brother, Marvel artist Larry Lieber. Simmons wasn't enamored with Lieber's style, but, despite that faux pas, Lee subsequently sent an encouraging note to an up-and-coming Simmons.
Smith didn't let this seeming ingratitude go unaddressed, observing, "Stan sent you a postcard saying that you will do great things, and you said you suck at your job!" Simmons corrected Smith by again stating that it was Lieber who he felt was not so great, to which Smith fired back, "Stop saying it!" A mildly perturbed Simmons tried to deflect the debate by noting that the discussion was moot since Lieber was dead. Smith got in the final volley by concluding, "It's the Painfully Obvious Hour with Gene Simmons." The entire exchange was enjoyed by the audience, and Simmons was able to get to his point about how creators of art need to inspire the next generation, as Lee had done for him.
Simmons continued with his story about the band's involvement in other media. "Our relationship with Hanna Barbera goes back to the '70s. They produced 'Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park,'" he said, reminding the audience of the infamous and oft-maligned 1978 television movie. "This was a motion picture on the level of 'Gone With The Wind,'" Simmons added sarcastically.
"More like 'Passing Wind,'" added Stanley.
"We also appeared with Scooby-Doo for the first time in the '70s," Simmons continued, in reference to an older episode that featured the bands likenesses but not their characters. "Since then, we've been proud to have been on 'SpongeBob,' 'Family Guy'... When Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. said we're going to make a real super Scooby classic, we wanted to break the doors of time and go where no band has gone before. We protected [the essence of KISS], but other than that, the creative geniuses at this table created the best 'Scooby' movie of all time."
With the panel running short on time, Smith turned to Simmons and stated that he was going to open the mic to questions, jokingly adding, "Unless you want to shit on Stan Lee's brother one more time."
A fan then complimented all involved on the film, but stated that he felt it had a similar plot to "Phantom of the Park." Simmons and Stanley dismissed this similarity, but Shinick noted that there were some similarities on a different level. "An amusement park setting made sense in the Scooby-Doo world, so we had a second chance to do what might have been lacking from that earlier movie."
Cervone picked up on the thought by adding, "Some of the visual and sound effects were the same as those used in 'Phantom of the Park.' They were KISS Easter eggs that we buried in our movie."
Stanley turned to Shinick and asked, seemingly serious, "If you're a fan, can you tell me what 'KISS Meets the Phantom' is about, please?" Also seemingly serious, Shinick replied, "About an hour too long."
"Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery" is available digitally and on Blu-ray and DVD now.