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Mitch Watson

Thank you to Mitch Watson for taking the time to answer all of my questions and for all of the info he gave me throughout the SD:MI series.

Mitch Watson
Mitch Watson is a writer, producer and actor. He was the Producer of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. In addition to producing the show, he also was a writer and voice actor for the series. Mitch has worked many other shows, including All Hail King Julien, Beware the Batman, R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour, Freakazoid!, Duckman: Private Duck/Family Man.

ScoobyAddicts.com: What is your dream project?

Mitch Watson: I would love to do a TV show based on the book GEEK LOVE by Katherine Dunn. It is my favorite book of all time and would be perfect for a totally messed up live action or animated TV show.

ScoobyAddicts.com: What drew you into the world of production?

Mitch Watson: I was broke and waiting tables. I had been writing plays with an LA based company called THE ACTORS GANG (Tim Robbins, Tenacious D) for years and really loving it but it didn’t pay the bills. During the production of my second play a man I knew from the improve comedy world named John McCann saw my play and asked if I’d like to write on the show FREAKAZOID which he was doing with another improv connection of mine, Paul Rugg. I quickly said yes and that job basically opened the door for me.

ScoobyAddicts.com: You have produced or written for shows like Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated!, Beware the Batman, Ben 10: Race Against Time, Duckman, etc. Do you have a favorite show you have worked on? What makes it your favorite?

Mitch Watson: Mystery Incorporated is my favorite, although the current show I am working on ALL HAIL KING JULIEN for Netflix is catching up. Mystery Incorporated was a great experience for many reasons. The first being it allowed me to combine my two great loves which are comedy and horror. We were also allowed to really push the show into new territory by Sam Register and Peter Roth. They wanted to the show to be darker, and scarier, and they wanted the humor to be more sophisticated. The original show is a classic and always will be, but it really hadn’t been reimagined since the beginning. Myself and Tony Cervone, and in the second season Mike Ryan wanted to make a show that stayed true to the original HB tradition, yet stand on its own. We went back to the source material and answered a lot of questions (like how old the kids were, who were their parents, where did they live) that had been hinted at but never fleshed out. We also played with the arc types, the relationships between members of the gang (which fans either loved or hated) and why exactly there were so many hauntings around these kids. We also combed through the blogs and to see what people really wanted to see. It was just great. We had a blast constructing that world.

ScoobyAddicts.com: Can you describe the process of producing/writing an episode of SD:MI from start to finish?

Mitch Watson: In the first season the process started with myself and Tony Cervone and then in the second season Mike Ryan was added to the mix. Usually Tony and I would go to lunch and just begin throwing out ideas for whatever episode we were on. I would pitch scenarios while Tony sketched out ideas for the monster. The big story about the PLANISPHERIC DISC and the original MYSTERY INCORPORATED was worked out in advance of this. We worked out the story for all 52 episodes ahead of time so we knew what pieces would go in which episodes. When that was done, we then broke the monster of the week part of the episodes. That way the episodes could be stand alone as well as be part of a larger two season story. The series was always intended to be two seasons, which is how we knew exactly how it would end before we started.

After we break a story, we pitch the idea to the studio. If they sign off, I (and in the second season Mike Ryan as well) beat out the episode on paper or a white board. If it is a freelance episode we get the writer in (there was no staff on Mystery Incorporated, just me the first season, and me and Mike the second season). We walk the writer through the beats of the episode, answer questions or incorporate any ideas they have, and then they go off and write the outline which takes about a week. Once the outline is submitted and approved, the writer goes to script. We give about two weeks for a first draft. Most of the time after that the writer is done because Mike and I did all the rewriting ourselves to make sure the continuity of the characters and the big story was tracking.

Once the script is approved, we record it with the cast all together in one room so they could play off each other. After that, we cut the “radio play” to time (around 16 minutes to allow for action that would come at the boarding stage.) Once the radio play is done the storyboarding begins. Boarding takes between two and four weeks with revisions throughout. Then we build the animatic, matching the audio to the storyboard in a computer, adding temp effects and music. After watching a rough cut we rewrite and reboard anything that isn’t working. Depending on the show we do multiple passes on the animatic until everyone is happy and it is down to time.

At the same time the design team is creating the character models and backgrounds for the episode.

Once everything is ready, it is all packed-up and shipped overseas for animation which takes between 2 and 3 months. When the show comes back it is pretty much done as we are limited to how much new animation we can do. Most of the time we fix mistakes with editing, or some tricks in AFTER EFFECTS. Once the final animation is cut to time, I sit with the composer and spot the score for the episode as well as sitting with the sound effects and foley people to work out the sound effects. The last piece is getting the actors back in to fill in any missed or changed dialogue, as well as adding screams, falls, panting, etc. Once all the pieces are in place, we go to a sound studio and mix it.

And that’s it. From start to finish each episode of Mystery Inc. takes about 9 months. Usually we have 4 or 5 episodes going at the same time in some stage of completion.

ScoobyAddicts.com: Can you describe the most difficult part of working on SD:MI?

Mitch Watson: The most difficult part is getting ideas shot down because they were too difficult to pull off or the powers that be thought the idea was too scary or weird, etc.

ScoobyAddicts.com: Do you have a favorite Scooby episode/movie/character/villain? What makes them your favorite?

Mitch Watson: My favorite episode is the HP LOVECRAFT episode we did because I am a huge Lovecraft fan, and also because my buddy Harlan Ellison – one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time – agreed to play himself in the episode, a real honor for us.

Favorite character is hands down Prof. Pericles, not just because we had a ball writing him, but because the actor UDO KIER who played him is a fantastically interesting guy who has worked with everyone including Warhol. His stories about Hollywood back in the day are amazing. He also loved to flap his arms like wings when performing the character, and once when his shirt was making noise over the mic, he performed the whole episode topless.

ScoobyAddicts.com: What do you think life would be like if you were stranded on an island with Scooby and Shaggy?

Mitch Watson: I would imagine it would be pretty great until the food ran out, at which point Scooby and I would probably have to eat Shaggy to survive.

ScoobyAddicts.com: Do you enjoy writing, acting or producing more? Why?

Mitch Watson: I like all three but my favorite is writing. I like the fact that I can do it whenever or wherever I want. No one has to give me permission. It is just a great escape for me. Acting is fun but writing is really my thing. Producing is work, but if you are a control freak like me you have to also produce so that no one messes up your stuff. If someone is going to ruin my work it is going to be me. Dare to fail.

ScoobyAddicts.com: SD:MI was 2 seasons. If you could have created a 3rd season, what would you have done differently Iwith the show? Would you have ended it differently?

Mitch Watson: I wouldn’t have ended the show any different. Tony and I always intended it to end like it did. We did actually work out what would happen if there was a third season (which they wanted overseas where the show was a global hit but unfortunately it never happened.) If you’ve watched the whole series you know that SDMI was a prequel to the original series in the 60’s. Our plan was to pick up the third season with the gang driving off to meet Harlan Ellison at college and solving mysteries along the way with many of the classic monsters popping up. We were also going to introduce a brand new long term mystery that revolved around the college. We had it ready to go but unfortunately two seasons was it.

ScoobyAddicts.com: What memorable responses or feedback have you received about your work on SD:MI?

Mitch Watson: We got a lot of great feedback. At first people weren’t sure, especially some of the changes and relationships we had with the main characters. Velma seemed to garner the most hostility, but if you track her storyline from start to finish, you can see what we were doing with her. We very specifically wanted to show a young, bright girl trying to figure out how she fits into the world. Velma is smarter than everyone, which makes it hard for her to be patient with people. She is also confused by what she wants in a romantic relationship. Over the course of the story we can see her figuring all this stuff out, and in the end making some decisions about who she is. I just loved her character because it felt like she had an arc for a real teenager to me, not a cartoon girl. High school can be tough when you are different and we wanted to show a character successfully make her way through that without compromising who she is.

The other really great thing about the show – which Tony and I predicted – was that the fan base would grow as the years went by. SDMI is more popular now around the world than when if first aired. Every year we read a new article where someone has discovered it and added it to their top 10 shows. This especially spiked when they started airing all the episodes on NETFLIX where – according to Netflix – it is routinely their most popular download for Cartoon Network shows, even beating ADVENTURE TIME. People were finally able to see the show in continuity and get a chance to find all the Easter eggs we hid which is what we always hoped would happen.

ScoobyAddicts.com: Any plans for any Scooby projects in the future?

Mitch Watson: Not for me. I have moved on to DREAMWORKS and my new show ALL HAIL KING JULIEN, which I encourage everyone to watch because it is AWESOME! Mike Ryan is also on the show with me. I do know Tony Cervone has jumped back into the Scooby world to do the SCOOBY DOO MEETS KISS direct to video which is great. Beyond that I don’t know what his plans are. We have both said that if they ever did finally decide to do a third season we would both like to be involved, but so far there have been no talks about that so we will just have to wait and see.