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Scoob! Scoob!

Despite the film being almost entirely finished, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) has made a bewildering decision to scrap Scoob!: Holiday Haunt, the cg follow-up to 2020’s Scoob!

What are the filmmakers saying about Holiday Haunt being dropped by Warner? Directors Michael Kurinsky and Bill Haller issued the following statement to Cartoon Brew:

We both want to say how proud we are of this movie and of everyone who worked on it. We are lifelong Scooby-Doo fans and this was a true passion project for us. We don’t know for certain what the fate of our movie will be, but for the crew and the Scooby fan base, we are hoping for a Christmas miracle. Thanks everyone for all your love and support.

How far along was production when the film was scrapped? During an interview on the popular JayBee & Milly Youtube channel last week, Kurinsky said the film was close to wrapping up and all the animation was finished. On social media platforms this week, several artists who were working on the film corroborated Kurinsky’s assessment of production. Writer Paul Dini tweeted:

Yes, I’m co-writer, but also, why cancel a 95% finished holiday movie this close to Fall, when your guaranteed kids watching it from right after Halloween until at least New Years?  Makes no business sense esp. as both kids & parents dug the WIP screening.

And Tony Cervone, the film’s other co-writer, said on Instagram:

Yes I am afraid this is true. The movie is practically finished and turned out beautifully. I am beyond heartbroken.

How much does Warner stand to lose by cancelling the film? Reports have indicated that the production had already cost Warner Bros. in the neighborhood of $40 million. It seems counterintuitive to just let that investment disappear as sunk cost. Having scrapped the film, the studio now also forgoes any potential box office revenue. For comparison, the first Scoob! film still made $28.6 million worldwide despite being available day-and-date on the HBO Max platform and releasing during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, while most theaters had limited seating or were closed altogether.

When did the film’s crew learn that their work was getting axed? It appears that people working on the film only found out yesterday that Warner was pulling the plug. During last week’s JayBee & Milly appearance, Kurinsky was still speaking enthusiastically about production (linked below). If the director was still under the impression that they were going to finish the film, it seems a safe assumption that the the film’s animation workers at Warner Animation Group in L.A. and Reel FX Animation in Montreal would be equally in the dark.

Why would Warner Bros. cancel a film that is so close to being finished? Several reports have indicated that the top brass at Warner cancelled Holiday Haunt because it did not fit into the theatrical-first distribution plans favored by new boss David Zaslav, the former CEO of Discovery who took over the top job at WB when Discovery and Warnermedia completed their merger earlier this year. Since taking the reins, Zaslav has made a hard shift away from the strategy employed by his predecessor Jason Kilar, who favored a streaming-first approach to distribution. Popular thinking is that the company did not see Holiday Haunt as a theatrical prospect, and therefore it had no place in the company’s distribution plans.

What has WBD said about the cancellation? In a statement referencing both Holiday Haunt and the similarly scrapped live-action Batgirl film, the company said: “We are incredibly grateful to the filmmakers of Batgirl and Scoob!: Holiday Haunt and their respective casts and we hope to collaborate with everyone again in the near future.”

Will we ever get to see Scoob!: Holiday Haunt? It’s hard to say right now. With the film being so close to finished it seems strange, almost unbelievable, that the studio won’t find some way to exploit what it has already made. WBD has given no indication that the film’s shelving is in any way temporary, but Kurinsky is calling on fans to begin campaigning to save the film:

Thank you to all the Scooby Doo fans out there. It means everything to me. Let’s get the word out! #SaveScoobHolidayHaunt #ScoobyDoo #Scoob

Storyboard artist Tom Caulfield quickly jumped on board, and shared some of his sketches from production.

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