Friends, as I mentioned on the LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga article the other day – while I didn’t feel like writing the typical post on the passing of Joe Ruby – I am compelled to honor him in another fashion. In this case that would be presenting to you the top five best cartoon intros to animated series that were produced by Ruby-Spears. And just as with the likes of Carl Reiner, Ennio Morricone, Max von Sydow, and Sir Ian Holm – it is true that Joe Ruby had a good run, passing away on Wednesday at the age of 87. Although having said that it was kind of great to know that Joe Ruby and Ken Spears were still around – these two pioneers of animated television that forged a lifelong friendship at Hanna-Barbera. It was there at that famous animation studio where the duo helped co-create the likes of Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, Jabberjaw, and of course Scooby-Doo. In fact to lead off our look at the top five Ruby-Spears cartoon intros we are immediately bending the rules – starting off with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! – I figure that since both Joe Ruby and Ken Spears worked on the series it gets a pass.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! premiered on September 13th of 1969 on CBS and while having two seasons worth of episodes – it was continuously reaired until 1976. The popularity of the series led Ruby and Spears to quickly apply the general concept of the Saturday morning series to Josie and the Pussycats, Jabberjaw, and Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels to name a few. Fred Silverman who had originally pitched the concept of what would become Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was at that time the head of children’s programming on CBS – when he moved to ABC in ’75 – he brought Joe Ruby and Ken Spears with him. While the duo weren’t afforded the opportunity to set up Ruby-Spears Productions until two years later – they did have a hand in the likes of Return to the Planet of the Ape for DePatie-Freling Enterprises. A series that might possibly have the most terrifying cartoon intro of all time!
On the other hand, you could argue that perhaps the Ruby-Spears produced Thundarr the Barbarian from the early ’80s had an equally scary intro. I am sure that in the near future we will tackle this classic animated series on an episode of the Pop Culture Retrorama podcast. Nothing like a little production design by the legendary Jack Kirby and the ruin of the Earth in the first 11 seconds to make a kid sit up and take notice, right?
As I understand it, Ruby-Spears was formed to kind of give Hanna-Barbera a run for it’s money on Saturday mornings. It certainly did when Joe Ruby and Ken Spears set their sights on an animated anthology series for CBS – I suppose they noticed that Hanna-Barbera were doing pretty good with Pac-Man for ABC. Instead of one iconic video game character the series would feature segments for such video games as Frogger, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Pitfall!, Kangaroo, Space Ace, and Q*bert.
Our last Ruby-Spears cartoon intro is for an animated series that back in the day… I quite frankly never even knew existed – I’m talking about 1988’s Superman. It features stunning animation and in addition benefits from the “Superman March” by John Williams.
Now Ruby-Spears Productions ceased operation in 1996 – after having been purchased by Taft Entertainment in ’81. The majority of their catalog was sold to Turner Broadcasting just ten years later – along with that of Hanna-Barbera as a matter of fact. But from reading up on Joe Ruby and Ken Spears it sounds like the duo never stopped working on new ideas for animated series – with I believe their last credited work being Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!. So, there are our top five Ruby-Spears produced or at least affiliated cartoon intros – what are some of your favorites?