Ruby-Spears is an animation house that was one of the more prolific animation studios of the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. Studio founders Joe Ruby and Ken Spears started out as sound editors at Hanna-Barbera
in the 1960s, eventually moving up the studio ladder into writing positions. This later led to the two creating the iconic Scooby-Doo
franchise for Hanna-Barbera, though they also played a part in many of Hanna-Barbera's successes before and after Scooby-Doo. (They did not have "Created by" credit on Scooby-Doo
, but they did on Jabberjaw
; they also co-created The Houndcats
and Bailey's Comets
with and for David DePatie and Friz Freleng
.) Their former employer had a great influence on the new studio's output, as the animation style mimicked Hanna-Barbera's tried and true Limited Animation
methods. The visual similarities led to many of the early Ruby-Spears shows, such as the Scooby-Doo
, often being mistaken for actual Hanna-Barbera shows.
While Ruby-Spears did turn out a few original properties, during their heyday they became particularly well known for churning out a great deal of licensed properties. These ranged from animated adaptations of live-action sitcoms, to action shows centered on then-popular film and television celebrities (most notoriously, Mr T
and Chuck Norris
), to the wildly successful 1980s update of Alvin and the Chipmunks
, to a great deal of collaboration with Warner Bros.
to adapt several DC Comics
mainstays for Saturday Morning. This even extended to toys (such as Rubik's Cube
) and video games.
The history of the studio is a turbulent one. After their founding in 1977, they were purchased in 1978 by Filmways
. Filmways sold the company to Taft Broadcasting in 1981, making it a sister company to Hanna-Barbera. Eventually their entire library prior to 1991 was sold, along with Hanna-Barbera, to Turner Broadcasting (later Time Warner), and legeally consolidating the two libraries into one. (Hence why all Ruby Spears dvd's have fine print saying they are owned by Hanna-Barbera) After the sale, the company restructured into RS Holdings. This led to them working on projects such as Wild West COW Boys Of Moo Mesa
, Skysurfer Strike Force
and the American Mega Man
cartoon. The rights to many of these later shows have scattered as their partners absorbed them.
Ruby-Spears output slowed dramatically by the late 1990s, and while the studio still exists today, it's a shadow of its former self and mainly handles some direct-to-video productions. However, like their predecessor, a lot of their cartoons still hold favorably among the public and is often a sort of contention with the Internet Backdraft
List of shows produced by Ruby-Spears:
Tropes common to Ruby-Spears Productions:
- An Aesop: Since so many of these shows were blatant advertisements, most of them were wrapped around morals to try and make them appear more respectable.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Both the Mister T and Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos cartoons used live-action segments to drive home a moral.
- Animated Adaptation: Ruby-Spears was responsible for The Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour, which was the final season of a series of shows adapting these franchises. They also handled Punky Brewster. This doesn't even get into the animated versions of Plastic Man and Superman.
- Episode Title Card: Most of their series use them.
- Everybody Laughs Ending: In many of their series.
- Follow the Leader: Fangface was a particularly obvious example of this, with the catch that it was created by the same people who created the original in the first place.
- Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos was a pretty naked attempt to replicate their limited success with Mister T. The formats were nearly identical - both shows featured a live-action wraparound segment starring the title character discussing the plot at the start and later restating the moral at the end, and both featured the title characters re-imagined as globetrotting heroes/badasses backed up a group of fictional characters - though while Mr T was assisted by a group of teenage gymnasts, Chuck Norris got a full action team to accompany his baddassery.
- Friendly Enemy: With Hanna-Barbera, Ruby Spears left the studio yet would continue their style, shared plenty of employees, co-produced shows with them, and even put out composite character ads. You don't get much more friendly in competition then this.
- You can consider it a full on adoption now that Warner Brothers just considers the Ruby Spears library a part of Hanna-Barbera. both legally and in marketing.
- Ink-Suit Actor: The main characters in many of their Animated Adaptations, as well as in Mr. T and Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos.
- Off Model: Frequently, and constantly, throughout their history. A particularly notorious example in the Mega Man cartoon became a Memetic Mutation.