Creator / Ruby-Spears

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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 a "Created by" credit on Scooby-Doo [well, not exactlynote ], but they did on Jabberjaw, and Dynomutt Dog Wondernote ; 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. Aside from similar sound effects, 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 Fangface, 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 notably, Mr. T and Chuck Norris), to the wildly successful 1980s update of Alvin and the Chipmunks. They even collaborated with Warner Bros. to adapt two DC Comics creations: Plastic Man and Superman. 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, Ruby and Spears launched their own venture to add more competition to their former employer Hanna Barbera. Although even from the offset many employees were shared between both houses and the style as mentioned above was quite similar.They were purchased in 1978 by Filmways. Filmways next sold the company to Taft Broadcasting in 1981, making it a sister company to Hanna Barbera. From here the two studios were as high an example of Friendly Enemy as you can get.

However as was known Taft/GAB had a lot of problems starting in the late 1980s. They put both Hanna Barbera and Ruby Spears up for sale. The end result saw Turner Broadcasting purchase the Hanna Barbera studio in full and the Ruby Spears library prior to 1991. The studio itself however was allowed to go independent once more. 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.

One major point of confusion in regards to this history is that during the Turner Buyout, the Ruby Spears library was legally consolidated into the Hanna Barbera one. (Hence why all Ruby Spears DVDs have fine print saying they are owned by Hanna-Barbera) The rights to the shows they produced after 1991 are more split across various partners.

For reasons unknown, Skysurfer Strike Force led the animation studio to its demise in 1996.

List of shows produced by Ruby-Spears:


Tropes common to Ruby-Spears Productions:

  • An Aesop: A number of their shows 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 wraparound segments to set up the plot of the episode and to later tell the moral of the story.
    • Centurions did the same thing, only in animation.
  • 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.
  • Animesque: Centurions, Mega Man, Skysurfer Strike Force, Rambo and the 1988 Superman series. All of which, appropriately, were animated in Japan.
  • Episode Title Card: As with Hanna-Barbera, most of their series use them.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: In many of their series.
  • Follow the Leader: In a weird way, the studio itself. "Two men meet working at an Animation Studio, find they work well together and form their own company utilizing many things and workers employed at the former" could be the biography to both the Hanna Barbera and Ruby Spears studio.
    • Hanna Barbera invoked this rule a lot, Ruby Spears was no exception to both the former and themselves. Fangface was one example of this, with the catch that it was created by the same people who created the original Scooby-Doo in the first place.
    • Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos was a pretty transparent 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 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 him.
  • Friendly Enemy: With Hanna-Barbera; Ruby and 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 than this.
    • You can consider it a full on adoption now that Warner Bros. just considers the Ruby Spears library a part of Hanna-Barbera, both legally and in marketing.note 
  • Ink-Suit Actor: The main characters in many of their Animated Adaptations, as well as in Mr. T and Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos.
  • Limited Animation: Just like the studio it spun off from. Though they were a little better at hiding it in comparison.
  • Off-Model: Frequently, and constantly, throughout their history. A particularly notorious example in the Mega Man cartoon became a Memetic Mutation.

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