Animation writer and executive Joe Ruby, who created cartoon series including “Scooby-Doo” along with his partner Ken Spears, died of natural causes Wednesday in Westlake Village, Calif. He was 87.
At Hanna-Barbera, Ruby and Spears created series including “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?,” “Dynomutt” and “Jabberjaw.”
“He never stopped writing and creating, even as he aged,” said his grandson Benjamin Ruby.
Warner Bros. Animation and Blue Ribbon Content president Sam Register said in a statement, “Joe Ruby made Saturday mornings special for so many children, including myself. He was one of the most prolific creators in our industry who gifted us some of animation’s most treasured characters and it was a thrill to host him at our studio. Scooby-Doo has been a beloved companion on screens for more than 50 years, leaving an enduring legacy that has inspired and entertained generations. We at Warner Bros. Animation have the privilege and honor of carrying on that legacy and send our warmest thoughts to his loved ones.”
“Scooby-Doo” launched on CBS in 1969 after going through a number of versions. It was launched as a gentler series partly in response to complaints about violence in cartoons such as “Space Ghost.” Together with character designer Iwao Takamoto, Ruby and Spears tried a number of titles and approaches, such as making the characters part of a rock band, before settling on the now-classic combo of Freddie, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and a Great Dane named Scooby-Doo.
Ruby and Spears wrote the first five episodes, supervising and story editing the rest of the first season. The original series ran until 1976 and spawned numerous series reboots and theatrical films.
In a light-hearted interview with ScoobyAddicts.com, Ruby was asked whether he had ever eaten a Scooby snack. “No we’ve never eaten a Scooby Snack,” he answered. “We imagined they were just going to be a super delicious doggy snack.” Spears told the site they didn’t expect the characters to endure. “We were worried it wouldn’t last but one season.”
Ruby started out as an inbetweener at Walt Disney Productions. After serving in the Navy and working in television editing, he met Spears while working at Hanna-Barbera Productions.
The duo left Hanna-Barbera to become more involved in production, then worked as writers with Sid and Marty Krofft Television Productions and with Depatie-Freleng, where they created “The Barkleys” and “The Houndcats.”
After “Scooby-Doo” became a hit, Ruby and Spears were hired by CBS president of children’s programming Fred Silverman to oversee the Saturday morning cartoons. When Silverman left for ABC, they went with him, setting up their own studio in 1977. Among the series produced by Ruby-Spears Productions were “Mister T,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “Superman,” “Thundarr the Barbarian,” “Fangface” and “The Plastic Man Comedy-Adventure Hour.”
Hanna-Barbera’s parent company Taft Entertainment acquired Ruby-Spears in 1981, and its catalog went to Turner Broadcasting in 1991.
Ruby went on to serve as executive producer on animated versions of live-action shows and movies including “Punky Brewster,” the “Rambo” series and “Police Academy: The Animated Series.”
A lifelong comic book fan and artist and writer, he worked with artist Jack Kirby on numerous characters and stories that they hoped to put into production.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Carole, four children and 10 grandchildren.