Joe Ruby, the animation veteran who co-created the character of Scooby-Doo and oversaw Saturday morning children’s programming at CBS and ABC, has died. He was 87.
A four-time Daytime Emmy nominee, Ruby died Wednesday at his home in the Westlake Village section of Los Angeles, his grandson Ben Ruby announced.
Ruby met Ken Spears when both were sound editors and then staff writers at the cartoon powerhouse Hanna-Barbera, and they created the supernatural kids show Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, which centered around a talking Great Dane and bowed on CBS in September 1969. All but four of the first 25 episodes were written and story-edited by them.
In the early 1970s, then-CBS president of children’s programming Fred Silverman hired Ruby and Spears to supervise the network’s Saturday morning cartoon lineup, and they followed the executive to ABC for similar duties in 1975. (Scooby-Doo joined that network’s lineup as well.)
Two years later, ABC set up Ruby-Spears Productions as a subsidiary of Filmways, and the company launched Saturday morning animated series around such characters as Fangface, Plastic Man, Mister T and Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Ruby-Spears was acquired by Hanna-Barbera parent Taft Entertainment in 1981.
Joseph Clemens Ruby was born in Los Angeles on March 30, 1933. After graduating from Fairfax High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served on a destroyer as a sonar operator during the Korean War.
A huge fan of comic books, Ruby was hired by Walt Disney Studios for its animation program. Knowing it would take years to become a full-fledged animator, he shifted to become a music editor but continued to work as a freelance comic book artist and writer before being hired at Hanna-Barbera.
“It was just a freak opportunity that came up at Hanna-Barbera in 1959,” Ruby once said. “They desperately needed people to write the short openings, closings and 30-second bridges for the Huck Hound and Yogi Bear shows, and both Ken and I started writing them on the side while we worked our regular jobs in the editorial department.”
Sam Register, president of Warner Bros. Animation, wrote in a statement on Thursday, “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.”
In addition to Scooby-Doo, Ruby and Spears created such characters as Dynomutt, Dog Wonder and Jabberjaw at H-B.
In 1971, the pair began a stint at DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, where they worked on The Barkleys and The Houndcats.
In the 1980s, legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby was hired by Ruby to bring his vision to Ruby-Spears Productions. As a result, the Ruby family owns the rights to hundreds of original Kirby-designed characters and more than two dozen projects developed by Ruby. The intellectual property rights to those characters, artwork and projects are now being offered for sale.
“That was my grandfather’s latest project, and it is being carried on by my family because his work will never die,” his grandson said.
Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Carole; children Cliff, Deanna, Craig and Debby; and grandchildren Carly, Zach, Evan, Hasy, Adam, Max, Ben, Blake, Sage and Kate.
Aug. 27, 7:17 p.m.: Updated with Sam Register’s statement on Ruby’s passing.