Joe Ruby — the animator and writer who, along with his creative partner Ken Spears, created classic Hanna-Barbera shows like Scooby-Doo!; Dynomutt, Dog Wonder; and Jabberjaw — has passed away at the age of 87. According to Variety, Ruby passed away from natural causes Tuesday, Aug. 26, in Westlake Village, California. Per Legacy.com, he was surrounded by family members.
“He never stopped writing and creating, even as he aged,” his grandson Benjamin Ruby said in a statement to Variety.
Ruby was born Joseph Clemens Ruby in March of 1933 in Los Angeles, California. He attended Fairfax High School before enlisting in the U.S. Navy and serving as a radar operator during the Korean War. A big fan of comic books, Ruby dreamed of becoming an artist. Going against the wishes of his physician father, he got a job at Walt Disney Studios, starting as an animator and then moving over to music editor. While there, he did some freelance writing and illustrating work for the comics industry.
“There was no great awakening or such,” Ruby once told ScoobyAddicts.com. “I did some magazine cartooning years before, but never pursued it much. It was just a ‘freak’ opportunity that came up at Hanna-Barbera in 1959. 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.”
He and Spears became fast friends, eventually forming a production company together in 1977. Working with legendary animator Iwao Takamoto, the duo created the cowardly, food-loving Great Dane we all know as Scooby-Doo and the rest of the iconic Mystery, Inc. gang: Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, and Fred. Several different permutations of the show were first considered, including a version in which the characters were part of a rock band, not a group of young (and meddling) sleuths.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! premiered in 1969, running for a total of 41 episodes across three seasons that were split between CBS and ABC. Ruby and Spears wrote the first five episodes, overseeing story and editing for the rest of the debut season. It’s no secret that the IP was a massive hit and spawned a multimedia franchise the world over. Shows, films, games, comics, and other products based on Scooby-Doo! are still being made to this day.
Following their success with Mystery Inc., Ruby and Spears delivered even more iconic characters: Dynomutt, Blue Falcon, Jabberjaw, the Neptunes, Josie and the Pussycats, Captain Caveman, and Dee Dee Skyes. The duo eventually left Hanna-Barbera to strike out on their own. Throughout the 1970s and early ’80s, they created and/or produced shows such as The Barkleys, Fangface, The Houndcats, Thundarr the Barbarian, Mister T, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Superman, Saturday Supercade, and The Plastic Man Comedy-Adventure Hour. The duo even worked with Jack Kirby — the legendary comic book creator known for Captain America, the X-Men, Darkseid, and many others — on cartoons and toy lines that never came to fruition.
Taft Entertainment, Hanna-Barbera’s parent company, acquired Ruby-Spears Productions in 1981. A decade later, Hanna-Barbera’s properties were acquired by Tuner Broadcasting (now part of AT&T and WarnerMedia). Even after his company was bought out, Ruby continued to work as a producer on animated programming like Police Academy: The Animated Series, Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos, Lazer Tag Academy, Centurions, Mega Man, Punky Brewster, and Rambo.
Scooby, Dynomutt, Dee Dee Sykes, Captain Caveman, Jabberjaw, and more Hanna-Barbera characters were all featured in Warner Bros.’ recent feature-length release, Scoob! The film was packed with Easter eggs that paid homage to HB’s history, including a nod to Ruby and Spears. “We tried to get as many things in as we could, so I’m proud of that,” director Tony Cervone told SYFY WIRE in May.
Ruby is survived by his wife, Carol, four children, and 10 grandchildren. Spears, who is still alive, turned 82 this past March.
(Biographical info courtesy of Variety and Legacy.com)