Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

R.I.P. Scooby-Doo co-creator Ken Spears

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
Photo: FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

As reported by Variety, Scooby-Doo co-creator Ken Spears—half of the duo behind Ruby-Spears Productions and an influential figure in the history of Saturday morning cartoons—has died. Spears co-created Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! with his creative partner Joe Ruby, who died earlier this year. Variety says that Spears’ death was confirmed by his son, who says he died from complications related to Lewy body dementia. Spears was 82.

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Unlike Ruby, who found his way into animation after briefly working in live-action television, Spears almost seemed destined to end up making cartoons. As a kid in California, he happened to be friends with the son of William Hanna, co-founder of legendary animation house Hanna-Barbera Productions, which hired him as a sound editor in 1959. It was there that he met Joe Ruby, with the Hanna-Barbera higher-ups asking the two of them to develop some new cartoons that were a little less violent than the studio’s then-current slate of action cartoons—stuff like Space Ghost or Birdman And The Galaxy Trio.

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! is what they landed on, and while it wasn’t an immediate it, it did have an extremely long tail and was at least popular enough that Hanna-Barbera allowed Ruby and Spears to develop a handful of other shows like Dynomutt and Jabberjaw. After a few years of working on shows similar to Scooby-Doo for Hanna-Barbera, Ruby and Spears were hired by CBS to spearhead the network’s Saturday cartoon block, and after eventually moving over to ABC, they decided to put together their own production company as a competitor to Hanna-Barbera.

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Ruby-Spears Productions didn’t end up with any hits on par with Scooby-Doo, but they did create memorable titles like Thundarr The Barbarian, Mister T, and The Plastic Man Comedy-Adventure Hour. They also worked with legendary comic artist Jack Kirby, but their projects never made much progress. In the ‘80s, Hanna-Barbera’s parent company, Taft Entertainment, bought Ruby-Spears, and then Taft eventually sold off Ruby-Spears and Hanna-Barbera to Turner Broadcasting in 1991.

In a statement about Spears’ death, Warner Bros. Animation President Sam Register referred to him as a “true innovator” whose “gifts of humor and storytelling continue to delight audiences.” Spears is survived by his two sons, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

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