Monday, January 3, 2011

The Cartoon Historian Lesson 25: Ruby-Spears Productions

Welcome to the first Cartoon Historian lesson of 2011. As you can see,Mina is absent,so I'm once again doing this thing solo. Why she isn't here is a mystery.

Anyway,on this 25th edition,we will be taking a breif look at a once iconic animation company,Ruby-Spears Productions.

[cartoon historian intro]

If you grew up in the 80's,then you should be very familiar with Ruby-Spears Productions. Back in the day,it was one of the greatest animation companies ever.

Ruby-Spears Productions (also known as Ruby-Spears Enterprises) was founded in 1977 by veteran writers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears in Burbank,California.

Both Ruby and Spears started out as sound editors at Hanna-Barbera Productions, and later branched out into writing stories for such programs as Space Ghost,Birdman,and The Herculoids.

In 1968, they were assigned the task of developing a mystery-based cartoon series for Saturday morning, the end result of which was Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!. Aside from working with H-B,Spears and Ruby also worked for DePatie-Freleng Enterprises as producers.

Then in 1977,the 2 men bought their own animation company and called it Ruby-Spears Productions. It's also worth noting that Ruby-Spears Productions was also the first animation company to obtain a network commitment for a series before they opened their doors.

1 year later,The company was purchased by Filmways Television(you baby boomers should know these guys well) and was sold in late 1981 to Taft Broadcasting, becoming a sister company to Hanna-Barbera Productions.

"Fangface" was the first of a long line of hits from Ruby-Spears. Less than a year later this first series became part of a two-hour block called "The Plasticman Adventure Hour". Other R-S shows of that era included: "Mighty Man and Yukk,","Rickety Rocket,","Fangface and Fangpuss",and the famous DC comic book hero come-to-life "Plastic Man".

In the 1980s,Ruby-Spears had produced 34 television series including "Alvin and the Chipmunks," the highest rated series of the 1987-88 season. It would also become the cartoon series that Ruby-Spears is the most famous for.

Anyway,A&tC was eventually purchased for syndication by Lorimar Telepictures (the company that produced those nice sitcoms in the 80s and early 90s) for a sum of $25 million.

Their other 80s productions have included: "Thundarr the Barbarian,","Saturday Supercade","Mr. T.","Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos",and "Rubik the Amazing Cube". BTW,Rubix was the first cartoon series to feature a Hispanic family as its central characters.

In addition to their series,Ruby-Spears have produced a ton of animated specials, including: "I Love The Chipmunks Valentine Special" and "A Chipmunk Reunion" which dealt sensitively with adoption.

In 1988,Ruby-Spears acquired the rights to two heavily sought after properties. Debuting that September on CBS was the classic, "Superman", which celebrated its 50th anniversary, and it was with much acclaim that Ruby-Spears was selected to produce the animated series for the CBS Saturday Morning schedule.

A few days later, Ruby-Spears was again in the spotlight when they were selected to produce an animated version of the successful movie series, "Police Academy."

65 episodes were produced and released in the fall of 1989 for first-run syndication.

For the 1989-90 season, Ruby-Spears sold "Dink, the Little Dinosaur" to CBS. "Dink" was the only original program to be sold to the networks that year.

Another original program from Ruby-Spears, "Piggsburg Pigs," was sold to the Fox Network for the launch of their Children's Network for the 1990-91 season. The renewal of "Dink" by CBS gave Ruby-Spears two original series on the networks, breaking the long-standing "pre-sold" properties trend.

In 1991, most of the original Ruby-Spears library(as well as Hanna-Barbera's) was sold to Turner Broadcasting System, which in turn merged with Time Warner in 1996.

In the 90s,Ruby-Spears produced the "C.O.W. Boys of Moo Mesa" series for ABC and the surprise hit and highly rated series "Mega Man" for Fox..and later WB.

Like I stated in my 'From Games to Toons' episode,"Mega Man" was co-produced by Ashi Productions LTD. of Tokyo, Japan. So it's part Anime.

1995 brought to television one of Ruby-Spears most exciting series "Skysurfer Strike Force",which was launched on Bohbot Entertainment's 'Amazin' Adventures' Block. Bandai was also involved and created Action Figures based on the show. "Skysurfer Strike Force" lasted for 2 seasons.

Also in 1995,Ruby-Spears produced 13 additional episodes of MegaMan which was the number one rated weekly syndicated animated series. It was distributed by Summit Media, the company that once distributed the English-Dubbed version of the Pokemon Anime.

In 1999 and 2000,Ruby-Spears supervised the creative and preproduction work for a direct-to-video production for SSA Productions,entitled "Slammin' Sammy...the Sammy Sosa Story" The video is an animated biography of the homerun hero,Sammy Sosa.

Despite being conciderably weaker,Ruby-Spears Productions is still around today and continues to do what they like best,making cartoons. Though,their latest stuff isn't shown on TV.

Joe,Ken, You're company may be a shell of it's former self today,but back in the day,Ruby-Spears Productions was one of the all-time greats in Toon Making. Thanks for all the memories and awesome shows,guys.

Well there you have it,a breif history of Ruby-Spears Productions. That about wraps up another edition of The Cartoon Historian. See Ya Next Time.

[fade to black. credits roll as the cartoon historian closing theme plays]

No comments: