August 13, 2022






Key People: Joe Ruby (founder, president), Ken Spears (founder, vice president), Jerry Eisenberg (producer), Jack Kirby (production artist)


One of Ruby-Spears' former locations, just across from Hanna-Barbera.


Joe Ruby and Ken Spears began as sound editors at Hanna-Barbera Productions before turning into a valuable writing team; particularly with the creation of Scooby-Doo. When their contracts were up and their desires to advance to associate producers denied, they left Hanna-Barbera to be producers and writers at DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. Eventually, they were hired away by television executive Fred Silverman to supervise the Saturday morning programming for him at CBS, and then over at ABC. By 1977, Hanna-Barbera was stretched pretty thin making several programs for all the major networks and their work quality was suffering as a result. Feeling Hanna-Barbera needed some competition, Silverman decided that Ruby and Spears should start their own production company. ABC executive Peter Roth secured financing from Filmways and Silverman promised them a commitment for one series and one special. The special, The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy, was released in 1978 as an episode of the ABC Weekend Specials. It was nominated for an Emmy, and got three sequel specials before becoming an ongoing show called The Puppy’s Further Adventures. The series was Fangface, which was pitched as kind of a reverse Scooby-Doo, and did well enough to run for two seasons. From there came a steady output of shows and specials, including The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show, Heathcliff, Thundarr the Barbarian, Goldie Gold and Action Jack, Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour, Rubik, the Amazing Cube, Mister T, Alvin and the Chipmunks (for the first five years until the Bagdasarians wanted to go elsewhere), Saturday Supercade and more. By that point, their exclusivity agreement with ABC was done, allowing them to expand to the other networks as well as syndication. Each production allowed the company to grow from a shoestring operation to a full-fledged one, poaching as many Hanna-Barbera talent as they could due to the shortages at the time. One of their most notable hires was legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby, brought to them by writer Mark Evanier, who reportedly enjoyed the best treatment of his entire career. In 1981, Ruby-Spears was sold to Taft Broadcasting, who also owned Hanna-Barbera making them sister companies (while still also competing for the same timeslots). In 1991, Ruby and Spears spun the company off into the independent RS Holdings, with most of their pre-1991 library being sold along with Hanna-Barbera to Turner Broadcasting System (excluding Rambo: The Force of Freedom which is owned by StudioCanal), resulting in a mix of both company’s productions populating the fledgling Cartoon Network. Ruby-Spears would produce three more series—Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa, Mega Man and Skysurfer Strike Force—and two more ABC Weekend Specials before finally closing up shop in 1996. Ruby and Spears continued to work on developing new projects under the Ruby-Spears banner for the next two decades up until the deaths of both men in 2020.


Promo image featuring some of Ruby-Spears' earliest characters.

Saturday Credits:
ABC Weekend Specials (episodes)
The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show
Heathcliff and Dingbat/Marmaduke
Goldie Gold and Action Jack
Thundarr the Barbarian
The Scooby & Scrappy-Doo/Puppy Hour
The Puppy’s Further Adventures
Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour
Rubik, the Amazing Cube
Mister T
Alvin and the Chipmunks (1983)
Saturday Supercade
Dragon’s Lair
Turbo Teen
It’s Punky Brewster
Lazer Tag Academy
Superman (1988)
Dink, the Little Dinosaur
Piggsburg Pigs!
Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa

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