As reported by Variety, animator and writer Joe Ruby—who defined a specific era of Saturday morning cartoons with his creative partner Ken Spears—has died. Ruby died of natural causes at his home in California, with his grandson noting that he “never stopped writing and creating, even as he aged.” Ruby was 87.
Ruby worked in the animation department for Disney as a young man, but after serving in the military and briefly working in live-action TV editing, he got a job with Hanna-Barbera Productions and met Ken Spears. The two were tasked with creating shows that were less violent than existing Hanna-Barbera fare like Space Ghost (he was an intergalactic superhero with a habit of blasting enemies with lasers before he was a talk show host, if you only know the character from Adult Swim), and over the course of their career at the now-iconic animation studio, they created Scooby-Doo, Dynomutt, and Jabberjaw—all of which were involved in the recent Scoob! movie, though Jabberjaw just made a cameo in the credits.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? wasn’t a hit right out of the gate, but it did weirdly capture the era it came in from in a kid-friendly way with its hippie van and comfortably relaxed team of mystery-solvers. The series eventually did catch on with viewers, establishing a now decades-long media franchise, and Ruby and Spears were later hired by CBS in the ‘70s to create their own studio and actively compete with the Hanna-Barbera powerhouse they helped create.
The duo’s creations under the new Ruby-Spears label were less popular than Scooby-Doo, but there were still some memorable titles like Thundarr The Barbarian, the Mister T and Alvin And The Chipmunks cartoons, and a couple of DC superhero shows in Superman and The Plastic Man Comedy-Adventure Hour. Ruby-Spears was eventually acquired by Taft Entertainment, Hanna-Barbera’s parent company, and the back catalog is now owned by Turner Broadcasting. Variety notes that Ruby also worked with comic book legend Jack Kirby during the Ruby-Spears era, developing a series of concepts for toys and cartoons that were never produced (including a female-led Indiana Jones knock-off). It wasn’t meant to be, though, leaving the partnership as a great “what if?” for animation history.
Ruby is survived by his wife and four children.