Ruby-Spears is an animation house that was one of the more prolific animation studios of the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. Studio founders Joe Ruby and Ken Spears started out as sound editors at Hanna-Barbera in the 1960s, eventually moving up the studio ladder into writing positions. This later led to the two creating the iconic Scooby Doo franchise for Hanna-Barbera, though they also played a hand in many of Hanna-Barbera's successes before and after as well. Their former employer had a great influence on the new studio's output, as the animation style mimicked Hanna-Barbera's tried and true Limited Animation methods. The visual similarities led to many of the early shows often being mistaken for actual Hanna-Barbera shows.
While Ruby-Spears did turn out a few original properties, such as Goldie Gold and Action Jack, Turbo Teen, and the Scooby Doo knock-off Fangface, they became particularly well known for churning out a great deal of licensed properties during their hey day. These ranged from animated adaptations of live-action sitcoms, to action shows centered around then-popular film and television celebrities (most notoriously, Mr. T and Chuck Norris), to the wildly successful 80s update of Alvin and The Chipmunks, to a great deal of collaboration with Warner Bros to adapt several DC Comics mainstays for Saturday Morning, most well known being the 1988 Superman cartoon. This even extended to toys such as the Lazer Tag and Rubik's Cube cartoons.
The history of the studio is a turbulent one. After their founding in 1978, they were bought out by Taft Broadcasting in 1981, making them a sister company to Hanna-Barbera (and also leading to a Scooby Doo co-production). Eventually their entire library prior to 1991 was sold, along with Hanna-Barbera, to Turner Broadcasting (later Time Warner), which has led to further confusion over their properties today as some of their shows have been released with a Hanna-Barbera production logo. After the sale, the company restructured into RS Holdings, which led to them working on projects such as Wild West Cowboys of Moo Mesa and the infamous American Mega Man cartoon. The rights to many of these later shows have scattered as their partners absorbed them.
Ruby-Spears output slowed dramatically by the late 90s, and while the studio still exists today, it's a shadow of its former self and mainly handles some direct-to-video productions. However, some of their cheesier works have picked up a reputation as Snark Bait as adults who watched their shows as kids look back on them now with a little nostalgia and a lot of irony.
A full list of their output can be found off-site.
Tropes common to Ruby-Spears Productions
- An Aesop: Since so many of these shows were blatant advertisements, most of them were wrapped around morals to try and make them appear more respectable.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Both the Mister T and Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos cartoons used live-action segments to drive home a moral.
- Centurions did the same thing, only in animation.
- Animated Adaptation: Ruby-Spears was responsible for the The Mork & Mindy / Laverne & Shirley / Fonz Hour, which was the final season of a series of shows adapting these franchises. They also handled Punky Brewster. This doesn't even get into the animated versions of Plastic Man and Superman.
- Episode Title Card
- "Everybody Laughs" Ending: In many of their series.
- Follow the Leader: Fangface was a particularly obvious example of this, with the catch that it was created by the same people who created the original in the first place.
- Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos was a pretty naked attempt to replicate their limited success with Mister T. The formats were nearly identical - both shows featured a live-action wraparound segment starring the title character discussing the plot at the start and later reiterating the moral at the end, and both featured the title characters re-imagined as globetrotting heroes/baddasses backed up a group of fictional characters - though while Mr. T was saddled with a group of teenage gymnasts, Chuck Norris got a full action team to accompany his baddassery.
- Ink Suit Actor: The main characters in many of their Animated Adaptations, as well as in Mister T and Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos.
- Off-Model: Frequently, and constantly, throughout their history. A particularly notorious example in the Mega Man cartoon became a Memetic Mutation.
- What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Some of their more...outlandish...concepts. In particular, Rubik the Amazing Cube, Wild West Cowboys of Moo Mesa, and Turbo Teen make one question the sanity of the studio staff.