Ken Spears, Partner in an Animation Powerhouse, Dies at 82

By | November 19, 2020
Ken Spears, Partner in an Animation Powerhouse, Dies at 82

Ken Spears, Associate in an Animation Powerhouse, Dies at 82

Ken Spears, who helped create “Scooby-Doo, The place Are You!,” the sequence starring a gang of mystery-solving youngsters and a hapless, hungry canine that grew to become one of the vital profitable franchises within the historical past of animation, died on Nov. 6 at an assisted-living facility in Brea, Calif. He was 82.

The trigger was problems of Lewy physique dementia, his son Kevin mentioned.

Joe Ruby, “Scooby-Doo’s” co-creator and Mr. Spears’s longtime enterprise associate, died in August.

Mr. Spears was simply out of the Navy when a buddy’s father, William Hanna, provided him a job within the enhancing studio of his new firm, Hanna-Barbera. As Mr. Spears mentioned later, he initially had no thought Mr. Hanna was within the cartoon enterprise; he simply appreciated the wage ($104 per week).

At Hanna-Barbera, he met Mr. Ruby, additionally newly sprung from the Navy, and the 2 started writing gags and scripts. They caught the eye of Fred Silverman, then head of daytime programming at CBS, who charged them with making a cartoon sequence that was a mix of “I Love a Thriller,” a radio present common within the Nineteen Forties about three mates on the lookout for journey; the 1948 comedy-horror film “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein”; and “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” the favored sitcom that ran from 1959 to 1963 about a young person on the lookout for love and his slacker beatnik sidekick.

Mr. Silverman additionally wished the present to function a pop music in every episode, similar to “The Archie Present.” That didn’t work out, however Mr. Spears and Mr. Ruby, working with the artist Iwao Takamoto, created a half-hour comedy thriller with a quartet of youngsters and a goofy Nice Dane with a gruff bark — and, after 15 or so drafts, they realized the canine was the star. In an oral historical past, Mr. Silverman mentioned he landed on the title Scooby-Doo after listening to Frank Sinatra singing the acquainted riff from his 1966 hit “Strangers within the Night time”: do-be-do-be-do.

Mr. Spears and Mr. Ruby labored for Mr. Silverman at CBS after which ABC earlier than beginning their very own firm, Ruby-Spears Productions, in 1977. Over the subsequent twenty years, they rolled out quite a few animated exhibits, together with the postapocalyptic “Thundarr the Barbarian” and “Fangface,” which starred a gang of youngsters and an lovable werewolf (like Scooby however weirder). The corporate additionally produced “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” a reboot of the 1961-62 sequence “The Alvin Present.”

“Ken was half of crucial artistic crew in Saturday-morning animation within the ’70s and ’80s,” Mark Evanier, a tv author who at one time labored for Mr. Spears and Mr. Ruby, mentioned in an electronic mail. “He and Joe left behind tons of of hours of cartoons that may rerun ceaselessly, that includes characters they created that had been an vital a part of tens of millions of childhoods.

“It’s superb,” he added, “that two guys who met within the enhancing room whereas chopping movie may wind up writing and producing a lot materials that will find yourself on movie.”

But the pair by no means felt they acquired their artistic due for inventing the powerhouse that was “Scooby-Doo,” which is taken into account essentially the most spun-off sequence within the historical past of tv, mentioned Kevin Sandler, an affiliate professor of movie and media research at Arizona State College who’s engaged on a e-book in regards to the present. Animation is a collaborative enterprise, and cartoons are thought-about work for rent, so it was typically the studios — or the studio heads — who bought the credit score for the exhibits created beneath them.

Charles Kenneth Spears was born March 12, 1938, in Los Angeles and grew up in New York Metropolis and Los Angeles, the place he went to highschool with William Hanna’s son Dave. His mom, Edna (Graiver) Spears, died a month after his start; his father, Harry, labored as a radio host and producer earlier than turning into an actual property agent.

Ken Spears’s first spouse, Sandra (Mathison) Spears, died in 2007. A second marriage led to divorce. Along with his son Kevin, Mr. Spears is survived by one other son, Chris; two sister, Sharon Holleran and Sudie Poggi, and two brothers, Victor and Steven; 5 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Over their lengthy profession collectively, Mr. Spears and Mr. Ruby had a behavior of engaged on weekends, alternating between one another’s backyards, armed with yellow authorized pads and a tape recorder — and cracking one another up.

“I keep in mind them simply sitting there out the again, laughing,” Kevin Spears mentioned. “They’d a variety of enjoyable collectively.”

He added that he had as soon as requested his father if he had ever wished one other associate. The reply was an emphatic no: “Why would I ever need to work with anyone else however Joe?”

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