Prolific writer and producer will be remembered, along with co-creator and production partner Joe Ruby, for their many Saturday morning animated series including ‘Dynomutt,’ ‘Dog Wonder,’ ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks,’ and ‘Superman.’
Famed animation writer, producer, and creator Ken Spears, who along with production partner Joe Ruby, created one of entertainment’s most recognized animated cartoon characters, Scooby-Doo, died Friday of Lewy body dementia, according to his son Kevin and reported in Variety. He was 82.
“Ken will forever be remembered for his wit, his story-telling, his loyalty to family, and his strong work ethic,” Kevin Spears said in a statement. “Ken has not only made a lasting impression on his family, but he has touched the lives of many as co-creator of ‘Scooby-Doo.’ Ken has been a role model for us throughout his life and he will continue to live on in our hearts.”
In a statement made to AWN, Sam Register, President, Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios, said, "Warner Bros. Animation is saddened to learn of the passing of Ken Spears and we send our warmest thoughts to his loved ones. He was a true innovator in the industry whose gifts of humor and storytelling continue to delight audiences. You cannot find a screen in the world that has not played a version of Scooby-Doo. We continue to be inspired by his work at Warner Bros. Animation and are honored to carry on the legacy of his beloved characters."
Spears grew up in Los Angeles, where he was friends with the son of William Hanna. Years later, he was hired by Hanna-Barbera Productions as a sound editor, where he eventually met Ruby, who’d previously been an inbetweener at Disney. The two went on to create many Saturday morning cartoons for Hanna-Barbera, including Scooby-Doo, Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, and Jabberjaw.
After moving to Depatie-Freleng, they created The Barkleys and The Houndcats. Then, Fred Silverman, CBS president of children's programming, hired the pair in the early 1970s to supervise the network’s Saturday morning cartoon lineup; they took over the same role at ABC after Silverman became president of entertainment at the network in 1975.
ABC set Ruby and Spears up with their own studio, Ruby-Spears Productions, in 1977, which went on to produce many animated Saturday morning series, including Fangface, The Plastic Man Comedy-Adventure Hour, Thundarr the Barbarian, Saturday Supercade, Mister T, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Superman.
Scooby-Doo originally ran on CBS from 1969-1976; the property is arguably the pair’s most enduring legacy, a contribution to the genre for which both will long be remembered. A lime green van, endless Scooby snacks and phrases like “jinkies,” “zoinks,” and “you meddling kids” have been key ingredients in Saturday-morning-cartoon rituals for the last five decades. The property has seen 14 animated series with over 400 episodes combined, 43 films including 2 live-action, 27 short films and even a few plays since it first debuted in 1969. Ruby passed away earlier this summer on August 26. Both Scooby-Doo creators will be missed; future generations will continue to enjoy and build on their expansive body of work.
Spears is survived by his sons Kevin and Chris, their wives, his five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.