Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How Ruff and Reddy Started It All

Ruff and Reddy may have been the cartoon that started the Hanna-Barbera empire but I never watched it as a child and still can’t get into it now almost 50 years later.

The problem for me as a child was the show was aimed at children.

My favourite cartoons were from Warner Bros. where the characters did and said funny or silly things. So did Quick Draw McGraw and Mr. Jinks. And if it’s the one thing that’s consistent in contemporary newspaper stories about Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Quick Draw after their TV debut is the revelation—with some surprise, it seems—that adults were tuning in to those now-beloved cartoons.

You don’t read the same sort of thing back then about Ruff and Reddy. It’s because the cartoons were designed for, and broadcast on, children’s programming, while Yogi outwitted Ranger Smith in the pre-prime time hours of early evenings when dad could sneak a peak.

In fact, there wasn’t an awful lot written about Ruff and Reddy before or after it came on. The longest feature article was by syndicated writer Stephen H. Scheuer which I’ve spotted in several newspapers over the course of 1958 after the show had made its debut (on December 14, 1957). This is the earliest interview I can find of Joe and Bill about their TV cartoon studio. It’s interesting in light of where the studio was going.


Ruff ‘N Reddy Cartoons Are Custom-Made For TV
THE KIDS MAY not know it when they’re watching Ruff ‘N Reddy, the cat and dog cartoon series on Saturday mornings, but they’re looking at new cartoons made especially for TV, not old theatrical shorts already run thousands of times.
If Ruff ‘N Reddy capture the kiddies’ hearts, it will give hope to the deflated cartoon industry in Hollywood. Due to sky-rocketing costs and low rental rates grudgingly squeezed from exhibitors, the famed theatrical shorts of Disney and MGM’s Tom and Jerry are no more. Only UPA, Warner’s and Walter Lantz struggle to survive with film shorts.
Won 7 Awards
Ruff, the cat, and Reddy, the dog, are the brain children of mouse and cat creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who won seven Academy Awards for their Tom and Jerry shorts at MGM.
Facing the bleak future of theatrical shorts, Hanna and Barbera left MGM, taking half their crew with them and, with the help of movie director George Sidney, lined up capital, formed a company and quickly sold the Ruff ‘N Reddy idea for a TV series.
The TV market, glutted with old cartoons on tire and meat rationing and mentions of Hitler, seemed like it could use up-to-date cartoons and new techniques. Hanna and Barbera, though faced with making as many cartoons in one year for TV as they had in 10 for MGM at about one-fifth the cost. To do this meant stream-lining and eliminating the costly slow processes.
Cut Drawings
The two men first reduced the total number of drawings from 10,000 to 1,500 and still came up with a sufficient amount of motion. Next, time-consuming color tests and other tests were cut out. The experienced crew, many of whom have worked with Hanna and Barbera for more than 20 years, were to be their own judges. When the bosses see the cartoon it is finished.
“If we start making mistakes we’re in trouble,” said Hanna, because retakes are too expensive for TV.”
So far the results have been almost perfect. “We’ve left out an arm once in a frame and a couple of times we may have shot the wrong background,” said Barbera, “but on the whole, technically the shows are OK. I think the series is funnier and better than the Tom and Jerry film shorts. The people who work with us think so, too. We can survive on TV and do it well.”
Ruff ‘N Reddy cartoons run from four to six minutes in serial form with cliff hanger endings so kids will keep wondering during the week what the outcomes will be. Hanna and Barbera knock out a story about Africa in a helicopter, underwater adventure in submarines with such characters as Capt. Greedy, Salt Water Daffy and Prof. Gismo, an absent-minded genius who took Ruff and Reddy to the planet Muni-Mula (spell it backwards) last fall. Titles for episodes run to “Whirlybird Catches the Worm,” “Heels on Wheels.”
10-Year Option
NBC has a 10-year option on Ruff ‘N Reddy and evidently plans to continue running the show on Saturday morning. Of course, Hanna and Barbera would like an early evening spot to catch the adults, too, but they’re too busy turning out the cartoons to have any time to sit back and dream about ideal time spots.
Highly admired among cartoonists for their savvy and industry, Hanna and Barbera are taking all the risks in crashing a new industry and, if they make it, the cartoon industry has a new chance for survival.

There was a time when there was a big connection between cartoons and children’s records. Joe and Bill knew a potential money-maker for them when they saw it (or heard it) and jumped on board. Hanna-Barbera eventually had its own record label, but originally released material through Golden and Colpix Records. It took the voice track of some of its cartoons, added some sound effects, an organ, and had an instant children’s record (alas, no Hi-Q library music; that was licensed for TV use only). Ruff and Reddy’s first cartoon was repackaged in 1959 as “Adventures in Space” (Colpix 201). Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy to let you hear it (if someone has the .zip file of this that was on the web, let me know).

Other records featured re-worked versions of the cartoon’s themes with additional lyrics. You can listen to this kinda lame version of the Ruff and Reddy theme on a 1959 Golden Record 78 (R558). It was by Gil Mack with the Sandpipers, who aren’t the same ones that had the latin folk-tinged Guantanamera (“1966 solid gold!” screeched I in my disc jockey years).

It’s billed with an unknown song about Professor Gizmo, who appeared on at least one of the Ruff and Reddy story arcs. Unfortunately, Don Messick wasn’t hired to voice his own character on this record; it was entrusted to Mack. He’s no Don Messick. You can listen to it HERE.

These both appeared on a Golden Records LP (51) of Hanna-Barbera themes and character songs that range from mildly interesting to excruciatingly bad. I’ll get it up when I have a chance.

4 comments:

  1. Interestign Post, Yowpster. BTW I hafta admit thought, that as a 48-l/1 year old adult I got a kick out of YouTube showing the Ruff and Reddy's, but yeah, there was something very child oriented, a la Spunky and Tadpole, about some of these cliff hanger cartoons, though Ruff was comapred to Crusader Rabbit..

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  2. Wow! Where'd you find that B&W publicity shot?

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  3. Hi anon. It's from whatever paper I found this.

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  4. "Cross-Bones Jones" was a Ruf n Ready character who was a byword at my house. Even the adults knew who he was.

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