Friday, December 13, 2013

It's Ruff and Reddy's Birthday

“Ruff and Reddy” isn’t among my favourite cartoon series, but it did start the Hanna-Barbera empire and it debuted on tomorrow’s date in 1957, so we’ll mark the anniversary with a short post.

If you haven’t read the background before, you can go to this blog post. To boil it down, H-B Enterprises signed a deal with NBC to broadcast its new made-for-TV cartoons, which ran alongside old Columbia/Screen Gems theatrical cartoons (due to H-B’s bankrolling by Screen Gems), with a human host introducing everything.

The cartoons were wisely filmed in colour, though NBC originally broadcast them in black and white, like almost all its programming in 1957. When did the network begin to show them in colour? The answer’s in a column by J. Don Schlaerth in the Buffalo Courier-Express of June 27, 1959. I presume he was a local columnist.

COLOR SHOWS — NBC-TV will add two new color shows to its schedule today. "Buffalo Bob" Smith and his "Howdy Doody" show will be given the tinted treatment starting at 10 this morning on Ch. 2. The "Ruff and Reddy Show" cartoon series also will be in color following at 10:30. . . . The Trendex rating service indicates that the audience of color television programs in color TV equipped homes is twice as large as the audience in homes with black and white sets. The survey was conducted in five major cities.
Pressure groups basically screwed up kids cartoons shows, but that wasn’t for a few more years yet. Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the ‘50s received nothing but plaudits. “Ruff and Reddy” was among them. Here’s the pertinent part of a squib from the Lockport Union-Sun and Journal of December 3, 1959:
PTA Turns Critical Gaze On TV
The National Parent - Teacher, the official publication of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, in its new program on TV evaluations, turned its critical gaze on nine more continuing shows for children and adults. The magazine's official viewers generally beamed on "Here's Geraldine" (ABC) and "Ruff and Reddy" (NBC), while taking a much dimmer view of the CBS "Heckle and Jeckle" and ''Lunchtime Little Theater" (independent) as adequate fare for children.
Despite that, NBC took “Ruff and Reddy” off the air less than a year later. Whether it was contractual, I don’t know. However, the network brought it back. Broadcasting magazine of July 2, 1962 reported:
'Ruff and Reddy' returns
The Ruff and Reddy Show, a former NBC –TV morning children's show, is returning to the network as a color series Saturday, Sept. 29. It replaces Pip the Piper in the 9:30 -10 a.m. time -spot. Previously shown on NBC from December 1957- October 1960, the Ruff and Reddy Show is a Hanna -Barbera cartoon production, distributed by Screen Gems. It will be sponsored by Marx Toys, New York, through Ted Bates; Horsman Dolls, Columbia, S. C., through Manchester Organizations, and Selchow & Richter Games, New York, through Doner- Harrison.
To show you how times have changed, NBC offered no network service on Saturday mornings until “Ruff and Reddy” aired and ABC didn’t sign on until 10:30.

“Ruff and Reddy” left the network again after September 26, 1964, replaced with “Hector Heathcote.” By the following March 15th, Screen Gems was offering all 156 “Ruff and Reddy” cartoons (along with 156 Lippy the Lion/Touché Turtle/Wally Gator) in syndication. Interestingly, Broadcasting magazine reported in a September 20, 1965 story on syndicated shows:
Robert Seidelman, vice president for syndication for SG [Screen Gems], conceded that demand by local stations is high, but said the company has no immediate plans for producing first -run syndicated series in color because of economic considerations.
That shows you how things had changed. Hanna-Barbera built its name on syndication with “The Huckleberry Hound Show.” But most of its syndicated deals up to 1965 had involved a co-sponsor, Kellogg’s on the Huck-Quick Draw-Yogi shows and Ideal Toys with “Magilla Gorilla” and “Peter Potamus.” Screen Gems apparently decided for, or was told by, Hanna-Barbera that even joint deals such those couldn’t bring in the necessary cash to make TV cartoons profitable. Ironic, considering H-B got into the business because it could produce cartoons cheaply enough for television.

10 comments:

  1. In a way, H-B's early year's kind of mimicked the experience at MGM -- like the early Harman-Ising cartoons Bill Hanna worked on, the Ruff and Reddy cartoons were very gentle and soft on gags, which in turn made the cartoons targeted towards a more exclusively younger-aged audience. It was only when the studio took a harder edge with their gags and a more adult sensibility with the Huckleberry Hound Show that Bill and Joe's studio really made a name for itself, just as they had in 1940 when they took a harder line with their gags in the Tom & Jerry series than what Hugh and Rudy were turning out.

    (It's also why Ruff and Reddy really never did much of anything in syndication -- the gentle nature of the cartoons plus the limited animation made for two relatively 'bland' personalities that not even Daws and Don's voice work could make kids want to watch over and over again.)

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  2. I'm a big Ruff and Reddy fan from the old Jimmy Blaine hosted show to the present day. I'm glad that they syndicated the series, because the 16mm prints they made were mostly on ECO stock, a color reversal type which doesn't fade. The colors were beautiful in the show, a lot of electric pinks and dazzling colbalt blues. The show is really a humorous adventure show, a subtle parody of the radio program "I Love A Mystery". Reddy's voice really sounds a lot like Jim Boles playing the character "Doc Long". Ruff could just as well be Robert Dryden as Jack, in a higher register and as a cat. The show is really longer on the scary stuff than on humor, but I found that to be quite involving. Happy Birthday, R n R! I hope you won't be forgotten. Mark kausler

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    1. Very good point, Mark, and I'm also a longtime Ruff and Reddy big fan as well. I was born 1960...the color lab was the old Pathe (Rooster Studio! Just like Kellogg's Corny Rooser!) Film Labs that Screen Gems itself used. Color was pretty good [the live action American-International films they processed, well, not always so good, but Annette Funicello and the Pit and Pendulum castle that was used in a famous Gilliganm episode still are worth watching even in black and white.]:)

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  3. My earliest memories of " Ruff N Reddy " go back as a child watching on the East Coast between 1960 and 1964. Then they were shelved. I didn't see those cartoons again til I checked out a VHS called " Bill and Joe's Picks " in the late 1980's. It contained a few episodes. By that time, I had been thoroughly brought up on the antics of Huck, Yogi, Bugs, Daffy and all their ilk..so yes, " Ruff and Reddy " came across as pretty mild.

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  4. Yowp, NBC did indeed air Saturday AM programming prior to R & R in '62. "King Leonardo and His Short Subjects", the first cartoon show made exclusively for Saturday morning, debuted two years earlier, along with "The Shari Lewis Show". The rest of the schedule was filled with previously syndicated live- action repeats.

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  5. TC, obviously it had Saturday morning programming before 1962; R&R debuted in 1957. But in the 62-63 season, the network did not sign on on Saturdays until R&R aired at 9:30 ET.

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    1. My bad. I misunderstood that paragraph.

      Interesting about the Saturday Morning schedule that year is the inclusion of all the prime-time cartoon cast-offs-"The Alvin Show", "The Bugs Bunny Show", and "Top Cat". No "Calvin and the Colonel" for some reason.

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    2. I have a feeling that you got that shot of a Ruff & Reddy episode from my "Ruff and Reddy on Boomerang (2002)" video.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBzS4A67CiA
      I do have an entire hour of the recording available.

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  6. At that time NBC was owned by RCA and was the network pushing color programming the most. BONANZA, which debuted in 1959, was originally conceived and produced as a show to sell color televisions for RCA. The other networks were against color programming because they did not want to give money to RCA, which was also helping NBC their competition. This is why CBS and ABC did not really embrace color until about 1965-1966. By then color TV sets were selling very well so the two networks had to acquiesce. RUFF AND REDDY just happened to fall in between the two big push incentives for color on NBC. 1957 was before they were employing color programming to sell color TV sets and 1962 would have been when color was being used as an "advertising gimmick" to get them to sell. They probably brought it back for that reason because they didn't have to pay to produce a new show so they could take advantage of the low budget to help market their RCA color TV's.

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  7. 12/15/13
    RobGems.ca Wrote:
    You are so correct, Greg. Many times that Ruff And Reddy would appear on NBC In Living Color with an NBC Peacock Opening (the "diamond feather" shaped logo with oriental-like music by Jack Easton backing it up and Ben Grauer announcing "The Following Program Is Brought To You In Living Color on NBC." )This peacock logo lasted from 1959-December 31, 1961 on "Ruff And Reddy" episodes. Beginning on January 1,1962, the more familiar "Psychadelic Kaliedescope" peacock with a harp & flute musical trill would open episodes of "Ruff & Reddy" Mel Brandt announced this Peacock intro. This opening would last until 1964,when "Ruff & Reddy" was dropped from NBC's schedule. Two variations of The NBC "Snake" logo would end the episodes with Fred Collins announcing. Many times I remember, host Bob Cottle was the presenter of the cartoons from 1961-64. In earlier years, R&R distributor Screen Gems, Inc. would fill the remaining time slots of R&R with backlogs of their own cartoon output from the Charles Mintz supervised former theatrical shorts of the 1930's & 40's to bookend short episodes of R&R. These would include Scrappy, Krazy Kat, Phables, & Color Rhaspodies entries from Columbia/Screen Gems Studios.

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