It turns out some did. We’ve posted a Steven H. Scheuer column from May 10, 1958. It’s the earliest one we’ve discovered about Ruff and Reddy in the popular press. Today, let’s mark the TV birth of the dog and cat duo with another column from June 21-22, 1958. We’ve found this in at least three newspapers in three different states so it may be safe to presume the columnist was syndicated and seems to have been based out of New York City.
There’s no “fired-by-MGM” tale of underdogged adversity and determination in this column (nor in the Scheuer one) that soon became a standard line in any interview about the rise of the Hanna-Barbera studio. But, once again, Joe Barbera tries to sell readers that the quality of his made-for-TV cartoons is no worse than the fluid and expert theatricals he and Bill Hanna put on the big screen for MGM. And the last line was published just days before UPI and Weekly Variety both reported that Kellogg’s (through its agency, Leo Burnett) had signed a contract to sponsor The Huckleberry Hound Show to possibly air on ABC.
Ruff and Reddy and The Laws of Nature
By DON VAN LENTEN
That was before Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna embarked on a project for Screen Gems of New York City, called “Ruff and Reddy.” Now, “Ruff and Reddy” is a Saturday morning staple on NBC-TV. Its cartoon stars, a scrubby cat (Ruff) and a large, lazy hound (Reddy), get almost as much fan mail from the small fry as some flesh-and-blood favorites.
SLEW OF AWARDS
In case the names Hanna and Barbera have a familiar ring, here's why. The cartooning team was responsible for turning “Tom and Jerry” into a national institution, garnering a slew of Academy Awards along the way.
When they decided to take a stab at television, Hanna and Barbera were warned that they were laying their reputations on the line. The first task was to create characters for the proposed show.
LAWS OF NATURE
“Originally we conceived Ruff, the cat, and Reddy, the dog, as a pair of friendly enemies like ‘Tom and Jerry,’ explained Barbera.
But while chases and squabbles were fine for a single cartoon, it seemed that constant scrapping would become tiresome on a series.
“So we violated the laws of nature and cartooning which say that cats hate dogs and vice-versa,” continued Barbera. “Ruff and Reddy came to television as staunch pals.”
ENTER THE VILLAINS
Next task was to dream up some villains for the new-found friends to tangle with.
This was the most fun, admitted Barbera.
Included in the collection of cartoon cut-throats were such deep-dyed villains as Harry Safari, a conniving wild game hunter; the Terrible Twins from Texas; a pair of rustlers (also from Texas, a state teeming with villains); and a grinning, Peter Lorre-ish skin-diver known as Salt Water Daffy, presumably from California.
Thus far, Ruff and Reddy have appeared in four serials—thirteen chapters in each. Their travels have taken them to outer space, to deepest Africa, out west, and under the tropic seas.
At last report, 52 cartoons in all had been produced. This is a lot of cartooning, especially since Hanna and Barbera used to limit themselves to eight “Tom and Jerry” stanzas a year.
“Despite the larger output and a lower budget,” insisted Barbera, “we haven't sacrificed quality. We've learned to stream line our operation for TV.”
“A cartoon,” he explained, “is a series of individual pictures pieced together to tell a story. We've learned how to get the most out of each drawing. Where we once used ten pictures, we now use one. But thanks to camera work and a certain amount of planning on our part, the result is the same.
WHAT THE KIDS LIKE
A departure for Hanna and Barbera was the use of dialogue in their “Ruff and Reddy” cartoons. “Tom and Jerry,” you “kids” will recall, never spoke a line.
“We discovered that kids love clever phrases and cute little rhymes,” said Barbera. “Ruff and Reddy are pretty gabby representatives of the animal kingdom.”
The voices on Ruff and Reddy are supplied by actors Daws Butlers [sic] and Don Messick. Don claims, wearily picking up a peanut with his trunk, that his toughest chore was simulating the dulcet tones of a “mother elephant.”
Both Hanna and Barbera have strong ideas on children's entertainment.
“A kids’ program is a tremendous responsibility,” said Barbera. “To show anything which might frighten or repel an impressionable youngster is just plain bad taste.”
With zooming ratings and a lively new of mail from their moppet viewers, Hanna and Barbera have proven the experts wrong. There is an important place for original cartoons on TV. Proof of the pudding is that Hanna and Barbera are now huddling over the possibility of adding another animated adventure show to the network roster next season.
Now a few birthday presents. Here are model sheets dated three months after the show debuted.
And here’s a terrific drawing, perhaps by Dick Bickenbach, of Ruff, Reddy and Professor Gizmo. I believe this came from the collection of William Wray.
The great Daws Butler, the voice of Reddy, defended the series after criticism of Saturday morning cartoons in general in the Los Angeles Times in 1977. His letter published on October 9th read, in part:
Charlie Shows wrote all of the episodes, funny concepts with comedy rhythms which today seem to be supplanted by a humorless quest of “continuity” and the dry pithiness of a mundane “story-line.”I’m afraid Ruff and Reddy falls short for me, despite the fine voice work, character design and Capitol Hi-Q ‘D’ series library, but the series turned out to be—although columnists didn’t recognise it in 1957—an historical milestone in television animation.