Monday, 14 December 2009

Happy Birthday, Hanna-Barbera

Today marks the 52nd anniversary of the airing of Hanna-Barbera’s first series for TV. Joe and Bill basically expropriated the Crusader Rabbit format of an adventure serial and came up with dog-and-cat friends Ruff and Reddy. The drawing you see to the right is by Bick Bickenbach and found on the Animation Guild’s website where they have a little piece about the cat and dog here.

Robert L. Skolsky’s syndicated column “Looking and Listening” of November 18, 1957 revealed the show had been purchased by NBC about five weeks before it aired:

NIKITA KHRUSCHEV and his Iron Curtain playmates are not the only ones capable of sending dogs into outer space.
As a matter of fact, the National Broadcasting Co. is going the Russians one better. NBC is preparing to send up a dog and cat.
Not only that, they will have a definite destination in mind and will not merely circle about the earth.
Of course, NBC plans to do it the easy way — via animated cartoons. The network's two traveling animals are called Ruff and Reddy and they are getting ready to go to work every Saturday morning.
The series will be produced by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, creators of the famous “Tom and Jerry” movie cartoons. In their first episode Ruff and Reddy will go to the aluminum planet of “Muni-Mula.”
NBC is still debating whether to assign another animated character or a human host to the show. Ruff and Reddy may even get the job themselves.

The network apparently decided, maybe due to a lack of time, a human host would be best. For more on that, click on the TV Party web site. It has more on the Ruff and Reddy show than I’d even care to know about, though the character drawings on the site are interesting.

I’ve never warmed at all to Ruff and Reddy. Maybe it’s because it’s not a comedy format; it’s an adventure format with uninteresting animation and characters. Or maybe it’s because the show was designed for children, whereas Huck and the later cartoons were written like the theatricals, with not just kids in mind.

Just what were Saturday mornings like then? Those of us in the ‘60s knew it as a smorgasbord of animation with several channels to pick from. But that happened as a result of Hanna-Barbera’s huge success, which was a few years after the debut of Ruff and Reddy. The TV listings for the station in Zanesville, Ohio, announcing the cartoon’s birth give us an idea:

TWO AND one half wonderful hours of programs just for kids . . . that's what the youngsters find on Channel 18 Saturday mornings beginning at 9:30 with “Captain Kangaroo.”
At 10 it’s a visit to the famous community of Doodyville where Buffalo Bob and freckle-faced Howdy Doody have lots of fun. Then starting this coming Saturday at 10:30, there’s a brand new program — a top cartoon series, called “The Ruff and Reddy Show” — about a cat named Ruff, and a dog named Reddy.
After that, at 11 o’clock, it’s the fabulous “Susan’s Show” followed at 11:30 by “Andy's Gang,” starring that lovable comic, Andy Devine. It’ll be a new time for “Andy's Gang” this Saturday, but Midnight the Cat, Froggy the Gremlin and Squeekie the Hamster are as amusing as ever.

Ruff and Reddy were merchandised as much as the other H-B characters. Above left you see a Give-a-Show movie projector (my brother had one; it was a poor substitute for real cartoons), and above right, is a game with Pinky, Professor Gizmo, some mouse and Crossbones Jones’ parrot holding what looks like Piglet’s head. Judging by the calligraphy of ‘Hanna-Barbera’ on the box, the game is from 1961. There were, of course, records on Colpix starting in 1959, Dell Comics and Little Golden Books drawn by Harvey Eisenberg. But they were durable; to the right you see the cover of a video game from 1990, based on the space-travel premise of their first cartoon, “Planet Pirates.” Below, you see a muddy screen grab from the cartoon’s initial shot.

Like the Huck and Quick Draw shows, Ruff and Reddy cavorted to the melodies of the Capitol Hi-Q library. The very first cue used was TC-304 Fox Trot by Bill Loose and John Seely, a happy little tune which was never used in the Huck series for reasons I don’t understand. The other one that appeared in the first cartoon was L-1203 Heavy Eerie Echo by Spencer Moore, who has credit for all the spacey cues on reel D-24, a number of which were used in the Muni-Mula story arc.


  1. Errol wrote:

    I know what you mean about Ruff and Reddy being an adventure format. That's probably what I remember most about this rare series. It actually had a cliff hanger or a thread, ala " Clutch Cargo " and others out of that ilk. You had to " Stay tuned " to see the resolution of the story. Happy Birthday Hanna-Barbera! Santa Yowp, really looking foward to more HI-Q music under our tree this month.

  2. From what I've read, Bill Hanna and Mike Lah had set up Shield Productions to produce new color Crusader Rabbit cartoons for Jay Ward. When Shull Bonsall stepped in and claimed ownership, Shield was left in the lurch. Joe Barbera was busy boarding Ruff and Reddy at home. Basically the Shield staff (minus Michael Lah, for some reason) became H-B Enterprises and produced the Ruff and Reddy's. Dick Bickenbach said in an interview that just prior to MGM closing the animation dept., Joe Barbera handed him some sketches of a cat and a dog and said "see if you can do anything with these". I've never seen anything that answers the question--Why did Bill Hanna set up Shield without Joe?

  3. Steve, are you referring to the reference to Shield in Keith Scott's book on the Ward studio? The absence of Joe Barbera's name puzzled me, too. I've never read Barbera's book so I don't know if he ever mentioned it.

    Scott mentioned Hanna, Lah, Don Driscoll and Don McNamara set up Shield. I don't know who the latter two guys are but they weren't involved in H-B Productions, were they? Of course, Lah was, but he freelancing? When he did and Les Goldman (and I can't remember who else) set up Quartet Films?

  4. Willam Hanna & Joe Barbera Were Such Nice People, They will Be Missed. Their Great Fun Cartoons of the likes of Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Quick draw McGraw,Auggie doggie,Pixie and dixie,Tom and Jerry And the Flintstones Will Live on in our Memories and hearts forever. Thanks Bill and Joe. Yours Truly, Asim M.ishak.

  5. Hi there! I just discovered your wonderful blog, thanks to Mark Evanier, and have been working my way through your archives.

    I'm also a collector of the Give-A-Show Projector, and have been converting my collection into videos with added music and sound effects, which I've been sharing on the Give-A-Show Blog at - yeah, they're poor excuses for cartoons, but still have their own (sometimes wonky) charm... I hope you'll check it out sometime!

  6. These guys are the Kings of animated cartoons!!