Monday, 14 December 2015

Ruff and Reddy Are 58

Die-hard Hanna-Barbera fans who are today celebrating the 58th anniversary of the debut of the studio’s first cartoon series are probably sad to learn the arrival of Ruff and Reddy on the small tube was, more or less, ignored. Columnists didn’t have anything against the animated cat and dog, per se. The show aired on Saturday mornings. In those days, that was a dumping ground for used theatrical cartoons, used filmed half-hour westerns, puppets with live-action hosts, and test patterns. It was mostly low-cost, throw-away kid time, and what newspaperman was going to write about that?

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

At one time, it was considered impossible to make good cartoons for television. Too costly and time-consuming, agreed the experts.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.


  1. Ruff has always looked for me as if he were young Jinks

  2. Come to think of it, he does look the way they would have drawn a young Mr.Jinx. Great model sheets, Yowp. Happy 58th Birthday Ruff and Ready !

  3. The MGM roots in the character designs help, but the show was just a little too gentle/aimed at kids and the animation just a little too limited to grab a widespread audience as the Huck/Quick Draw/Yogi efforts and the early prime-time series did.

  4. Actually there was a ''Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks'' episode, where Jinks had a son. It might have been Ruff making a cameo!

  5. Ruff and Reddy made a cameo appearance in "Yogi's Ark Lark" about 1970 or so. That was probably their final appearance in new animation. They didn't speak, however; probably because Reddy would have had almost the same exact voice as Huckleberry Hound!

  6. I've always been sad for you, Mr. Yowp, that you don't feel the sheer joy I get whenever I view any of the RUFF & REDDY adventures. I think Charles Shows, also responsible for the first season of HUCKLEBERRY HOUND, gets short shrift from historians; it was he who wrote many of the cartoons which many fans recall with the most affection (including the pre-Jellystone Yogis), and he who created the style that the Fosters and (yes, even) Malteses followed in later years. The roster of villains is great, and the R&R cartoons also contain wonderful Don Messick narration that I think is both clever and funny, something used sparingly after QUICK DRAW McGRAW, if at all, and the later cartoons were the poorer for it. (Plus, it's the only place you can hear Don Messick doing Bill Thompson's Droopy voice as Professor Gizmo.) I'd think this was pure nostalgia speaking on my part, had I not seen and recorded most of the series when it ran on the Boomerang the first couple of years it was on the air, and confirmed my memories. Had they not lifted Reddy's voice for Huckleberry Hound, and Ruff's for Pixie, I think our dauntless duo might have been used more in the later years. Perhaps if they ever solve the music rights issue and a DVD set is ever released, some of the show's reputation might be restored.

  7. I will vote with Mr. Tiefenbacher. Actually, Ruff & Reddy is not really comparable to Huckleberry and Yogi and the shows that came after. R&R stories were adventures in fantastic lands; Huck and friends were comedy shorts. Yes, R&R was for kids, but it was sort-of Indiana Jones Lite.

    Which leads to a question about the last R&R serial, with Pinkie the elephant. It seemed a different style than the rest, with a different design for Reddy, more sentimentality, and less danger (for example, a dynamite explosion was used for typical cartoon burned-face humor, where in prior serials, bullets and the like seemed deadly). Was this a new director?

    1. Hi, Charlie. The last serial was Series ‘O’, "Misguided Missile." I don't know if I've ever seen it. But it appears to have been made after Mike Maltese arrived and Charlie Shows left. I know very little about the actual production schedule and can only rely on copyright dates.
      Mike, I have people wondering what's wrong with me because I don't like "Flintstones Kids" or "Where's Huddles?" or a pile of other shows they dote over. "Ruff and Reddy" is no different. I don't find the show entertaining and it's not surprising because it's geared to a child.