Ken Spears, best known for bringing the globally beloved scaredy-dog Scooby-Doo to screens, has died at age 82 just months after the passing of co-creator and Ruby-Spears Productions co-founder Joe Ruby. The animation producer died Friday, Nov. 6 from complications of Lewy body dementia, his son Kevin Spears told Variety.
Born Charles Kenneth Spears on March 12, 1938, the Los Angeles native got his start as a friend of animation producer William Hanna’s son. Spears was hired on to Hanna-Barbera as a sound editor in 1959, where he met Ruby and the two formed a writing partnership. The longtime collaborators wrote for both animated and live-action programs as freelancers and as staff writers for Hanna-Barber, Sid and Marty Kroft and DePatie-Freleng.
Spears and Ruby’s iconic series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, produced by Hanna-Barbera, premiered on CBS in 1969. They also created Dynomutt and Jabberjaw for the studio, and The Barkleys and The Houndcats for DePate-Freleng in the early 1970s. CBS kids’ programming head Fred Silverman hired the duo on to supervise the network’s Saturday morning block, and brought Spears and Ruby with him when he moved to ABC.
The lifelong collaborators established Ruby-Spears Productions in 1977 as a subsidiary of Filmways, producing a number of classic Saturday morning cartoons, including Fangface, The Plastic Man Comedy-Adventure Hour, Thundarr the Barbarian, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Mister T and Superman. The company was acquired by Hanna-Barbera parent co. Taft Entertainment in 1981, and the Ruby-Spears library was later sold alongside its one-time competitor studio to Turner Broadcasting (WarnerMedia) in 1991.
Spears and Ruby continued to collaborate on producing and developing animated series until the latter’s death in August.
Sam Register, President, Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios, gave the following statement: “Warner Bros. Animation is saddened to learn of the passing of Ken Spears and we send our warmest thoughts to his loved ones. He was a true innovator in the industry whose gifts of humor and storytelling continue to delight audiences. You cannot find a screen in the world that has not played a version of Scooby-Doo. We continue to be inspired by his work at Warner Bros. Animation and are honored to carry on the legacy of his beloved characters.”