Ruff and Reddy, the first characters from the Hanna-Barbera Studio.


Original Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Hanna-Barbera
First Appeared: 1957
Creators: Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera
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In 1957, MGM closed its cartoon studio, and their animation employees found themselves out of work — including the creators of …

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Tom & Jerry, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. For them, this was a cue to enter the burgeoning market for television animation. On December 14 of that year, the Hanna-Barbera Studio's very first production, Ruff & Reddy (voiced by Don Messick and Daws Butler, respectively), debuted on NBC.

The breakneck action of their theatrical cartoons was impossible on a television budget, where each six-minute cartoon cost only a tenth as much as its big-screen counterpart. But Hanna and Barbera worked out a system of "planned animation", in which movement could be mass-produced, and cycles transferred from one character to another. Ruff & Reddy demonstrated that this planned animation, if not necessarily high art, was a system that worked.

Another thing that may not have been high art, but worked, was the Hanna-Barbera Studio's method of swiping situations from existing properties. Ruff & Reddy, with its smart little guy and big dumb guy always getting into adventures, was based on the old Crusader Rabbit formula. Many of the studio's later shows, including The Flintstones and Top Cat, used set-ups that had been done before.

Ruff & Reddy was only one segment of a half-hour show, the remainder made up of old theatrical Screen Gems cartoons, with a live-action host. Although Hanna and Barbera strongly felt the limits of their control over the presentation of their characters — which is why their subsequent shows (starting with Huckleberry Hound) were full half-hour productions — the series ran until 1964, a total of over 100 episodes.

Between 1958 and '62, Dell Comics published an even dozen issues of its version of Ruff & Reddy, thus becoming the first of seven American publishers (along with Gold Key, Charlton, Marvel, Harvey, Archie, and DC) to produce comics based on Hanna-Barbera characters.

Today, an awful lot of people remember a Ruff & Reddy storyline in which they met aliens from the planet Munimula ("aluminum" spelled backward) — although many can't recall what cartoon it was associated with. They had a chance to be reminded in the early years of the 21st century, when the series was rerun on Boomerang, the cable channel devoted entirely to vintage Hanna-Barbera.

Other than that, Ruff & Reddy has been seen little in recent decades. But its place in history is secured by its status as proving ground for a fledgling industry giant.


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Text ©2000-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hanna-Barbera.