ANIMATION SPIN
January 26, 2016 posted by

Hanna-Barbera’s “Ruff and Reddy in Space” on Record

TV’s first cat-and-dog team tangles with an evil interstellar empire on an LP based on the cartoon that launched the Hanna-Barbera animation empire.

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RUFF AND REDDY: ADVENTURES IN SPACE
Original T.V. Voices
Colpix Records CP-201 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)

Released in 1958. Series Executive Producer: Roger Muir. Series Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Album Producer: Hecky Krasnow. Writer: Charles Shows. Theme Music: Hoyt Curtin, Bill Hanna. Organist: Nick Nicholson. Running Time: 36 minutes.
Voices: Daws Butler (Reddy, Newscaster, The Big Thinker); Don Messick (Ruff, Professor Gizmo, Muni Mula Chatter).

This album presents the first set of episodes on the first TV series produced by what was then called “H-B Enterprises.” The modest series, consisting of serialized cartoons of less than four minutes, premiered to enough critical and ratings success to spawn the shows that made Hanna-Barbera grow exponentially within less than a decade.

Back Cover of album (click to enlarge)

Back Cover of album (click to enlarge)

Ruff and Reddy, basically a friendly cat and dog cliffhanger cartoon, is a straightforward, gentle affair, more akin to the Total TeleVision shows that would follow a few years later. There is little of the wry satire of the Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear or Quick Draw McGraw cartoons, but there are glimpses into what the early H-B TV shorts would offer, with phrases like “Hold it when I holler hold it!” The closest this Ruff and Reddy adventure comes to satire is Daws Butler’s impression of Liberace for the one of the voices of the two-faced Big Thinker.

Writer Charles Shows employed the same knack for wordplay he would also use on the entire Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Series record line. In fact, there’s one line that he repeated twice on the 1966 HBR LP, The Flintstones and José Jiminez in “The Time Machine,” about “speaking English like an Englishman.”

The recording is an edited version of the “Muni Mula” storyline, comprising twelve installments: “Planet Pirates,” “Night Flight Fright,” “The Whama Bama Gamma Gun,” “The Mastermind of Muni-Mula,” “The Mad Monster of Muni-Mula,” “Hocus Pocus Focus,” “Muni Mula Mix-Up,” “The Creepy Creature,” “Surprise in the Skies,” “Crowds in the Clouds,” “Reddy’s Rocket Rescue” and “Rocket Ranger Danger.”

The dialogue comes from the film soundtracks, with the intros and endings cut out. For the most part, the segments flow together smoothly, but there is some repetition. Narrator Don Messick’s recaps and exposition still occasionally betray the fact that this is not one story, but several small ones. And the very nature of the cliffhangers makes the listening experience different than watching the shows one or two at a time. They weren’t designed to be strung together as a coherent whole, but it holds together well. It is interesting to speculate on what the album might have sounded like if the script was adapted for vinyl and the performances were done especially for the record.

The joy is in hearing 36 minutes of prime Butler and Messick, doing all the voices. The theme song is not sung, but is played briefly here and there by an organist—one of the best in television, Nick Nicholson, who played on The Howdy Doody Show, also an NBC show at the time. The Capitol Hi-Q music is absent—and missed—but the organ is better than nothing and does suggest the sound of early children’s TV, which was frequently accompanied by organ music on both network and local shows.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Adventures in Space”
Perhaps because the dialogue is isolated and has not been mixed in with music and sound effects, the fidelity of Messick and Butler’s dialogue is clear and sharp, almost as if it was created for the record. But it is the soundtrack minus the library music.


GEMINI IV: WALK IN SPACE / GEMINI V: EIGHT DAYS IN SPACE
A Hanna-Barbera “Real-Life” Documentary
Hanna-Barbera Records – Cartoon Series HLP-2034 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)

Released in 1965. Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Writer/Director: Charles Shows. Recorded with the Cooperation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Running Time: 29 minutes.

WalkinSpace-600A considerable number of space program-related records were produced in the ’60s as the goal of landing on the moon was unfolding, mission-by-mission, in the news—and especially on TV screens.

While some of these records were whimsical fantasies (Randy Rayder in Outer Space, Bobby and Betty Go to the Moon), many of them were fact-based and handled the subject with stark seriousness—even on records for children (Golden’s A Child’s Introduction to Outer Space, United Artists Talespinners’ Moon Voyage).

Charles Shows had already handled space documentary material before, at least, according to how he recounts it in his book, Walt, an autobiographical account of Shows’ days at the Disney studio. In his recollection, he worked on the famous “Tomorrowland” space episodes for the Disneyland TV show and segments for the Mickey Mouse Club (the latter for which he receives onscreen credit).

Shows must have been a space buff, not only evidenced by his work on Hanna-Barbera Records like The Jetsons in “First Family on the Moon”, but also because of the detailed material on this album. The inside gatefold is loaded with details about the missions and the astronauts, who were the heroes of their day.

EightDaysinSpace-600The cooperation with NASA allowed Shows to access the mission radio transmissions, which he adapted faithfully. The “mission-speak” on the album between the NASA techs and the astronauts is fairly realistic, save for the tendency for the actors to get a little stentorian, probably due to Shows’ direction.
None of the actors receive any album credit, an unusual move for HBR. Maybe it was to lend a sense of realism to the proceedings. Like the H-B stock music, which except for the marches, clearly avoids the more recognizable Jonny Quest cues to keep this from sounding too “cartoony,” the actors do not sound like H-B regulars.

Striving for as much authenticity as possible has the consequence of making the album less of an entertainment experience and more of a stolid school lesson, almost as in the tradition of 16mm Coronet films. Because they’re real people, the “characters” don’t get to emote very much. The only time things get a little lively is when astronaut Ed White starts to enjoy walking in space, if for only a moment.

The space program was one of the most amazing things for a person to live through. It was hard to believe it was happening (and some do indeed think it was a Hollywood production), but it was science fiction turned fact. But what baby boomers also remember is that, if you watched hours and hours of the TV coverage of various missions, all you saw besides interviews with scientists was a lot of techno-chatter between mission control and the astronauts with, as a visual, “NASA Animation,” which was basically a still picture of spacecraft moving slowly along the TV screen. This album, while admirably well researched, is very much like that coverage. Nevertheless, those were amazing days of space-inspired hope and imagination.

Gemini album Gatefold - click to enlarge

Gemini album Gatefold – click to enlarge

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN

“Walk in Space” and “Eight Days in Space”
Like Jonny Quest with just Race Bannon and Dr. Quest, or Lost in Space with just Professor Robinson and Major West, this album is certainly interesting and as realistic as could be expected for its time, but it’s not as lively as First Family on the Moon.

17 Comments

  • Greg:
    It’s so cool to see and listen to two old toon pals and one of their adventures! Ruff and Reddy was one of my personal favorite H-B shows! I really like the rhyming dialogue,and Daws and Don showed they had great chemistry! And Don’s H-B narration was always entertaining! As always,another great post!

  • Daws Butler’s Reddy voice is remarkably close to his Huckleberry Hound voice, although there are subtle differences. This may be a reason why there were no more Ruff and Reddys after Huckleberry took off.

    Originally, I thought that Don Messick had re-recorded his narration for this album, but in comparing it to the original TV serial, the dialogue seems to have been entirely lifted from the soundtrack. Hearing the story without the visuals shows how verbally rich the writing and voice work is–every event is described in such detail that one doesn’t need to see the video portion to understand what is happening in the story.

    Another catchphrase that gets repeated frequently on the HBR albums and elsewhere: “They took off like a herd of birds.”

    It’s great to hear Butler and Messick in their prime.

    Interesting about the Gemini albums…the HBR records were certainly versatile in their output, considering these albums, the GI Joe album, and “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

    • It’s not only Butler’s voice – Messick also sounds a lot like Scrappy-Doo.

      Speaking of dogs,

      TV’s first cat-and-mouse team…
      Ruff and Reddy, basically a friendly cat and mouse cliffhanger cartoon…

      That would be cat and dog, right?

  • Thanks for ‘cat’ching that, DGM! We just fixed it.

  • Too bad Ruff & Reddy will never see a DVD release unless Warner Archive gives in at some point.

    • Before he passed away, Earl Kress was petitioning for the DVD release of RUFF AND REDDY. But there are a number of issues. First is the Captiol H-Q music tracks issue. There there is the film sources. While a number of the episodes here released on Home Video and on Cable Television in the 1990s, they were from 16mm sources of varying generations, which affected the soundtrack quality. There were a lot of episodes, so it would be a matter of selection as to which ones would be best to market. And lastly on the subject of market is the inevitable question of whether the market is large enough to earn back the production cost and make a profit. A marking campaign would be necessary to create an awareness of this being the start of Hanna-Barbera since few beyond my generation are familiar with this landmark series that was a part of television history.

    • It is difficult to start from scratch this way.

    • There should be enough complete stories available now in broadcast quality if they wanted to do this. They were shown on Boomerang! They should be good enough for a limited production DVD.

    • Hecky Krasnow, the producer, also did a Sam Fox/Capitol Q cue (:)) that no one other than Ray Pointer himself brought up on the site founders’s late, lamented “Animation History” forums (sadly gone), “Happy Cobbler”, often used in early Augie Doggie shorts. I love the Ruff/Reddy shorts…it’s also hard to track the true composers or rights owners given the ghostwriting and stuff. Then there is the money issue and whether or not (as with Bill Loose’s widow for years) any licensing is allowed for cheap..

    • Hecky Krasnow is a very underappreciated producer who made songs and records like “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Peter Cottontail,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and many others possible. His daughter wrote a fascinating book about him:
      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AG5KMKW?keywords=gail%20krasnow&qid=1453931091&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

  • The odd thing about the challenging music rightsissue is that the recent Gumby 1950’s DVD collection is loaded with the same music cues as Ruff and Reddy, Quick Draw and others. Maybe the door is open to renegotiation.

  • The “MUNIMULA” story arc is one of my favorites of the RUFF AND REDDY series. No, this is not Jay Ward type cliffhanger adventure chapters, but they still do have their charm. And I agree with Greg, the GUMBY episodes are being released, complete with all the Capital music cues, so let’s hope that ears are listening and that little hurtles like this become easier to leap through, so more restorations would be in order. It’s a shame to ignore these cherished early productions of Hanna-Barbera Studios. On a slightly related note, I just wish that someone would consider “Q. T. HUSH” THE COMPLETE SERIES as a possibility. I’d be one of the first customers!

  • Love it, hate it, or both, Charlie Shows sure was into endlessly rhyming and alliterative puns, both at H-B and Larry Harmon’s (“Don’t turn aroun’, clown, I’m Get-Outa-Town-By-Sundown Brown!”) His grandson, by the way, is self-help huckster Tony Robbins!
    I’ve always admired and appreciated Don Messick’s work in his own natural voice, whether as a narrator, Ranger Smith, Dr. Quest, or anywhere else. Mellow, soft, yet authoritative when needed; his was exactly the kind of adult male voice kids would find both comfortable and comforting. (Daws Butler too, though that side of his acting seemed more obvious in, say, Stan Freberg’s records like “Green Christmas” than his animation work.)

  • A minor issue, but…the pronunciation of Charles Shows’ name? Was it pronounced the way it looks (like “TV shows”) or more like that of more like the late baseball star Eric Show (which rhymed with “wow.”) I recall a transcribed interview with someone (can’t remember who) in an old Animania in which a cartoon writer or director referred to working with “Charlie Schouse,” and realized he may have been referring to Shows.

    • I met his son, Charles Shows Jr, and he pronounced it like TV “Shows.”

  • The whole purpose of the Warner Bros. Archives series is that there is no marketing cost, no profit goal to be hit, no production cost for the cases (which are really quite shoddy in comparison to those sent to retail) and are (supposedly) “manufactured on demand.” The price on them is double or triple the usual discounted price we’d pay if they were stores and they are not remastered or even cleaned up. Certainly, for something which would require so little work, the ONLY obstruction here is the fear that the Capitol Library soundtrack composers would demand their royalties. (I also would argue that while this initial adventure is on the gentle side, the later episodes, say a year or two in, began to get a lot livelier–and the narration a lot funnier.) I would hope that a RUFF AND REDDY: THE COMPLETE SERIES eventually does appear, and my desire to own it would overcome my budget concerns. I’d certainly bite the bullet on whatever the high price would be.

  • Nicholson and Muir would later get work on game shows, creating the short-lived CBS show “Spin-Off.”

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