Ken Spears, who helped create “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!,” the series starring a gang of mystery-solving teenagers and a hapless, hungry dog that became one of the most lucrative franchises in the history of animation, died Nov. 6 in Brea. He was 82.
The cause was complications of Lewy body dementia, his son Kevin said. Spears died at an assisted-living facility.
Joe Ruby, “Scooby-Doo’s” co-creator and Spears’ longtime business partner, died in August.
Spears was just out of the Navy when a friend’s father, William Hanna, offered him a job in the editing studio of his new company, Hanna-Barbera. As Spears said later, he initially had no idea Hanna was in the cartoon business; he just liked the salary — $104 a week.
At Hanna-Barbera, he met Ruby, also newly sprung from the Navy, and the two began writing gags and scripts. They soon caught the attention of Fred Silverman, then head of daytime programming at CBS. He charged them with creating a cartoon series that would be a blend of “I Love a Mystery,” a radio show popular in the 1940s about three friends looking for adventure; the 1948 comedy-horror movie “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein”; and “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” the popular sitcom that ran from 1959 to 1963 about a teenager looking for love and his slacker beatnik sidekick.
Silverman also wanted the show to feature a pop song in each episode, just like “The Archie Show.” That didn’t work out, but Spears and Ruby, working with artist Iwao Takamoto, created a half-hour comedy mystery with a quartet of teenagers and a goofy Great Dane with a gruff bark. After 15 or so drafts, they realized the dog was the star.
In an oral history, Silverman said he had landed on the name Scooby-Doo after hearing Frank Sinatra sing the familiar riff from his 1966 hit “Strangers in the Night”: do-be-do-be-do.
Spears and Ruby worked for Silverman at CBS and then ABC before starting their own company, Ruby-Spears Productions, in 1977.