Spears’ son Kevin confirmed his death to Variety, saying that he died from complications related to Lewy body dementia.
“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,” Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios President Sam Register said in a statement.
A Los Angles native, Spears co-created the iconic animated series Scooby-Doo with Ruby. He was born Charles Kenneth Spears in L.A. on March 12, 1938. He befriended the son of animation producer William Hanna of Hanna-Barbera fame. This was his way into the animation space.
In 1959, he was hired to work at Hanna-Barbera Productions as a sound editor. It was here he met Ruby and they forged a bond and became writing partners. They wrote teleplays for projects at Hanna-Barbera as well as Sid and Marty Krofft Television Productions and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises.
In addition to Scooby-Doo, the duo created Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, Jabberjaw and other programs. While at Depatie-Freleng, they created The Barkleys and The Houndcats. In the ’70s, Spears and Ruby were hired by CBS president of children’s programming Fred Silverman to oversee the Saturday morning cartoon lineup. When Silverman left CBS to ABC, the pair followed. In addition to all of this, Spears was a story consultant for the 1974 TV iteration of Planet of the Apes.
Spears and Ruby formed Ruby-Spears Productions in 1977 where they created or rebooted more animated series including Superman, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Fangface, Mister T, The Plastic Man Comedy-Adventure Hour, Thundarr the Barbarian as well as Saturday Supercade.
Taft Entertainment, the parent company of Hanna-Barbera, acquired Ruby-Spears Productions in 1981. Their catalog was sold, along with that of Hanna-Barbera, to Turner Broadcasting in 1991.
Spears is survived by his two sons, Kevin and Chris, their wives, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.