Ruby Gloom started out as a franchise by American company Mighty Fine, who delivered a stationary line of pencil cases, key-chains and posters with the titular character as its "mascot". Despite its suggested "goth" theme, Ruby sounds a little more upbeat, having been described as "The Happiest Girl In The World" in merchandise bios - and when an animated adaptation was produced by Nelvana in 2006, it became more so.
Usually, cartoons based on franchises can go either way. Sometimes good, or sometimes very, VERY bad...but for Ruby, what they did with the uniqueness of the concept made for some very pleasant viewing.
As one may guess from the designs and settings, a lot of the characters are based on the familiar line-up of monsters we've all seen before - skeletons, ghosts, Frankenstein's Monster, cyclops - as well as animals associated with the same theme like ravens / crows, bats and black cats. However, the characters are anything but monstrous; they each have their own individual quirks and foibles that make them stand out and which they happily play off one another. They're more "human" than "monster" in short, and viewers will find little aspects of each that they could relate to in themselves. Case in point with Skull Boy, whose purpose to discover who he is/was puts an intriguing twist on self-discovery.
The show itself is anything but scary - it's definitely "cute" with a layer of light-hearted darkness somewhere in-between. It may obviously not be everyone's favourite, but having watched its entire run from beginning to end, I found myself taking a fancy to it over time. Beautifully animated, well-written and with a cast of characters who don't outstay their welcome.
Judging each performance also, the voice actors clearly had fun playing their respective roles. Amongst the cast involved, Sarah Gadon makes Ruby ever so innocent and cheerful, Scott McCord nails Skull Boy's awkward but friendly nature, Adrian Truss makes Poe the Raven a perfect theatrical ham, but it's Emily Hampshire who shines through as the unlucky and melancholic Misery...who has a surprisingly cool singing voice when asleep.
Handfuls of DVDs have been scattered across the globe since Ruby Gloom first aired - Canada, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, Australia - but I'm sure it'll be a while yet before fans are able to find a complete DVD box set.
Now feel free to contradict me here but I think, in my opinion, that this series would have appealed to both boys and girls - girls would like the "cuteness" of the characters while the boys would find the monster theme "orsum". Or perhaps they would be more drawn to Frank and Len's rock-and-roll performances throughout most of the episodes. It just has this strange sort of balance that would draw both genres together without making anyone in the show appear inferior, clichéd or pushed aside regardless of gender or character. Each are given their own time in the spotlight, which is great for this sizeable cast.
Whether it was Nelvana's intention or not from the business side of things - by encouraging Mighty Fine's merchandise to the forefront next to DVD sales - it's still a nice example that not all shows with a female lead automatically makes it "girly". Least we forget, Kim Possible and the Powerpuff Girls also buck the trend there...!
SEASON 1 PLAYLIST