Television did not arrive in Australia until 1956. Ron Campbell was born in Australia on the day after Christmas in 1939, which dictated that he discover most cartoons as a young boy at local cinemas, usually on Saturday afternoons. Speaking to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal by telephone from his Arizona home, Campbell, 79, recalled, “Each Saturday, most children where I lived in Australia had a shilling in their pocket so they could enjoy an afternoon of cartoons.”
Writer, animator and director Ron Campbell labored on the Beatles’ television show, and animated more than 12 minutes of Beatles film “Yellow Submarine.” He will make appearances with more than 50 original paintings Jan. 25-27 at the Tornado Gallery, 1822 Buddy Holly Ave. [PHOTO PROVIDED BY NICK FOLLGER]
As a child, he was confused by the animation process. “I figured out where Hopalong Cassidy was from,” he said. “But I brought up cartoon characters to my grandmother and asked where they lived. She told me, “Ronnie, cartoons are not real.
“Those are drawings.”
“Well,” he reflected, “if a 6-year-old boy could experience an epiphany, that was it for me. It was the most memorable moment of my childhood. I said, ‘Do you mean, when I make drawings, they can actually come alive? That sense of wonder carried me through my teenage years, to art school and later to the creation of my own studio in America.”
It did not take much effort to lure Campbell to the United States, where he would work as a animator on the teams that created many iconic television programs, as well as key sequences in The Beatles’ acclaimed animated film Yellow Submarine. In his book Up Periscope, Yellow Submarine, film producer Al Brodax credited Campbell with “saving the movie and tying it all together at the last minute.”
Pixar co-founder John Lasseter also credits Yellow Submarine with helping feature-length animation gain acceptance as an art form.
Professional writer, animator and director Ron Campbell depicts The Beatles at Shea Stadium. Campbell will discuss his animating and directing Beatles sequences Jan. 25-27 at the Tornado Gallery, 1822 Buddy Holly Ave.
Earlier, Campbell animated and directed 39 episodes of hit Saturday morning animated half-hour series The Beatles. This series was the very first to feature animated versions of living people. It aired in the United States from 1965 to 1969, although the latter two seasons consisted of repeats.
Still, this Australian, who grew up loving to draw, worked on Beatles animation relatively early in his career, likely not foreseeing the inherent importance.
Upon retiring after working in animation for 50 years and one month, Campbell intended to remain active. He immediately began painting watercolors of characters from the iconic series he had helped animate.
The touring Ron Campbell’s Beatles Cartoon Art Show will stop in Lubbock in Texas on Jan. 25-27 at the Tornado Gallery, 1822 Buddy Holly Ave. Campbell’s personal appearances at the Tornado Gallery are scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. Jan. 25, noon to 6 p.m. Jan. 26, and noon to 4 p.m. Jan. 27. Call 687-1644 for more details
From Lubbock, the show will move to Amarillo where Campbell will appear from 4 to 8 p.m. Jan. 29-30 at the Featured Fine Art Gallery, 3701 Plains Boulevard, Space 72-C. More information is available online at artsinthesunset.org.
For many, the Lubbock appearance simply will be an opportunity to meet the artist, perhaps request a signature or photograph, and peruse paintings depicting many animated characters he helped bring to life as his animation studio contracted with Nickelodeon, Hanna-Barbera, Disney and more. Those iconic figures include not only The Beatles, but also Rugrats, Rocket Power, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Popeye, Krazy Kat, Beetle Bailey, The Smurfs, The Jetsons, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, Winnie the Pooh, George of the Jungle, DarkWing Duck, Duck Tales, Goof Troop, Ed, Edd & Eddy and more.
A career highlight arrived when Campbell’s Hollywood studio, Ron Campbell Films Inc., produced animation for PBS children’s television series The Big Blue Marble, which won an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award for Excellence in Children’s Programming.
No original cels, per se, are included in the touring show, although Campbell will hang “a couple specially-produced cel-like images.”
But tour producer Scott Segelbaumnoted, “Animators did not do cels when producing movies or TV shows. Animators draw all the various movements, then send them to be Xeroxed onto cels, where the ink and paint department colors them in.”
Instead, said Segelbaum, the Lubbock show finds Campbell exhibiting more than 50 original, colorful paintings. The displayed art, Segelbaum said, ranges in price from $295 to $5,000. Signed posters are only $40.
“Ron uses watercolor-based, bright-colored dyes to give the look of an animated cel,” the producer added.
He confirmed that Campbell will sign simple autographs for fans at no charge, “with some exceptions, one being he will not sign printed copies of his own art work.”
Tornado Gallery co-owner Larry Simmons admitted he was initially unsure about hosting. “I was unfamiliar with Ron’s name, but very familiar with his work and TV shows he worked on. After all, I grew up in the ’60s! I was worried whether enough people were animation fans, but just kept thinking we don’t get many chances like this. I’m such a fan. I mean, it’s the Beatles cartoon!”
The only early work for animators in Australia was reanimating commercials.
“American and English products could not be advertised on Australian TV,” said Campbell. “They had to be re-done, which of course helped me enormously.”
Campbell studied at the Swinburne Art Institute in Australia for a short time. By 1958, at age 19, he was animating professionally. In fact, Campbell decided to learn as much as he could about filmmaking. Brodax hired Campbell to help animate Krazy Kat and Beetle Bailey in Australia, then called him with an offer to leave his home, fly to Hollywood and work on a cartoon show about The Beatles.
With all of his research, study and experience, Campbell was considered “the old guy” on the Beatles crew, although only 24. Next leap: Brodax telling him, “Ron, we really want you to direct.”
Campbell stayed in Hollywood while Yellow Submarine was produced in England. He and partner Duane Crowther, now deceased, worked on that movie’s Sea of Time sequence, and scenes involving the Blue Meanie, Nowhere Man and more. Campbell is credited with contributing 12 minutes of Yellow Submarine.
Campbell never met the Beatles, but said, “I heard a story about the Beatles screening the TV show in London. Ringo [original voice of Thomas the Tank Engine] walked out and said, ‘I think they made me a goof.’ Yeah, we did. Every group of four needs a goof for comedy relief.”
That said, years later all four Beatles praised the animated TV show and Yellow Submarine for aiding their career.
However, Campbell did not like every project. He never was a fan of animating The Harlem Globetrotters, saying, “It seems like you always had to have a guy waving his arm up and down, bouncing (dribbling) a damn ball.”
Campbell also stressed that he never worked at another studio after opening his own, not even Disney. “I never worked as an employee for an American company. I was always independent, even doing storyboard work.”
Retirement has not found him “painting flowers in my garden.” The artist prefers “to paint what I knew. Then behold, some people wanted to buy them. Although now it takes me five minutes to add my signature. … On one piece, I signed my name using colors. The customer became excited and told people. Now I do it all the time.”
He usually tours just one week of each month. Of course, he also paints during tour stops.
Campbell said he enjoys talking to adults who were children watching Saturday morning cartoons in the 1960s. “These people,” he said, remember when they controlled the TV. Parents were asleep upstairs, and children had freedom to change channels and watch Scooby-Doo if they wanted.”
He views his painting as therapeutic, as well, pointing out, “I am almost 80. I suspect these painted characters and discussions may all play a role in keeping me alive.”
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