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Holladay Journal

Dive into the animated world of Ron Campbell

May 23, 2019 11:43AM ● By Sona Schmidt Harris

Ron Campbell is touring with his pop artwork and other beloved cartoon characters. (Rob Shanahan).

By Sona Schmidt-Harris | [email protected]

Famous animator Ron Campbell is exhibiting his “Beatles” pop artwork as well as other beloved cartoon characters May 23–27 at Relics Framemakers & Gallery in Holladay.

In his retirement, Campbell created paintings related to his work on “Yellow Submarine,” the psychedelic ’60s movie featuring the Beatles. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the release of the classic film. In addition to the famed movie for which he created 12 minutes of animation, he also directed the Saturday morning “Beatles” cartoon series. A native Australian, Campbell directed the series in Australia. “I never did meet the Beatles,” he said. Campbell believes that “Yellow Submarine” “is a strange film and very evocative of the age. It sweeps you back to 1968.”

In Al Brodax’s book “Up Periscope Yellow,” the “Yellow Submarine” producer notes that Campbell deserves a lot of the credit for the movie and states that Campbell tied it all together at the last minute.

When Campbell came to the U.S., Hanna-Barbera hired him. “I really loved Bill Hanna,” Campbell said. Later, Campbell worked as a freelancer for Hanna-Barbera and other studios and even built his own studio across from Hanna-Barbera.

A definitive cartoonist of modern times, Campbell worked on a multitude of series including “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” “The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,” “George of the Jungle,” “The Jetsons,” “The Flintstones,” “The Smurfs,” “Yogi Bear,” “Rugrats,” “Beetle Bailey,” “Heathcliff,” “Pac-Man” and others.

With his Hollywood studio, Ron Campbell Films, he produced and directed the animation for “The Big Blue Marble,” which received an Emmy Award for Best Children’s Show of the Year as well as a Peabody Award. This was Campbell’s favorite animation project he worked on, although he is also proud of his work on “Sesame Street.

“Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” beloved by children to this day, was successful for a lot of reasons, Campbell said. “Given how all young people want to be older than they actually are, if you make a show with teenagers running around, you really capture the under-11 audience.  Another reason it was successful is because Scooby-Doo can barely talk. Every 4-year-old can barely talk, so when they see that a huge, powerful dog like Scooby Doo can barely talk as well, they develop an empathy for the dog.” 

It was in the 1990s that Campbell did most of his work for Disney TV animation, which included publicity films for the giant.

Campbell said he was able to create so many different cartoon characters because “I went to animation school. You learn to draw. You learn to paint. All animators follow model sheets, which helps show them how the character is drawn.”

Despite his prolific career, Campbell said, “I don’t think of myself as a fantastic success, actually.”  

He went to the movies as a boy and was transfixed by the cartoons shown before each feature.  Believing that the cartoons were real, he asked his great-grandmother about them. She said they were just drawings. “I was struck by it. I can make drawings that can come alive! That stayed with me my whole life.”

Currently, Campbell is touring with his paintings and doing storyboards. He lives in Arizona.