Legendary animator to bring ‘Beatles Cartoon Art Show’ to Idaho Falls
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IDAHO FALLS – You may not recognize Ron Campbell’s name, but it’s very likely that you’ve seen his work.
The Emmy and Peabody award-winning animator has worked on some of the most iconic cartoons ever made, including “Scooby-Doo,” “The Jetsons,” “Rugrats” and The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” feature film. Residents of east Idaho can get a closer look at Campbell’s art when he brings Beatles Cartoon Art Show to the Willowtree Gallery in Idaho Falls on May 28 and 29.
The show features original paintings based on the characters Campbell animated while working on “The Beatles” animated series and “Yellow Submarine.” Animation fans can also see paintings based on other beloved characters Campbell helped bring to life throughout his five-decade long career, as well as chat with the animator himself about all things cartoons. They can even purchase pieces they like and take Campell’s work home with them.
Campbell’s interest in cartoons was sparked watching “Tom & Jerry” animated shorts in his local movie theater as a boy growing up in Australia.
“There was no TV when I was a boy and all the neighborhood kids went to the movies on Saturday afternoon,” Campbell told EastIdahoNews.com. “The program was always turned over to stuff that was of interest to children. There would be cartoons and then there would be a feature film with Roy Rogers or Hop-Along Cassiday or something exciting.”
As a child watching those cartoons, Campbell thought Tom and Jerry were real, live creatures. When his great-grandmother told him that cartoons were just drawings, it opened up a new door in his imagination.
“I remember thinking ‘I can do drawings that can come alive’,” he said. “As I learned more about it, I became fascinated by the notion of drawings that could come alive.”
Campbell’s fascination led him to read books about animation and, later, attend art school to learn the craft. As he was leaving school, television came to Australia, bringing a demand for hand-drawn animation content.
“I was able to strut around the city of Sydney pretending I knew how to make cartoons,” Campbell said. “And I did, and I learned a lot. Then an American company came around looking for production help and I found myself making entertainment cartoons for American television.”
As Campbell continued to prove his animation mettle, he was offered bigger and bigger opportunities. A huge opportunity came his way when King Features offered him a job directing episodes of a Beatles series the company was planning to make in Australia.
“I said ‘Beetles make terrible characters for a children’s cartoon’,” remembered Campbell. “I was confusing beetles, the insects, with Beatles, the rock n’ roll band. I had barely heard of the band at that point.”
“The Beatles” series opened even more doors for Campbell, including the chance to animate about twelve minutes worth of The Beatle’s “Yellow Submarine” feature. Campbell’s contributions include the Chief Blue Meanie and the Nowhere Man.
Campbell’s success allowed him to open his own animation studio, Ron Campbell Films, where he did work for many Hanna-Barbera shows, including “Scooby-Doo,” “The Jetsons” and “The Flintstones.”
“My studio was across the road from Hanna-Barbera and Bill Hanna used to ship excess work to my studio to help out with his production problems,” said Campbell.
It was also at his studio where Campbell created his favorite project, his Emmy and Peabody Award-winning series “The Big Blue Marble.”
“It had a great variety of designs and stories that my studio could animate,” he said. “We did a rock opera. We did all kinds of things on that show. I loved that show and, of course, I loved it because it was mine.”
Campbell continued to write, direct, storyboard and animate until his retirement in 2008, a decade spent on both “The Smurfs” and “Rugrats,” respectively. The last show he worked on was Cartoon Network’s “Ed, Edd, n Eddy.”
To keep himself busy in retirement, Campbell began painting characters he worked on, an idea he got from “Bugs Bunny” animator Chuck Jones. People liked Campbell’s paintings and began buying them and that led to Campbell’s traveling gallery shows.
“People love to come in and see the paintings and talk about animation and their memories of watching cartoons on Saturday morning,” Campbell said. “That was an incredible experience for most kids. Even if they had terrible childhoods, they still have happy memories of those cartoons I helped make. I think that’s part of the pleasure of coming to one of my shows: the nostalgia.”
Whether you’re wanting to talk cartoons with a legendary animator or you’re just looking for a blast of nostalgia, you can attend Campbell’s show at the Willowtree Gallery in Idaho Falls May 28 and 29.Click here for more details.