Cartoonist to visit Massapequa Park, Oyster Bay
To be associated with the Beatles, however peripherally, is to earn a cachet that will gild anyone’s artistic oeuvre.
Cartoonist/animator Ron Campbell, who will visit Long Island this week, never met any of the Fab Four.
“They were always on the other side of the world,” Campbell, 76, chuckled as he spoke from his home north of Phoenix.
But his work on their groundbreaking, psychedelic Yellow Submarine was said to be crucial to its success, and he was also associated with one of the more obscure corners of Beatlemania: the Saturday morning TV cartoon featuring fanciful caricatures of the band (and a couple of songs per episode) that ran from 1965-69. He later wrote a forward to the book Beatletoons: The Real Story Behind The Cartoon Beatles, which detailed his extensive involvement.
Campbell exhibited illustrative abilities of a high order from childhood, drawing, as he put it, “oohs” and “aahs” from adults. Now that he puts on “live” painting exhibitions, he gets the same response, he noted.
“Every human being gets pleasure out of drawing, creating,” he said. “Most stop when they’re [young]. Some of us go on. I kind of stuck with it.”
Inspiration for his life’s path came early.
Campbell saw his first cartoons in a movie theater in his small town in Australia, and “when my grandmother told me that they were only drawings, it hit me like a thunderbolt,” he related. “I realized that drawings can live… walk, talk.”
Televison became a dominant force, and soon after spending one year at Sydney College of the Arts he began animation work for the TV cartoons that became an integral part of many childhoods.
Like millions of others, he was enthralled by the artistry and creativity of Disney’s Fantasia, never dreaming that one day he’d befriend and collaborate with some of its creators.
He was hired by the legendary Bill Hanna of the Hanna-Barbera animation empire and later set up his own company Ron Campbell Films, Inc. There, he produced and directed the animation for the Big Blue Marble, which among other awards garnered a Peabody for Excellence in Broadcasting and an Emmy for Best Children’s Show of the Year.
Later, Campbell was hired by Disney TV Animation and had a hand in many of its productions.
Campbell worked in every aspect of his business—producer, director, story editor, storyboard creator—and won numerous awards and had a long list of credits.
He admitted that much of what he created was ephemeral—after all, a movie runs 24 frames per second, and in the days before computers took away the laboriousness, an animator (or more likely, aspiring underlings) had to draw as many as 24 different sheets for every second of filming.
One day Campbell took a walk on Rodeo Drive in Hollywood and discovered that some of his artwork, which he had tossed, was on sale at a street fair. There was a market for it, after all. He mentioned cels, the transparent acetate sheets on which the characters are hand-painted, as having value for collectors.
After his retirement, he began doing paintings based on beloved cartoon characters and periodically does shows in which he greets fans, paints and sells his work.
Campbell has worked on such iconic cartoons as Scooby Doo and The Flintstones, but his work with the Beatles remains a career highlight.
“There are a lot more Beatles fans. [Their] music is much more powerful than Scooby Doo,” he laughed.
On Long Island
Campbell will appear at two Long Island Picture Frame locations to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the final New York concert appearance by the Beatles. He’ll be at 4780 Sunrise Hwy., Massapequa Park, Friday, Aug. 12 through Sunday, Aug. 14. Call 516-798-8400. He then will be at 4 Audrey Ave., Oyster Bay, Tuesday, Aug. 16 through Sunday, Aug. 21. Call 516-558-7511 or visit www.lipf.com for hours and more information. Free admission.