Prothro Gallery will welcome animator Ron Campbell
Artist worked on ‘Yellow Submarine,’ ‘Smurfs’
July 3, 2017
Most people older 35 can remember the first time they saw "Yellow Submarine," George Dunning's iconic 1968 animated Beatles masterpiece.
Ron Campbell remembers vividly because he worked on the film with his late colleague, Duane Crowther.
Some scenes the two animated include the Sea of Time sequence, Max licking the Chief Blue Meanie's boot, as well as scenes that surrounding the curious creature named Jeremy Hillary Boob Ph.D., aka the Nowhere Man.
"I never thought that I was doing something important," Campbell said during a Park Record telephone interview from his home in Arizona. "It was just my life. It was what I did. At an early age, I resolved not to become an engineer to build bridges or to become a doctor. I resolved to work on cartoons. It was a childhood ambition and it stayed with me."
Ron Campbell will be in Park City for a three-day appearance Friday through Sunday, July 7-9, at Prothro Gallery, 314 Main St. He'll be at the gallery on Friday from 5:30-9 p.m.; Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
The gallery will exhibit paintings Campbell has created of cartoon characters he has worked on throughout a 50-year career in children's television.
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In addition to "Yellow Submarine," Campbell worked on a Beatles cartoon series in his native Australia and other characters including Beetle Bailey, Krazy Kat and Cool McCool. He also contributed to Hanna-Barbera cartoons such as "The Flintstones," "The Jetsons," "Captain Caveman" and "Scooby Doo."
In the 1980s, his studio — Ron Campbell Films — won a Peabody for Excellence in Broadcasting for its work on "Big Blue Marble," before storyboarding "Bonker," "Goof Troop," "Darkwing Duck" and "Winnie the Pooh" for Disney.
His more recent works include "The Smurfs" and Nickelodeon's "Rugrats."
"I don't really look back and think how significant some of these programs were, because in filmmaking, directors aren't squat without good actors. And actors aren't squat without the lines given to them by scriptwriters," Campbell said. "Films are made by many people. So, when I do an art show, people come and think I am responsible for all the things that happened with 'Scooby-Doo,' but that isn't even remotely true.
"I worked on 'Scooby-Doo,' but I didn't design the characters. I didn't write the music. I didn't write the scripts. I made the films. I delivered them on time on budget. But there were many things I did not do. So, one person can't take full credit. I, rather, see myself as part of a team."
Still, when Campbell makes appearances, he creates new art of the classic characters for his fans.
"I'm 77 years old and retired from officially working in children's television in 2008, which was 50 years and one month from the time I did my first animated television commercial," he said. "When I put my pencil down, I was faced with the question: 'What next?'"
Campbell faced the choice of moping around at home or starting a second act.
"I decided since I haven't painted since I was an art student, because all my work had been with a pencil or through talking and planning and business, that I would try painting again," he said. "The next question I faced the question of what to paint."
Campbell took a cue from late animator Chuck Jones, who is known for his work on the Warner Bros. cartoons.
"In his retirement he painted Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner," Campbell said. "He's now long passed away, but his paintings are now selling in the $100,000 and in demand. So, I thought I could do paintings on some of the cartoons I had made."
The decision led to a domino effect for Campbell.
"When you do paintings, you like to show them, and when you show them, you like to sell them, because when you retire, you have an electric bill to pay," he said with a chuckle. "So instead of sitting in my easy chair and watching the Golf Channel while I slowly rot away and die, I decided to paint and stay active. And now, I find myself traveling all over America."
Like all children, Campbell got into drawing and painting while growing up.
"The difference, perhaps, between yourself and myself, is that you stopped drawing at some point and I kept doing it," he said. "It was just something that stayed with me."
The biggest artistic impact in Campbell's life came while he was at the theater.
"There was no TV when I was a child, so, I would got to the movies on Saturday afternoon," he said. "Before the feature, they would show serials and cartoons, and when I saw the cartoons, I could not figure out how animals like Tom and Jerry could be. They looked so strange."
Campbell's great-grandmother explained that the cartoons were just drawings.
"I remember having this childhood epiphany and thought, 'You mean I can actually do drawings that can come alive?'" he said. "That just swallowed me and obsessed my thoughts for an unnatural period of time."
Campbell followed his muse through art school and graduated during what he called the perfect time.
"When I got out of art school, television was just arriving in Australia, and it was possible to make a living as an animator," he said. "There was a demand for animated television commercials. So, I became a producer of such films, and was able to make a living.
"Had I came out of art school 10 years prior, there wouldn't have been this opportunity. Had I come out 10 years later, other people would have been doing it. As it was, I was perfectly timed to be on the leading edge of animation in Australia. That led to all the good things that happened to me."
Campbell said he is happy with the choice he made for his "second act."
"What has shocked me is the tremendous affection people have to their nostalgic memories of watching 'Smurfs' when they were young, and although they are all grown up now, when they meet me, they treat me like I'm some sort of royalty," he said. "It's been a lot of fun."
Ron Campbell will be in Park City from Friday, July 7, to Sunday, July 9, at Prothro Gallery, 314 Main St. Admission is free, but RSVPs are required. Call 435-200-8866 to RSVP. For information, visit www.prothrogallery.com.