Animator Ron Campbell helped shape television pop culture of millennials' formative years — yet most of them don't know his name.
In fact, Campbell's influence spans five decades of cartoon creations, beginning with baby boomers growing up in the 1950-'60s through their grandchildren in the 1990s. His resume is a who's who of Saturday morning TV: "Rugrats," "The Smurfs," "Scooby Doo, Where Are You," "Yogi Bear," "The Flintstones," "Darkwing Duck," "The Jetsons," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Duck Tales," to name a few.
But perhaps his biggest claim to fame is being chosen an animator on the classic Beatles film "Yellow Submarine," which marks its 50th anniversary this year. He also served as director of the Saturday morning Beatles cartoon series.
Although retired, the 78-year-old California artist still makes about 30 or so personal appearances each year.
Tuesday and Wednesday, he will be the featured artist in a pop-up show that is the first event in Area 61 Gallery's reopening at 730 Chestnut St.
Campbell will be in the gallery from 5 to 9 both nights.
"This will be a complete solo exhibit for Ron Campbell in Area 61's new space," says gallery director Keeli Crewe. "We will have a grand reopening with our local artists at a later date. It's an honor to host him because his work is so well-known."
If you go
› What: Ron Campbell pop-up art show.
› When: 5-9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
› Where: Area 61, 730 Chestnut St.
› Admission: Free.
› Phone: 423-648-9367.
Campbell will not only show original Beatles cartoon paintings and art based on his cartoon creations but will be painting at this exhibit. His work will be for sale, and he says he personalizes each with a certificate of authenticity on-site upon purchase.
Campbell grew up in Australia and, ironically, didn't even know who The Beatles were when he got the call to direct the band's cartoon show. He thought the caller was referring to the hard-shell bug and responded, "That's a terrible subject for children's cartoons."
"I quickly learned who The Beatles were and quickly came to respect them," he says, laughing.
The cartoon series debuted in September 1965 and ran four years, at times reaching a "67 share" of the market, which meant of every 100 TV sets turned on at that moment, 67 of them were watching the cartoon, says Campbell.
He began getting so many job offers in the U.S., that he moved to America in 1966, later becoming a naturalized citizen. He worked with William Hanna (of Hanna-Barbera Productions) for one year.
The next year he opened his own studio across the road from Hanna-Barbera — Ron Campbell Films Inc. His studio later produced and directed animation for "The Big Blue Marble," which ran from 1974 to 1983. The show won the 1975 Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting and an Emmy Award for Best Children's Show.
"'Big Blue Marble' is the thing I'm most proud of because it was my show; I wasn't working for others. It was a wonderful, educational show for children that I believe helped bring the world together," he says.
Campbell explains the TV show had a pen-pal club with members in 100 countries. Members wrote to each other, he says, and "some of those people who wrote are still friends today."
His second year in this country, Campbell got the call to work on "Yellow Submarine." His artwork can be seen in the Sea of Time sequence and in scenes involving Nowhere Man, and he helped create Chief Blue Meanie.
Campbell says that although he never got to meet any of the Fab Four, he knows they have his artwork. In fact, singer/percussionist Sheila E bought one of his paintings of Ringo to gift to the drummer.
Campbell says "Yellow Submarine" and creating storyboards for "Scooby Doo" took up his daytime hours. At night he worked on the 1967 animated cartoon series "George of the Jungle."
He created storyboards for "The Smurfs" in the 1980s, including the Emmy-winning "Smurfolympics" special.
Campbell's career is notable not only for the iconic characters he created, but for the number of companies who sought his talent — King Features, Hanna-Barbera. Then Disney TV Animation came knocking in the 1990s.
Campbell was contracted to handle animation direction and storyboards for "Bonkers," "Goof Troop," Darkwing Duck" and "Winnie the Pooh." He also produced studio publicity films for Disney. During that time he received two more Emmy nominations — this time for "Aaahh! Real Monsters" and for "Rugrats."
"I've been very lucky in my career," he says. "I've always been able to work on shows I enjoyed."
For more information about Campbell's pop-up show or Area 61 reopening events, call 423-648-9367.
Contact Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6284.
› “The Beatles” television cartoon series
› “Yellow Submarine” Beatles animated film
› “Popeye and Olive Show”
› “Krazy Kat” cartoons
› “Cool McCool”
› “Sesame Street”
› “George of the Jungle”
› “The Yogi Bear Show”
› “Scooby Doo, Where Are You”
› “Harlem Globetrotters”
› “The Big Blue Marble”
› “Captain Caveman”
› “The Flintstones”
› “The Jetsons”
› “The Smurfs”
› “Stuart Little”
› “The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”
› “Darkwing Duck”
› “Goof Troop”
› “Duck Tales”