2018-07-05 / Around Town

Beatles Animator Comes to Jane Pickens

By James Merolla


Famous for his Hanna-Barbera cartoons, Ron Campbell will be in Newport for the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' animated film, "Yellow Submarine." (Photo credit Nick Follger) Famous for his Hanna-Barbera cartoons, Ron Campbell will be in Newport for the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' animated film, "Yellow Submarine." (Photo credit Nick Follger) Ron Campbell, one of the animators of the Beatles classic animated film, “Yellow Submarine,” can attribute his start and long career in commercial animation to a complicated insect.

“My first paid job was for an insect spray commercial. I remember it very well,” said Campbell in a phone interview with Newport This Week. The renowned Australian animator/director will be coming to speak for three nights at the Jane Pickens Theater & Event Center on July 9-11, from 4 to 8 p.m.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of “Yellow Submarine,” Jane Pickens will be hosting Campbell in a rare special appearance. In addition to his work on "Yellow Submarine," he is globally recognized as one of the original animators and the director of the 1960s Saturday morning Beatles cartoon series.


Veteran animator Ron Canpbell has been involved in some of the most iconic cartoons of the past several decades, including “The Smurfs” and “Scooby-Doo,” pictured at top. He and late colleague Duane Crowther created sequences for the classic 1968 Beatles film “Yellow Submarine” (middle). Campbell also worked on the popular ‘60s cartoon “The Jetsons” (left). Veteran animator Ron Canpbell has been involved in some of the most iconic cartoons of the past several decades, including “The Smurfs” and “Scooby-Doo,” pictured at top. He and late colleague Duane Crowther created sequences for the classic 1968 Beatles film “Yellow Submarine” (middle). Campbell also worked on the popular ‘60s cartoon “The Jetsons” (left). Movie theaters will globally re-release "Yellow Submarine" this summer.

In his book, “Up Periscope Yellow,” producer Al Brodax, now deceased, credits Campbell for saving the movie and tying it all together at the last minute.

Born in Australia in 1939, television made Campbell’s career. He had been pounding on producers’ doors week by week.

“There was just one animation studio established in Sydney. It was way on the other side of town. I’d get on a bus, get on another bus, knock on the door. I had my portfolio. They liked my portfolio, but they said, ‘We don’t have nearly enough work.’ I can’t remember how many times I came back, but I came back a lot,” he said.

“I had the childish idea that I could do drawings that came alive. I was very intense on that idea from a very early age. All children draw, but not all children continue drawing, or never stop drawing.”

He studied books on technique in high school, went to art school, but said he never had a clue that you couldn’t earn a living in animation in Australia.

“Luck happened. I came out of art school, and then television came to this area, for the very first time in Australian history, and I was right on the leading edge,” he said. “I started a studio and began animating television commercials.”

But the man who calls himself “a dinosaur with a pencil in his hand still,” said he would never be able to fulfill the same career today.

“If I was young now, I would not want to do it,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to sit in front of a computer screen all the time. How do you get into the animation business now? O.K., you are going to sit in front of the computer for the rest of your life…”

He once thought about doing storyboards for the movies, not the movies themselves.

“I discovered the part of that that I didn’t like. What you are doing is what the director tells you to illustrate, but in animation, you are the director,” he said.

Campbell will show many of his original works, based on his 50- year career in cartoons that include Scooby-Doo, Winnie the Pooh, Rugrats, Smurfs, Flintstones, Jetsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The exhibit is free and all pieces are available for purchase.

In the early ‘80s, Campbell storyboarded Hanna-Barbera’s hit series “The Smurfs” including the Emmy winning Smurfolympices special. Also during the ‘70s and ‘80s, he produced, directed, animated or storyboarded numerous other hit shows of the era including “The Flintstones,” “The Jetsons” and “Captain Caveman.”

Campbell told Newport This Week that he and co-animator Dwayne Crowther animated just 12 minutes of “Yellow Submarine.”

“Twelve minutes took us eight months to do,” he said.

And out of all the hundreds of characters in shows he has famously drawn? “I think my favorite show was ‘Big Blue Marble’… I try to confine myself to simpler, childish things,” he said.

"The Big Blue Marble "was awarded a Peabody and an Emmy for best children’s television show.

Return to top