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Drawn to life: Longtime animator, director to showcase work at Sedona show

Ron Campbell, photo by Nick Follger.

Ron Campbell, photo by Nick Follger.

Originally Published: April 8, 2019 8:51 p.m.

He told me of his life with the Yellow Submarine but Ron Campbell has much more to show in his 50-year body of work as an animator, director and producer.


We All Live in a Yellow Submarine, Ron Campbell

Beginning Friday, April 12 at 4 p.m., Campbell will paint and sell original works from cartoon classics like Scooby-Doo, Rugrats, The Smurfs and The Beatles film, Yellow Submarine at the Lanning Gallery in Sedona. The show runs for three days. Admission is free.

Campbell, who turns 80 this year, says doing this kind of work helps keep him alive.


Paul McCartney, Ron Campbell

“It’s better than sitting around watching the golf channel,” he says. “To hell with retirement.”

Before Campbell even knew what animation was, he says he was drawn to it.

“I thought Tom and Jerry were real creatures,” he says. “When I learned Tom and Jerry are just drawings, I thought, ‘I can do drawings that come alive?’ Not even Rembrandt can do that.”

Of course, Campbell noted, Rembrandt wasn’t exactly a passing thought in his seven-year-old brain.

The Seymore Australia native began his career in 1958 animating commercials for Australian television. He was quickly recruited to work on Beetle Bailey, Krazy Kat, and Cool McCool. He also directed many installments of The Beatles cartoon series.


Paul McCartney, Ron Campbell

Campbell later moved to the United States where he wrote and produced cartoons for Sesame Street. George of the Jungle and more.

In 1968, Campbell was once again recruited to work on another Beatles project, this time the full-length film, Yellow Submarine.

“Most of the things I did were related to things with the Blue Meanies and the Nowhere Man,” he says.

But Campbell says he only spent a few months on the project and didn’t fully understand the cultural impact the cult classic would have today. The late George Harrison was even quoted saying “That film works for every generation.”

“At the time, if you said, ‘you’re going to get a call from a reporter in Arizona asking about your work on Yellow Submarine, I’d say, are you crazy,’” he says. “It was just another job.”


Scooby Doo and Shaggy, Ron Campbell

Campbell also says he never had a significant connection to any of the members of The Beatles.

“I was always on the other side of the world,” he says. “With Yellow Submarine, I was in Hollywood and they were in India …They made music we made films.”

If you were to ask Campbell about what project he is most proud of, he would tell you Big Blue Marble.

“It’s a highly-acclaimed television show I’m proud of,” he says.

The children’s show, which ran from 1974 to 1983 won many awards, including a Peabody for Excellence in Broadcasting and an Emmy for Best Children’s Show of the Year.

Campbell jokes that his favorite part the job is “being the boss.” But he really enjoys all areas of the animation process.

“I never wake up in the morning and think, ‘Damn, I’ve got to go to work,” he says. “This is something I wanted to do when I was seven and it carried into my adult years.”

Visit lanninggallery.com/exhibitions to learn more.

Show dates:

Friday, April 12

4-8 p.m.

Saturday, April 13

12-6 p.m.

Sunday, April 14

12-4 p.m.