Beatles Cartoon Art Show coming to Salem, NJ this weekend
If you grew up a Beatles fan in the sixties, then the Beatles cartoon show was "Must See TV" on Saturday mornings. The animated "Fabs" had adventures while their songs played through the chase scenes and performances.
Those cartoons, as well as some in the Beatle's Yellow Submarine movie, were drawn by animator Ron Campbell, who literally animated our childhoods.
Beginning in 1958, in his native country of Australia, with cartoons like Popeye, Beetle Bailey and Krazy Kat, Campbell’s career spanned the entire golden age of Saturday morning cartoons. Sadly, Campbell passed away in January 2021, at the age of 81; but he left behind dozens of paintings that he created during his retirement. These paintings were inspired by many of the beloved cartoons that he was involved with including the Saturday Morning Beatles cartoon series, Yellow Submarine, Scooby Doo, Smurfs, Rugrats, Winnie the Pooh, George of the Jungle, Jetsons, Flintstones, and finishing his career with Ed, Edd n’Eddy.
You can see and purchase Campbell's work this weekend at the Salem Art Bank, located at 175 West Broadway in Salem. I spoke to Campbell's publisher and business partner, Scott Segelbaum, who called into my New Jersey 101.5 show:
Tell us about the show...
The Beatles Cartoon Pop Art Show features artwork created by the late animator, Ron Campbell, who painted these works during his retirement. The exhibit features over 65 paintings based on the cartoons that Ron was a part of creating during his 50-year career in children’s cartoons. His career spanned the entire golden age of Saturday Morning television. Besides the Beatles TV cartoon series and the Beatles Yellow Submarine film, Ron was involved in shows such as Scooby Doo, Smurfs, Rugrats, Flintstones, Jetsons, Winnie the Pooh, Captain Caveman, George of the Jungle, and much more. The exhibit takes place this Friday, January 27th, through Sunday, January 29th, at the Salem Art Bank, 175 W. Broadway in Salem, New Jersey. The show is free for the entire family, and all artwork is available to purchase. The hours are Friday from 10a – 7p (opening reception with wine, cheese and Beatles music from 5p-7p), Saturday, January 28th, from 10a-5p, and Sunday, January 29th, from 12 noon – 4p.
How did Ron Campbell come to be involved with the Beatles cartoon series?
Ron began his career in his native Australia in 1958. He was working with King Features, animating some of their popular newspaper comics into cartoons such as Beetle Bailey, Popeye and Krazy Kat. Because he was delivering the cartoons on time and on budget, Al Brodax of King Features called him from New York in early 1964, waking Ron up since it was the middle of the night in Australia, and telling Ron that they just sold a new cartoon show and they would like him to direct it. Ron asked what the show was and Brodax replied, “It’s the Beatles.” Campbell responded, “Insects make terrible subjects for children’s cartoons.” He had no idea who the Beatles were at the time.
How great were those Saturday morning cartoon shows?
Saturday morning was 'me time' for kids. Parents would sleep in while the kids would fight over which channel to watch with their sugar cereal in hands. It is some of the happiest memories for some people. The Beatles TV cartoon series garnered tremendous ratings, at one time getting a 67 share!
How did his involvement with Yellow Submarine come about?
Due to the enormous success of the Beatles TV cartoon series, Ron moved his family to the US. He opened his own studio, Ron Campbell Films, directly across the street from Hanna Barbera who would send him lots of overflow work (As did the other studios). Yellow Submarine was having major production problems at the time. The animators created incredible sequences for the Beatles songs, but since the script wasn’t finished, they had no idea as to how to connect all the pieces.
(FYI – the script was literally finished when the movie was finished….not the best way to make a film!)
Ron was once again called by Al Brodax, who was producing Yellow Submarine, and asked Ron to help tie the film together. Since Ron was in America and applying for citizenship, he had to do his work in Hollywood, and not London. Ron animated most of the scenes of the Chief Blue Meanie, his sidekick Max, the Nowhere Man (aka Jeremy), and the Sea of Time sequence where the Beatles get old and young. In total: about 13 minutes of the film. Brodax in his autobiography gave Ron props for helping save the film. Ron was doing his work on Yellow Submarine at the same time that he was helping develop a new show called Scooby-Doo, and, in the evening, he was working on George of the Jungle.
Did any of the Fabs comment on his work?
The Beatles had little to do with their animated films, however, Shelia E bought one of Ron’s paintings and gifted it to Ringo. The Campbell painting still hangs in Ringo’s studio next to his drum set.
You worked with Ron, What was he like?
Ron loved meeting people. He loved kids. When a small child would visit the show, Ron would frequently draw a quick Scooby Doo for the kid to their amazement. My favorite story was when a thirty-something girl came to a show, and told Ron how much she idolized the Smurfs growing up (Ron worked on the Smurfs for 10 years). But she said she always felt inferior, that something was wrong with her because she had brown hair and Smurfette was blonde. It really bothered her growing up. Ron instantly drew the girl a Smurfette and colored her hair brown for her. She burst into tears…it meant so much to her. That was Ron Campbell
Who were his favorite cartoons? Who did he love drawing?
Ron always said he didn’t have a favorite. How could you choose between Smurfette, or Angelica from the Rugrats, or Scooby Doo to Dino on the Flintstones. He loved them all. The one show that he was most proud of was 'The Big Blue Marble.' That was his show, and he won an Emmy and a Peabody Award for it.
What's your favorite piece?
I’m a huge Beatles fan, so I am partial to the Beatles paintings. Specifically, I like his Yellow Submarine Beatles crossing Abbey Road, and his TV Beatles on Ed Sullivan paintings.
How much can these pieces grow in value?
I always tell people to purchase paintings because they touch you, not as an investment. They are for people to enjoy on their walls. With that being said, Ron’s paintings have been steadily going up in value. He passed away two years agon so collectors from all over the world have been buying up his artwork.
What advice would you give to people thinking of investing in cartoon art?
Ron was one of the last animators who worked entirely by hand. It’s a lost art now. Modern animators use the computer. Ron would say he never would have gone into animation if it were done on computers. To him, the joy was drawing a figure and making it come to life. He would tell would-be animators to get used to sitting on your ass in front of a computer.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise only. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.
You can now listen to Steve Trevelise — On Demand! Discover more about New Jersey’s personalities and what makes the Garden State interesting . Download the Steve Trevelise show wherever you get podcasts, on our free app, or listen right now.
Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.