At age 79, Ron Campbell can’t stop watching kids cartoons and sharing the happy memories.
A screen cartoonist for 50 years, Campbell spends a portion of his time now painting new versions of cartoon scenes and selling them to people who love the reminder of a childhood memory. His cartoon company produced “The Smurfs,” “The Jetsons,” “The Flintstones,” “Scooby-Doo,” “Rugrats,” “Rocket Power,” and “Ed, Edd n Eddy.” While he lived in Australia, he directed to production of “The Beatles” cartoon television series for four years.
“So I’ve been traveling around the country once a month and showing my paintings and selling them and talking to aficionados of cartoons and people who have happy memories of watching cartoons as a child,” Campbell said.
Campbell will be in Idaho Falls to do a show from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the Willowtree Gallery, 210 Cliff St.
“The show consists of about 50 or 60 paintings and people find it fun and when they buy the painting and hang a painting in their room, the painting makes them smile every time they go into the room,” he said. “They’re not Picassos or Rembrandts or anything. They’re just happy, brightly colored paintings that people have a nostalgic attachment to.”
Campbell said he got the idea from another famous cartoonist Chuck Jones, who animated Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner and many others.
“I was inspired by Chuck Jones who did it a generation before me when he retired,” Campbell said. “He did paintings based on films that he worked on.”
He said selling paintings has allowed him to connect with an audience that he had never seen before. Prior to the shows, his audience was ratings numbers on a page.
“Since I’ve been doing these paintings and traveling around the country, I’ve been meeting literally hundreds of people who were part of that audience,” he said. “I have learned the significance we had on those people when they were children. It seems that for some people the happiest memories of their childhood was rushing to the television on a Saturday morning arguing about what channel they were going to watch with their siblings.”
Campbell was born in Seymour, Australia, and began animating commercials and cartoons for Australian TV in his early 20s. His big success was “The Beatles” cartoon series. He was brought to the United States by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera to produce Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but shortly struck out on his own working as a subcontractor producing several cartoons with his associates.
In 1968, he helped animated parts of The Beatles’ feature-length film “Yellow Submarine” through his connections from the show he had in Australia.
“They were having production difficulties in London and could use a little extra help,” Campbell said. “My colleagues and I animated about 12 minutes of the film and it took us 8 months to do.”
Campbell’s company also produced and animated “The Big Blue Marble” and “Sesame Street.”
“I’m most proud of my own television show called ‘The Big Blue Marble’ which my studio produced through the ’70s,” he said. “We did the animation for that show. ‘The Big Blue Marble’ was a very unusual children’s television show. It was an international show and it’s unusual in that it won a Peabody Award, which is a rare award for a children’s program to win. It also won an Emmy for the best children’s program of the year.”
During the ’90s, Campbell’s company worked with Disney Animation on several projects, including “The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,” “Rugrats” and “Darkwing Duck.”
Campbell said the paintings he’ll bring for his show in Idaho Falls are not exact scenes from cartoon shows, but re-imagined scenes.
“The new paintings address something that never did appear in the films,” he said. “They’re painted in colors that are at variance to the way they were colored in the films. I’m trying to make an interesting image in a way that makes the painting look good as a painting.”
He said people who buy paintings will get a certificate of authenticity and an extra brush painting on the certificate itself.
“There’s a lot of fun for the visitor,” he said. “I’ll be shooting the breeze over animation in general or inside stories of the making of the cartoons that people will be interested in talking with me about.”