Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Animator Goes Way Back with the Fab Four

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Animator Goes Way Back with the Fab Four

Article excerpt

Ron Campbell was a 24-year-old animator living in Australia when he got a middle-of-the-night call from television producer Al Brodax. It was the spring of '64.

"He said, 'Ron, we'd like you to direct a new television show and we're going to produce about half the episodes in Australia.' I said, 'Great, I could use the work.' "

They had a history, having previously collaborated on "Krazy Kat" and "Beetle Bailey."

"I said, 'What is the show?' He said, 'It's the Beatles.' "

"I said, 'I don't know, Al. Insects don't make very good characters.' "

By that time, the Beatles had done "The Ed Sullivan Show" and had played Shea Stadium, but Mr. Campbell says, "I hadn't taken any notice of popular music. Popular music was 'How Much Is that Doggie in the Window' and 'When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie.' Stupid [stuff]. I hadn't even heard of the Beatles."

That didn't stop him from signing on as the director of the animated TV series "The Beatles," which ran on ABC from 1965 to 1967, with two more years of re-runs. Mr. Campbell would go on to work on "Yellow Submarine," along with many other TV series, including "Scooby Doo, Where Are You!" "The Jetsons," "The Flintstones," "The Smurfs" and "Rugrats."

As part of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' visit to Pittsburgh, he will bring a show of his original paintings based on cartoon series to the Pittsburgh Renaissance Hotel this weekend.

Most of those paintings involve the Fab Four, which he became a fan of while working on that first series.

"It took me a little while but by the time we were delivering the first cartoon, people who were more musical than I were pointing out things the Beatles were doing, and it was different, fresh, and I thought, 'Yeah, that is kind of cute.' "

After the run of that series, Mr. Campbell was living in Los Angeles working on the creation of "Scooby Doo," along with a handful of other projects, and Mr. Brodax called again, this time about a more ambitious Beatles project, "Yellow Submarine."

"The Beatles had a contract to do four films and had made three, and it was too much work for them," Mr. Campbell says. "Al Brodax said to [Beatles manager] Brian Epstein, 'If the boys don't want to do a feature film, let's make a cartoon. They don't have to do anything.' They leaped at that, because they had a lot to do, writing songs and going to India. They decided to do a little live action piece at the end of the film. They didn't do any of the voices. They contributed the most important part of the film, which was the music."

Mr. Campbell was asked to help with the animation of connecting scenes between the songs with the Blue Meanies, Chief Blue Meanie and Boob in that landmark 1968 film.

"I was glad to get the work," he says, noting that his wife was pregnant, "but I already had plenty to do. …

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