Ron Campbell, the director for much of the Saturday morning Beatles cartoon series and an animator on the Beatles film, Yellow Submarine, died on January 22, 2021. News of his passing at age 81, in Phoenix, Ariz., where he lived with his wife, Engelina, was announced by Scott Segelbaum, his longtime business partner.
Campbell was born on Dec. 26, 1939, in Seymore, a small town in the Australian state of Victoria, educated at Swinburne Art Institute in Melbourne. He began his animation career in the late 50s, soon working on such favorites as Beetle Bailey and Krazy Kat.
He made his big mark when he directed the successful TV cartoon series The Beatles, which aired from 1965-1969. The show featured the Beatles’ own music with actors voicing the characters of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Most of the episodes were produced at Artransa Park Studios in Sydney, Australia.
The series debuted on Sept. 25, 1965, and was an immediate hit in the U.S. on ABC.
Campbell then moved to the U.S. to work for the Hanna-Barbera studio, and continued to write and produce cartoons for Sesame Street and animation on the original George of the Jungle. His Hollywood studio, Ron Campbell Films, Inc., produced and directed the animation for the The Big Blue Marble, which won many awards including a Peabody for Excellence in Broadcasting and an Emmy for Best Children’s Show.
In the late 60’s Campbell, working with his friend and colleague, Duane Crowther, animated many scenes in the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine feature film, including the Sea of Time sequence, and much of the action between the Chief Blue Meanie and his boot-licking sidekick, Max. He also animated many scenes involving the multi-named Jeremy Hillary Boob PHD aka the Nowhere Man.
In the early 1980s, he storyboarded Hanna-Barbera’s hit series, The Smurfs. Campbell also produced, directed, animated, or storyboarded numerous other hit shows of the era, including the Flintstones and the Jetsons. He was also part of the original team that created the Scooby Doo series.
Campbell spent much of the 90s storyboarding for the Rugrats, Rocket Power, and the adult cartoon, Duckman.
As his business partner, Segelbaum, notes, “After his retirement in 2008, Ron wanted a second act in life so he started creating paintings based on the cartoons that he was involved in (much like animator Chuck Jones, who did this in his retirement a generation before Ron). As he started touring the United States, visiting art galleries and meeting the audience that grew up with his cartoons, he realized something that never occurred to him at the time… the incredible impact that cartoons had on the audience. Saturday morning cartoons were some of their happiest childhood memories. This created a special bond between Ron and the people who came out to meet him, see his artwork and even purchase a family heirloom.”