Q&A: Animation sensation Ron Campbell discusses his work on “Yellow Submarine,” inspirations and future endeavors

Brooke Sjoberg

For decades, children have enjoyed cartoons such as “Scooby-Doo,” “The Yellow Submarine,” “Winnie the Pooh” and “Rugrats.” Having played a major role in the animation and storyboarding of these cartoons, Ron Campbell is an international animation sensation with a career spanning half a century. Campbell spoke with the Texan in preview of an exhibition of his art Feb. 23-25 in Austin, where he will be demonstrating his skills and selling his work to benefit charity.

Daily Texan: What inspired you to become an animator?

Ron Campbell: I got started when I learnt, as a six year old, that “Tom and Jerry” cartoons I’d watch on a Saturday afternoon were actually drawings. It really struck me as a remarkable thing. “You mean I can do drawings that can come alive?” I carried that with me in a way through my student-age years into art school. Just as I came out of art school in Australia, television came and for the first time there was a demand for television commercials and animation. I was the first generation able to earn a living in Australia doing animation, which was fortunate for me, and enabled me to get into animation at all.

DT: How do you feel about your work on “The Yellow Submarine” and the Beatles cartoon being enjoyed by such a broad audience?

RC: It’s amazing how many young people still listen to the Beatles. I meet Beatles fans of all ages, and I really mean all ages. Parents who love the Beatles somehow have a habit of passing their enthusiasm on to their children. I meet children who are like two years old, five years old, ten years old, twenty years old, all fans of the Beatles. Consequently, fans of “The Yellow Submarine” and all the people who watched the Beatles TV cartoon show that I directed as a young man, people who remember that television show with a lot of pleasure pass that pleasure on to their children.

DT: How did you begin working with Hanna-Barbera?

RC: That was when I first came to America. I needed to work for the first year for legal reasons, getting my green card, and I worked for Bill Hanna for the first year. After I left for my own studio, Bill would subcontract to my studio for films when they were overloaded with work and needed extra help. My studio was across the road from Hanna-Barbera, Bill Hanna used to cross the road with stuff for my studio. Later on I did much the same thing with Disney studios, doing “Tailspin,” “Winnie The Pooh,” “Darkwing Duck,” storyboarding a lot.

DT: What was it like to be involved with the original development team for “Scooby-Doo?”

RC: I was actually working on animating “The Yellow Submarine,” at the time, and at night I was working on “George of the Jungle,” and some days through the week, I would go over to Hannah-Barbera, helping storyboarding and developing for the season of “Scooby-Doo.” It’s just part of what I did in my life. I had no idea, of course, that “Scooby-Doo” would be anywhere near as successful and long-lasting as it was. I knew it was a good show, though.

The exhibition will be taking place at 221 W 2nd St, Austin, TX Feb. 23-25 with proceeds benefiting the Ronald McDonald house.