Cartoon animator Ron Campbell’s work on display in Jacksonville Beach

By Wesley LeBlanc wesley@opcfla.com
Posted 9/23/20

CLAY COUNTY – Fans of Saturday morning cartoons and the golden age of cartoons, your time has come.

Cartoon animator, producer, director and storyboard writer Ron Campbell will be the center of …

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Cartoon animator Ron Campbell’s work on display in Jacksonville Beach

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – Fans of Saturday morning cartoons and the golden age of cartoons, your time has come.

Cartoon animator, producer, director and storyboard writer Ron Campbell will be the center of an upcoming art gallery in Jacksonville Beach from Sept. 25-27.

Not only will dozens of his art pieces be free for viewing and available for purchase, but the artist will paint original remarques of some of history’s most beloved animated characters on-site for any customer who purchases one of his pieces.

“When you buy a painting, I do a certificate of authenticity and I draw a character on it,” Campbell said. “There’s something delightful in people watching a blank page turn into a painting of John Lennon or Scooby Doo.”

Don’t ask Campbell to paint a character he didn’t animate or work on at some point in his life because he only draws his originals during his 50-year-and-one-month career.

Don’t sweat though because that still leaves a crazy amount of characters to choose from as Campbell has worked on more than 40 shows including “Popeye and Olive Show,” “The Beatles” TV cartoons, “George of the Jungle,” “Yogi Bear,” “Scooby Doo Where Are You?,” “The Flintstones,” “The Jetsons,” “The Smurfs,” “Ghostbusters,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Winnie The Pooh,” “Duck Tales,” “Rugrats,” “Ed, Edde, and Eddie” and so many more.

Campbell was born in 1939 in the Australian state of Victoria and he eventually studied at the Swinburne Art Institute of Melbourne. It was shortly after that his career in animation began.

“I had already animated and produced ‘Krazy Kat,’ ‘Popeye’ and ‘Beetle Bailey’ while living in Australia and in the middle of the night one night, Al Brodax of King Features called all excited,” Campbell said. “He was in New York and I was in Sydney. He said, ‘Ron, we just sold a new TV show for next year and we want you to direct.”

Campbell asked what show this would be and the answer ended up changing the animator’s life: “The Beatles” TV cartoons.

“I thought he was referring to beetles,” Campbell said. “I didn't realize he was referring to the band that was on its way to becoming the greatest musician group that’s ever existed. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know that. Everyone in America was nuts about them but I didn’t take too much notice of popular music at the time. I was trying very hard to work on learning cartoons instead, ensuring they were getting written, produced, and coming out on time and on budget.”

“The Beatles” TV series was very popular and it led to even more job offers for Campbell, and eventually he moved to America. He worked on his own show, “Big Blue Marble”, while running his own animation studio and doing storyboards for the very first season of Hanna-Barbera’s “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?”

His own animation studio was right across the road from a Hanna-Barbera studio so he was often given contract overflow production work for shows like “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons.”

“Near the end of the run of ‘Big Blue Marble’, I realized that animation studios producing cartoons for Saturday morning weren’t really possible anymore because of new legal changes in how animation worked and because of the onset of exhibitors like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network,” Campbell said. “So, I closed up shop and moved to Arizona. We didn’t go bankrupt or anything – it just had to be done – but I was disappointed.”

He continued his work in animation while in Arizona though, landing shows like “The Smurfs” and “Rugrats”. This continued until October 2008 when he decided to retire, “50 years and one month” to the time when he started in September 1958.

It was in his retirement that he discovered the power of eBay.

“I had learned of fellow animator friends doing paintings based on cartoons they had worked on selling their art in galleries and online in places like eBay,” Campbell said. “I put a drawing up on eBay on a whim and someone bid $110, then $120, then $150, then $200, $300, $400, and so I started selling art on eBay and eventually galleries.”

Campbell be at the Gallery 725 in Jacksonville Beach this week. He said these galleries are some of his favorite things to do because of the interaction he gets to have with people and fans.

He remembers a woman asking for a Smurfette painting on her certificate of authenticity. It was her favorite character, Campbell said, but she had asked a special favor: to make Smurfette’s famous blonde hair black. Campbell did just that and the woman began to cry.

“That’s the kind of fun and joy there is to have at these shows,” Campbell said. “They walk in and they start smiling. That’s what my paintings are for really. It’s not Picasso – they aren’t serious paintings.

“They’re things you put up on your wall and when you walk in the room, you look at the picture and smile, at least that’s what I’m told. That’s what they are: a frivolous happy memory.”

Campbell will be at Gallery 725 on 1250 Beach Blvd in Jacksonville from 4-8 p.m on Friday, Sept. 25; noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Admission to the gallery is free.

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