In Music

Milwaukeeans can meet Ron Campbell, who directed the Beatles toons of 1965.

Beatles cartoon animator brings his work to Milwaukee

More than 50 years after the Beatles appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show," Beatlemania has only barely subsided. But while Paul McCartney sells out the Marcus Amp with astonishing speed and Fab Four downloads keep the music going, the 1965 ABC TV Saturday morning cartoon starring cute cartoons of John, Paul, George and Ringo has been a little less remembered.

But it's not been forgotten, either, especially among Beatles die-hards, who will be thrilled at the chance to meet Ron Campbell, who directed that series and who also worked as an animator on the full-length "Yellow Submarine" feature a few years later.

Campbell, who was also involved in such landmark animated fare as "The Jetsons," "The Smurfs," The Flintstones," "Scooby Doo," "Rugrats" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," among others, will appear at Gallery 505, 517 E. Silver Spring Dr. in Whitefish Bay, Thursday-Sunday, July 21-24.


(PHOTO: Rob Shanahan)

Campbell will be at the gallery from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, 1-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and noon until 4 on Sunday.

Fans will be able to purchase original cartoon works from the series, as well as "Yellow Submarine" and other shows Campbell's worked on.

We caught up with Campbell to ask him about his rather unique involvement with the Beatles.

OnMilwaukee: Tell us a bit about how you got into animation work and the experience you had up to 1964 in cartoons.

Ron Campbell: Actually, I became obsessed with cartoons around the age of 6 or 7 when my grandmother explained that Tom and Jerry were really drawings. The idea that I could make my drawings come alive blew my childish mind.

How did the Beatles connection come about?

I had made cartoons for King Features that they liked (Krazy Kat, Beetle Bailey, Popeye). When they sold "The Beatles" to ABC, they came to me because of my previous work. I received a phone call in the middle of the night in Australia – it was daytime in the U.S. – from Al Brodax asking me if I could direct their new series called "The Beatles."

I was thrilled with the opportunity, but my first reaction to Al was that insects make terrible cartoon characters ... I hadn't really heard of the band called The Beatles. When they needed help on "Yellow Submarine," they came to me for the same reasons.

Did it seem like just another job at the time, or could you sense that it would be as big as it was?

We knew what we were doing was special, but I never would have believed that we would be still talking about it 50 years later.

Was there any sense that Beatlemania would turn out to be as enduring as it has?

Yes and no. Most popular musicians were what we call a "flash in the pan," but there were exceptions, and the greatest exception of all time turned out to be the Beatles!

What were some of the biggest challenges in bringing the Fab Four to animation?

Organizing the work so that a film could be delivered every week ... without fail.

What are your thoughts on the cartoon series now? Has it stood the test of time? Do you think it is a lasting part of the group's legacy, or has it flown a bit under the radar compared to the films of that time?

"Yellow Submarine" captivated the spirit of the '60s unlike any other film. The TV cartoon series introduced millions of children to the Beatles who grew up loving them forever.

Did you miss out on some acclaim from that because you weren't listed in the credits?

No, people often take no notice of credits anyway. I did my work Sub Rosa because the U.K. deal required the film to be done in London and I was in Los Angeles unable to go to England because I was in the process of getting Resident Status in the U.S.

Do you have a favorite scene or moment in the cartoon and/or in "Yellow Submarine"?

I loved them all, (but) especially the "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" sequence.

Animation had a big resurgence more recently, thanks to shows like "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" – did you enjoy those shows?

Of course!!!

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