What do ‘Winnie the Pooh,’ ‘Rugrats,’ The Beatles have in common?

By Kendrah Villiesse

As a kid who frequented the local movie theater on Saturday afternoons, Ron Campbell grew up fascinated by cartoons. At the time, Campbell did not understand what exactly cartoons were before having an epiphany: He was capable of making drawings come to life. 

His fascination led him to help design iconic characters in animated TV shows such as “The Jetsons,” “Winnie the Pooh” and “Ed, Edd n Eddy.” He is perhaps best-known for bringing The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” and “The Beatles Saturday Morning Cartoons” to life. 

Campbell will exhibit his paintings, which are for sale, and meet fans at The Frame Shop in Bridgeport, 3520 S. Morgan St., Nov. 17 from 4 p.m.–9 p.m., and on Nov. 18 at the Lincoln Park Frame Shop, 2306 N. Lincoln Ave., from noon–6 p.m. 

“All my life, the audience were numbers on a page,” Campbell said. “Now, I am meeting people who enjoyed the cartoons I helped make. That is fun for an old man.” 

Campbell’s 50-year body of work has inspired generations of aspiring cartoonists and animators and is studied in classrooms nationwide, according to Ron Fleischer, associate professor and coordinator of Columbia’s traditional animation program in the Interactive Arts and Media Department. 

“‘Yellow Submarine’ was so unique in its style and what it did that it went beyond influencing anything today,” Fleischer said. “I don’t see its influences anywhere throughout the history of animation. It still holds up in its own uniqueness because nothing ever copied it.” 

Although The Beatles cartoons and “Yellow Submarine” were groundbreaking for their time, Campbell said when he received the initial call from Al Brodax, an American film and sound producer, he had no idea who The Beatles were. 

“I thought Beatles were going to be beetles, not The Beatles,” Campbell said, laughing. “I finally stopped and listened to The Beatles’ music, [and] like everyone else, I fell in love with their music.” 

Campbell also produced the children’s TV show “Big Blue Marble,” which aired from 1974-–1983. The show won an Emmy and a Peabody award, which is a rarity among children’s shows, Campbell said. 

Ash Windbigler, frame specialist for all Frame Shop locations, said it is exciting to be hosting Campbell because he illustrated many childhood favorites. 

“It is really neat to meet a personality that is so down to earth. [Then] you realize he made almost every cartoon that you grew up with, no matter what age you are,” Windbigler said. “It brings you together. He did ‘Rugrats,’ which was newer for younger generations, but then also the Beatles, ‘The Jetsons’ and ‘The Flintstones.’ He illustrated all of our lives.” 

Campbell said animating shows such as “Scooby-Doo,” and “Rugrats” were just as entertaining for him to create as it was for children to watch. 

Since his retirement, Campbell has been creating paintings inspired by his past animations, so his legacy and passion for cartoons lives on. 

“It was my life,” Campbell said. “I never did wake up in the morning and say to myself, ‘Oh Hell, I have to go to work.’ It was a nice way to spend a life. I was lucky.”