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Animator brings memories of Beatles cartoons and 'Yellow Submarine' to show

Animator Ron Campbell draws an image from "Yellow Submarine."
Animator Ron Campbell draws an image from "Yellow Submarine."Courtesy Ron Campbell - used by permission.

Ron Campbell, who directed the legendary Saturday morning cartoon show “The Beatles” that aired on ABC from 1965 through 1969 and was an animator on the Beatles film “Yellow Submarine,” told Beatles Examiner it's amazing that the 1968 film is loved by so many almost 50 years later.

“It's got to go down as one of the greatest films ever made,” he said in a phone interview. He said that the animators working on it had no inkling the film would have the legacy it does now. “At the time we were working on it, we had no idea it would last the way it has, no idea at all. The production was so chaotic. The print wasn't really finished until the movie was released,” he said.

“How everything was going to be strung together nobody had a clue.” Campbell said he worked on the animation of the linking scenes.” He also said the Beatles initially thought it was going to be like the cartoon series, which was something that was never planned for the film.

Campbell was 24 when he worked on the cartoon series beginning in 1964. “I had already been working with Al Brodax and King Features who were going to produce the show. I'd worked with them on a number of shows like 'Beetle Bailey' and 'Krazy Kat.' And in the middle of the night, I received a telephone call from Brodax. He said, 'Ron, we'd like you to direct a television show we're going to be producing.'

“And I said, 'Great. That sounds terrific. What's the show?' And he said, 'It's called 'The Beatles.'” And I said, “Insects don't make very good cartoon characters.' And he laughed and explained that the Beatles were an enormously successful rock 'n' roll group from England. I was so out of the loop with popular music and I was so involved with animation I hadn't taken any notice of them.”

Campbell says he's disappointed the cartoon series hasn't come out on DVD. Is there any chance it will? “I've heard plenty of inklings that it'll never happen. There's a number of reasons for that. You have to ask Apple Records. I think first and foremost is that John Lennon did not like the series. He called it 'that 'Flintstones s---. And, of course, we know what he was talking about because 'The Flintstones' was an excellent show.” He also thinks music licensing issues are also in the way.

Campbell will appear July 11-13 at Antiquities of California at Pier 39 in San Francisco during the KGO 810 Beatles Cartoon Art Show commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles historic invasion of America. He'll be on hand noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday doing custom-made Beatles paintings from “Yellow Submarine” or “The Beatles” cartoons for sale.

“But if someone wants a 'Scooby-Doo,' 'Flintstones' or 'Jetsons' drawing, I'll do those, too,” he said. “It's a fun thing to do in my old age.”