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‘Yellow Submarine’ artist to drop anchor in Sandy

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Courtesy Photo A Ron Campbell painting of the Beatles. Campbell the artist of the Beatles "Yellow Submarine" and Saturday morning cartoon will be at the South Towne Expo Center next week.

Beatles animator Ron Campbell is bringing his work to Utah. He will exhibit some of his original cartoon art and create some new works during a four-day stint at Sandy’s South Towne Center.

Campbell, 74, recalled that he didn’t see the appeal of insect characters when producer Al Brodax invited him to direct a new Saturday-morning cartoon series called “The Beatles.”

Brodax hatched the idea shortly after Beatlemania exploded in the U.S. in February 1964, but before the foursome made it to Campbell’s native Australia. Nevertheless, the artist — who’d gotten his start on animated versions of comics such as “Popeye,” “Krazy Kat” and “Beetle Bailey” — signed on for the series, which aired on ABC from 1965 to 1969. His responsibilities included storyboarding, timing out animation and hiring animators.

The Beatles weren’t keen on the series at first. “Ringo is said to have said, ‘Oh, they made me the idiot,’ ” Campbell said. Such is the nature of Saturday-morning cartoons, not known for their nuanced exploration of character. Each Beatle was reduced to a single trait: John Lennon was the leader; Paul McCartney the sweet heartthrob; George Harrison the mystic. Then there was “poor old Ringo, who is far from an idiot,” Campbell said. But “there had to be an idiot amongst them.”

The series was produced on a meager budget. “A Warner Bros. cartoon from 1958 or 1960 would cost $50,000 for 7 minutes,” Campbell said. “We had to do a half-hour for $5,000.”

The 1968 film “Yellow Submarine” was a different story.

Campbell had relocated to Hollywood with his wife and young daughter when he joined the “Yellow Submarine” animation crew. (His subsequent credits include “Scooby-Doo,” “The Jetsons” and “The Flintsones.”) With his friend Duane Crowther, he animated about 12 minutes of the film, working mainly on the Chief Blue Meanie, his sidekick Max and the eccentric Jeremy Hillary Boob.

“The animation was a lot more complex and beautiful,” Campbell said. “You can’t watch it and not be taken right back to the spirit of the ’60s.”

Campbell reports now that he eventually warmed to the Beatles’ music, “especially when it became more sophisticated and more complex. ‘Yellow Submarine,’ ‘Abbey Road,’ the White Album — I still listen to those.”

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