Art of animator Ron Campbell on display in Depot District

Art of animator Ron Campbell on display in Depot District
The art of animator Ron Campbell, on display at the Tornado Gallery in Lubbock. (Ryan Crowe/KCBD)

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Friday afternoon in the shadow of the Cactus Theater, an animator known for his part in a number of iconic series talked about what got him started drawing.

“The reality of Tom and Jerry cartoons,” the 79-year-old Ron Campbell said. “On Saturday afternoons the movie theaters turned their programming over for children.”

Campbell grew up near Melbourne, Australia, and by the time he was six, Campbell was hooked on the idea of animation. “I thought the cartoons were real, they were certainly real on the screen. And I wanted to know where they all lived.”

It was a conversation with his great-grandmother that set him on his path. “She said ‘Ronnie, they’re just drawings’ - and to that small brain, it struck me like an epiphany. ‘You mean I can do drawings that come alive?’ That was such a powerful feeling that I carried that desire to do it all the way through art school.”

Campbell had the good fortune to graduate right around the time television arrived in Australia. “I was able to go around pretending I knew how to make a cartoon commercial," he joked.

But it worked, and in time King Features Syndicate TV, home to such Saturday morning staples as Popeye, came to Australia looking for artists.

Soon, Campbell was working for producer Al Brodax on shows like Cool McCool and Krazy Kat when he received a late night phone call from Brodax about a new TV show. “When he told me about it I was like 'how are we going to do a story about insects?"

That show, about a not-at-all-insect rock band from England, paved his way to the United States.

Campbell’s work on The Beatles cartoon show led to his move to California to work with Hanna-Barbera, by then the owners of Tom & Jerry. His credits with them include everything from Scooby Doo cartoons to The Smurfs,

He moved over to Disney in the early 1990s, working on ‘Disney Afternoon’ cartoon shows Goof Troop, Ducktales and Darkwing Duck before heading to Nickelodeon for Rugrats, Real Mosters and Ed, Edd and Eddy.

And although he’s had a hand in shaping the childhood collective of millions of westerners, he says the power of drawing is worldwide, even if he doesn’t quite understand it. “The mystery of the attraction of cartoons – I’m afraid I can’t give an answer because I don’t know… I could do a drawing of Scooby Doo and I give it to a little boy in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan, someone who is totally unaware of who this dog is, and he will look at that drawing and smile. That’s how powerful those images are, and I don’t know why.”

Many of those images will be on display through Sunday at the Tornado Gallery in the Depot District. From Lubbock, Campbell will be traveling north to Amarillo’s Arts in the Sunset Gallery.

For more information on Campbell and his art, visit his website at beatlescartoonartshow.com.

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