The spirit of Scooby-Doo, George Jetson, Smurfette, Angelica Pickles, John, Paul, George and Ringo will all be alive this weekend in an unusual show at the Leawood Fine Arts Gallery.
The animation work of Ron Campbell is so wide-ranging, he can sit at a dinner table and have three generations all gush over their favorite character from childhood.
In his first-ever trip to the Kansas City area, Campbell will spend three days painting, greeting and giving fans a rare opportunity to buy his work. The short weekend show focuses on new work inspired by the Saturday morning Beatles cartoon from the 1960s.
Campbell said the magic of animation caught him at an early age. He grew up in Australia when TV was scarce and Saturday entertainment meant spending the day at the cinema. He remembers watching Tom and Jerry and wondering how those animals could move around and talk.
“I thought maybe it was magic. When I told my grandmother about the mystery, she told me it was really drawings. I loved drawing and the idea of making these things come alive. It all struck me,” said Campbell.
He grew up determined to become an animator. He went to art school and got a job in Australia’s only animation studio. It was a dream come true.
“My first task was to draw a collapsing centipede which was shrinking from a bug spray. I had to do about 100 drawings and on every drawing there were like 100 legs. Normally, that would be tedious work, but I remember laughing to myself saying, ‘They don’t know it, but I would pay them to let me do this,’ ” Campbell said.
Campbell moved to California, took a job at Hanna-Barbera and started drawing the characters of American childhood. His hand was behind the wildly popular cartoon series “The Beatles” in the mid-1960s. He drew for the Popeye and Olive Show, Krazy Kat, George of the Jungle, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, The Smurfs, Winnie the Pooh, Duck Tales, Rugrats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters, among many others.
New drawings based on the characters he drew over a 50-year career will be available for viewing and purchase Friday through Sunday. Campbell will be on site all three days, painting, meeting fans and creating new work.
Campbell only sells his work when he is present to meet the buyer. He does not sell his works online. He believes an art purchase should be a personal experience for the artist and the buyer. While making cartoons during his long career, audiences were not much more than numbers on a sheet. He made characters to please himself. Animating made him happy, but he underestimated how much it made other people happy until he retired and started doing short shows like the one coming to Leawood.
“It’s wonderful to meet people who love the cartoons you helped make,” Campbell said. “Few artists like me have the opportunity to meet people who enjoyed the work. I notice the enormous gratitude people have for the characters. It wasn’t a surprise they liked it, we had numbers to prove that. But to actually see the people almost weeping sometimes in memory, the intensity of the affection was really a surprise to see.”
Campbell said he cannot pick a favorite character from the long list of creatures and people he brought to life. While some, like Scooby Doo, are always popular, most people’s “favorite” depends on when they were born and when they were whiling away their Saturday mornings under the watchful eye of a bright animation-filled screen.
The show is at the Leawood Fine Arts Gallery, 11709A Roe Ave. It runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. SundayIt is a free show and Campbell’s work will be for sale. Each buyer will receive a certificate of authenticity, which the artist will personalize for the customer.