For a long time, Ron Campbell didn’t quite realize how important Saturday mornings were to a generation of kids growing up in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

As an animator and cartoon director working on Saturday morning shows like “The Beatles” and “Scooby-Doo,” he and his colleagues were interested in ratings, first and foremost. They knew the audience was children, and they knew they had to strive to give the kids something they’d want to watch.

But it wasn’t until Campbell started touring the country a few years ago selling his original artwork – which he’ll be doing in Portland Friday through Sunday – that he began to realize the impact those shows had. He now runs into adults wherever he goes who emotionally recount what watching “Scooby-Doo” or “The Smurfs” meant to them, and still means to them.

“It doesn’t matter if they had a terrible childhood or a great childhood, so many people talk about what those shows meant and share the memories of running down the stairs on Saturday morning and arguing with their brother or sister over what to watch,” said Campbell, 79. “A lot of people come to my art shows not to buy a painting but just to meet someone who worked on their favorite Saturday morning shows. And I think that’s great.”

Animator Ron Campbell will sell his paintings and talk about his career in cartoons Friday through Sunday at Prism Analog in Portland. Photo courtesy of Ron Campbell

Campbell will bring about 60 of his paintings, based on shows and films he worked on, to Prism Analog, a studio, performance space and gallery on Preble Street in Portland. He’ll be there from 4-8 p.m. Friday, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

Campbell, a native of Australia who now lives in Arizona, will be sitting behind a table, ready to chat. He’ll have chairs set up for people to sit and talk with him. If someone buys one of his paintings, he said he’ll create an original drawing for them on the customer’s certificate of authenticity.

His paintings include characters from many of the series he worked on, starting in the 1960s, including “The Beatles” Saturday morning series, “Scooby-Doo,” “The Smurfs,” “The Jetsons” and “The Flintstones.” Campbell did some animating for those shows, but often his prime responsibilities were directing or drawing the “storyboards” that are used to plan a cartoon show before it is filmed.

He worked on “Scooby-Doo” and “The Smurfs” when they were on their first runs on TV, but his work on “The Flinstones,” “The Jetsons” and “Yogi Bear” were on revised and updated versions of those shows that aired in the ’70s and ’80s, not the originals that first aired in the 1950s and ’60s. But most of his work was done during the era when Saturday morning TV was the place to see the latest, most popular children’s cartoons. With cable and streaming, that is no longer the case.

Ron Campbell’s long career in cartoon production included the series “Scooby-Doo.” Photo courtesy of Ron Campbell

Campbell was involved with “Scooby-Doo” when it was being developed, before it debuted in 1969. He remembers meetings where people discussed the dog’s character. He was not simply a dog tagging along with a group of mystery-solving teens; he would be an active participant, understanding all they say to him. But it was decided that Scooby’s own speech should be like that of a very young child: He would know what to say but his words would come out slightly garbled and muffled.

“It was decided that Scooby would have difficulty speaking, partly because young children would have empathy for him,” Campbell said. “So anyone who loves Scooby-Doo has been manipulated to some point.”

When asked if he had a favorite cartoon character he’s worked on, Campbell said he couldn’t really decide, but he did narrow it down a little.

“I mean, how do you choose between Scooby-Doo and Astro?” he said, referring to the goofy dog in “The Jetsons.” Campbell grew up in Australia loving superhero comics and cartoons, but as an adult animator, he favors working on “sweet and fun” stories and characters.

He began working as an animator in the late 1950s in his native Australia, when TV producer Al Brodax set up an Australian studio for some of his cartoon shows, including “Beetle Bailey” and “Krazy Kat.” He also worked for Brodax on “The Beatles” cartoon show before moving to Hollywood to work on Hanna-Barbera cartoons and then opened his own studio, Ron Campbell Films, which produced animation for a variety of shows.

A likeness of Paul McCartney by Ron Campbell, an animator on “The Beatles” cartoon show in the 1960s. Photo courtesy of Ron Campbell

Some of Campbell’s paintings are based on The Beatles iconic “Yellow Submarine” film, which came out in 1968 and on which Campbell worked as animator. The art in that film is very much of its era, colorful and psychedelic in feel.

Campbell said the film came about because The Beatles were under contract to United Artists to make another film. They had already made two, “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” They really didn’t want to make another, especially since they had learned how long and tedious filming could be. So Brodax, producer of the group’s cartoon series, suggested an animated film. All The Beatles would have to do is record some songs. Their lines could be read by actors and, of course, all the visual action would be created.

“The look of the film was to be different than the series, updated, and so it became sort of a psychedelic art style, which The Beatles loved,” Campbell said. “I think if you were alive at that time, that film sweeps you back to the 1960s. If you weren’t, it gives you an idea of what things were like then.”

Campbell retired from the animation business about a decade ago and soon decided to tour with his paintings. He said selling the art is not really the main goal; it’s meeting the people who watched his shows. They are basically the people he worked for.

“It’s been a real eye-opener for me,” said Campbell, of touring with his artwork. “I love the fact that everywhere I go, people have happy memories of those Saturday mornings.”

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