Hello, boys and girls!
This is a song about a whale — no! This is a song about being happy. That’s right! It’s the Happy Happy Joy Joy song!
For nearly 30 years, cartoonist Bob Camp has been making fans of animation happy through his work on numerous television series, animated movies, and comic books.
This weekend, Camp brings his unique artistic sensibilities to Oklahoma as one of the special guests at Wizard World Comic Con Oklahoma City.
“We’ve been making the rounds — our last con was in New York. We’re looking forward to being in Oklahoma,” Camp said, referring to himself and business partner and longtime girlfriend, Michele Ford. “I’m originally from Fort Worth, Texas, myself, so I’ve been in and out of Oklahoma over the years. It’s going to be nice to kind of be back in the part of the country where I started out.”
Camp began in animation in the late 1980s, doing character design work and as a storyboard artist for cartoons such as “The Real Ghostbusters,” “The New Adventures of Beany and Cecil,” and “Tiny Toon Adventures,” among others, before he helped co-create the series which would, by many accounts, define his career: The Ren & Stimpy Show.
For those unfamiliar, “The Ren & Stimpy Show” was an animated series which premiered on Nickelodeon in 1991 and focused on the adventures of an emotionally unstable Chihuahua (Ren) and a dimwitted but good-natured cat (Stimpy).
The series aired on the Nickelodeon for five seasons before ending in December 1996, but its influence as a cultural landmark can still be felt 25 years later.
“When the show first aired, it was a huge hit,” Camp recalled. “Some people didn’t know what to make of it — I think our first bit of animation we did for the show was (mock retro advertisement) ‘Log’ — we needed some bits to use as fillers when the shows ran a little short, and out of that, ‘Log’ and other ‘commercials’ were born.”
As popular as the series became, it also drew early criticisms for some of its more adult content. Since its original run, however, numerous other animated series have introduced similar, more adult themes.
“Any production company, anybody that makes cartoons, they have a department within called ‘broadcast standards and practices’ and it’s their job to in-house police their own comment, to make sure the FCC doesn’t shut them down for indecency — or whatever,” Camp said. “I used to call it ‘double-standard and practices’ because one week you could say or show one thing, and the next week you couldn’t say or show the same thing.
“But really, we weren’t making the show to see what we could or couldn’t get on television, we were just wanting it to be a good program, a funny show — one that appealed to adults as well as kids, and sometimes, that involves jokes that go over the kid’s heads,” he said. “Look at some of the early Warner Brothers cartoons — they were full of that, but we took a lot of heat for the same thing that Bugs Bunny was getting away with years earlier.
“Really, ‘Ren & Stimpy’ was about the relationship between the characters — I think the best cartoons, the best shows, really, are about the relationships,” he said. “When the show was picked up, we didn’t have a concept as such, we just had the characters and we would put them into various situations.”
Following the series cancellation, Camp continued to work in animation, largely as a storyboard artist, on the likes of “I Am Weasel,” “Cow and Chicken,” “Jackie Chan Adventures,” “Looney Tunes: Back in Action,” “Ice Age: The Meltdown,” “Spongebob Squarepants” and 2015’s “The Peanuts Movie,” among many others, earning two Emmy nominations, an Annie nomination, and Cable Ace Awards nomination along the way.
These days, Camp teaches animation and storyboarding at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and oversees operations at his own studio, BobLab Studios.
“Ah, BobLab Studios — that’s Michelle and my little mom and pop shop,” he laughed. “I’ve got original and vintage art for sale, and can be reached there for commissions, as well as some other interesting things, especially for fans of the (Ren & Stimpy) show.”
When he’s not teaching or drawing though, Camp still makes time to meet with his fans at the conventions, such as this weekend’s Comic Con — something, he said, he never gets tired of.
“I’m always happy to meet the fans — meeting the people is just great,” he said. “Some of them are people who watched the show when it was on originally, others are those who came along later — maybe learned about it and watched it on DVD, but it’s always nice to meet people from every age bracket who appreciate the work, who come up and maybe tell me what the show meant to them, how maybe they bonded with their family watching it — you’d be surprised what the show meant to people, still means to them. That’s a joy.”
Bob Camp will be appearing Friday through Sunday at Wizard World Comic Con Oklahoma City. For more information, visit www.wizardworld.com/comiccon/oklahoma-city.