Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Letter From Preston Blair

This 1932 photo was taken in front of the Charles Mintz studio. Standing, left to right: Harry Love, Preston Blair, Allen Rose. Kneeling: Al Eugster.

Preston Blair is a name that should be known to everyone in the animation business, if only because he wrote one of the first books on how to animate. That book has remained in print for around 60 years, which speaks to its usefulness.

Even if you're not in the animation business, you've undoubtedly seen some of Blair's work. He animated on "The Dance of the Hours" and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" in Fantasia, did some owl animation in Bambi, and worked for Tex Avery at MGM, where his most famous animation is of Red, the girl who prompted sexual fireworks from Avery's wolf character.

Tex Avery
Uploaded by Texwolf

This letter was in response to my questions about his time at MGM. The hand-written comment at the end of the third paragraph says "against Harman Ising." Click the pages to enlarge.


darren-s said...
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Thad said...

Thanks for this Mark. I was pondering the other day that we might have an improper impression of Blair because of his most popular work. I used to mistake Ed Love's work in the Avery's cartoons for his. Blair's work for Avery other than Red tends to be really choppy, but it's great stuff.

p spector said...

These kinds of letters warm my heart, not least because the man took the time (two pages, single-spaced, no less) to thoughtfully answer all your questions. Then, he offers to clean up some drawings for you.

J. J. Hunsecker said...

Thanks for sharing that letter.

Mitch K said...

Great insight, Mark! Thanks for sharing.

Jenny Lerew said...

Priceless letter. My respect for this man(already substantial)just increased tenfold. Thanks so much for posting it here.

Fred Cline said...

Thanks for posting this, Mark. Maybe you're the one who asked me a question on my blog regarding who actually animated the Freakies commercials. I guess you're letter makes it clear that Zander had the account and any involvement by Lee and Preston was as sub-contractor to Jack. I'm luck enough to have some original drawings (rendered in colored pencil and then cut out and glued to cels) from the first Freakies commercial.

Mark Mayerson said...

Fred, it's a certainty that the assistant and colour work (which on those Freakies commercials are the same thing) were done at Zander's. Ed Cerullo definitely worked on the spots. Ed was the lead assistant at the time and an incredible artist. The spot was cleaned up with coloured prismacolor pencils on pantone paper and then cut out and mounted on cel.

Other assistants who were there at the time (though I don't know that they worked on Freakies) included Mike Baez, Joe Gray, Ellsworth Barthen and Jim Logan.

At least one of the later Freakies spots was animated by Dean Yeagle. I don't know if Blair was busy or if Zander just decided to keep the work in-house, as Dean was on staff.

You're lucky to have some of that artwork.

Bill White said...


Did he ever do a clean up for you? Can we see it?!

Mark Mayerson said...

I never asked for one.

I do have some original Blair roughs from a commercial for The Dime Savings Bank he did at Zanders. I'll probably post a few in the future, but they are pretty rough.