When I was a kid my sister and I would walk down the street to browse through all the stores located on Route 30. On the corner was this old cafe called The Dog House. It really wasn’t all that great, but it had good cinnamon buns. Next to the Dog House was a little convenient store shaped like a little red barn, called appropriately, The Red Barn. We would buy candy and lots of other kids’ stuff there. Eventually a lady named Becky bought the place and renamed it, Becky’s. It stayed that way for a few years until it went up for sale again and a couple named Vee and Toney bought it and renamed it, Vee and Toney’s. If we wanted anything more than candy we could go across the street to a Walgreens-esk drug store called Caltaldi. They had magazine and comic book racks which I always headed straight for. I used to get these Marvel scratch-off panels which probably aren’t made anymore. They were cool because you could build your own scene with different heroes. One day, there in the magazine rack was an over sized book with cartoon characters on. It was called Animation by Preston Blair. Back then I didn’t know who Preston Blair was, but this book had all kinds of cartoon characters broken down into circles and lines.
It showed how to draw them in different poses and how to add characters to your drawings. This was the first book that I had ever seen that showed you how to actually draw something. Since I liked this book so much, I wanted to know who Preston Blair was. I found out that he was an American animator that worked for Disney and MGM back in the hay day of animation. He worked on the Mickey Mouse Sorcerer Apprentice scene and the dancing hippos-alligators in Fantasia. He worked on Pinocchio and Bambi. At MGM he worked on several Barney Bear shorts. I would always look for his name on Barney Bear’s list of animators. He is most famous for creating the sexy Red Hot Riding Hood sequences in the Tex Avery cartoons.
I had this book for years. I don’t have it anymore, but I know what happened to it. When I was about thirteen I was staying at my cousin’s house and we were drawing from it. I let him borrow it and that was the last time I saw it. It’s probably still there today. Oh well, it was my fault I never asked to get it back. Anyway, that was Preston Blair, my first art teacher. As it turned out I didn’t really need the book back because I soon got my second art teacher, Norman Rockwell, but that’s another story.
Here is a dance scene with Red Hot Riding Hood: