Sensational Archive of Original Art, Storyboards, Cels, Photos and Ephemera from Iconic Disney, MGM and Hanna-Barbera Animator and Producer, Preston E. Blair

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On offer is a simply stunning, massive archive of original art, storyboards, photographs, negatives, correspondence, a proof copy of a book and cels created by the iconic American animator, Preston Erwin Blair (1908-1995). Blair’s prodigious career took him to Romer Gray Studio, Walter Lantz Productions, Screen Gems Studio, Walt Disney Productions, MGM Studios, and Hanna-Barbera. Blair was also the published author of numerous animation instructional books for Walter Foster Publishing. The art contained in this collection, and created by Blair throughout his illustrious career, are staples of American popular culture. 

The California-born Blair was involved in the design and animation of Disney classics including Fantasia, Pinocchio and Bambi. At MGM, Blair became known for animating the female character “Red” in Red Hot Riding Hood. At Hanna-Barbera, Blair worked on The Flintstones. In the 1960s, Blair authored a successful series of animation instruction books, including Cartoon Animation and Animation 1, both of which remain in print today.

This collection contains hundreds of pages of Blair’s work. The centerpieces of the collection are the comprehensive art from two productions. The first is titled Return To The Land of Oz (ultimately released in 1972 as Journey Back to Oz by Filmation Studios; Blair is credited as a producer). The second is Rip Van Winkle. It is unclear whether Rip Van Winkle was released cinematically. 

Return To The Land Of Oz is a bound, printed storyboard measuring 13.75 inches by 11.0 inches. It is accompanied by coloured animation cels. The storyboard contains 97 pages, each page showing 6 to 12 black and white frames measuring approximately 3 inches by 2 inches. Many frames are accompanied with relevant dialog. The first page lists the cast of actors who voice the characters. This list includes, Lisa Minnelli, Ethel Merman, Danny Thomas, Milton Berle, Peter Lawford and others. The covers are in good condition and the pages are in very good condition as well.

The Rip Van Winkle content includes 180 pages of original black and white drawings that appear to be a storyboard for a film, as well as animation cels. The storyboard is a collection of pages that are not bound. In total, there are 180 pages of original black & white drawings. Each page measures approximately 14 inches by 8 inches. Some of the drawings are annotated with penciled notes such as “dissolve out” (p. 136). The pages are in good condition with a little curling on some of the corners.

Another highlight of this collection is an original proof copy of Blair’s book “Animated Visible Speech/The Blair Symbol System”. Among the many books that he wrote is this masterpiece. Measuring 11.0 inches by 8.5 inches and containing 185 pages, this is an unpublished manuscript of a manual that describes an invention, a reading method, using this art. Tucked inside the front cover are his proof-readers notes.

His method as discussed in this proof copy was named Animated Visible Speech. Blair describes it as, “a phonetic reading method based on a system of simple mouth drawings that are animated, one into another, similar to the action and positions of your mouth when you speak” [Introduction, p ix].  He describes it as a serious proposal for teaching "a complete phonetic alphabet and pronunciation system that the five-year-old child or absolute illiterate can understand and use to learn the letters, words, and read.” The method is presented in nine chapters and illustrated throughout, primarily showing the shapes of the mouth in speech.

The collection also includes: several commercial advertising and production animation cels and drawings, a patent application for a mid-1900s video game Blair designed called “TV Video Game”, dozens of pages of correspondence to and from Walt Disney Productions, and some to others that are connected to his work at Disney, a beer commercial production cel sequence and colour layout, plus so much more. Some extras include the copy of a page from a storyboard depicting Hyacinth the Hippo from Disney’s Fantasia – The Dance of the Hours, which Blair animated. Ephemera includes a detailed, typed biography of Blair and a number of pieces of personal correspondence. In one casual personal correspondence, Blair comments on his neighbours, “Paul Newman, Woodward, etc. Another Blair family in town has a kid, Linda of “Exorcist” fame”.

An interesting bonus in this phenomenal collection are photographs and references to Preston’s younger brother, Lee E. Blair. Lee Blair was a noted and accomplished artist in his own right, and a gold medalist in watercolour painting at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. He was married to Mary Blair, a highly accomplished American artist, animator, and designer. She was prominent in producing art and animation for The Walt Disney Company, drawing concept art for such films as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Song of the South and Cinderella. She also created character designs for enduring attractions such as Disneyland's It's a Small World. She was a very successful book illustrator as well and several of her illustrated children's books from the 1950s remain in print, such as I Can Fly.

This massive archive provides a visual history of film and commercial animation in the mid-20th century. It would make a simply sensational addition to the library of any art college, or that of a Disney collector, animation buff, film collector or fans of classic advertising content. While Blair had a full life outside of his work, this remarkable collection provides a fulsome look at the work life of one of the great animators of American film history. 

The collection is overall in Very Good condition. Some bending, folding and age toning in present. There are some minor rips and tears due to the age of the collection. Some pieces of the collection appear to have missing pages here and there (eg the Rip Van Winkle storyboard seems to be missing the odd numbered page). 

Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information or to request photos. (Kindly include the SKU, listed on this page above the price, in your e-mail so we can more easily answer your questions.)

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