The genius of Preston Blair

Tonight, I pulled out my French DVD box set of the complete Tex Avery cartoons – one of the many reasons I require all-region disc players with PAL to NTSC conversion – and cued up “Swing Shift Cinderella” to marvel at. To me, it’s one of the most astonishing of the old school cartoons, especially considering that Preston Blair, who invented and animated the Red Hot Riding Hood character, produced Red’s dancing entirely from his artistic imagination – no rotoscoping, where an actor is filmed and then key frames are traced…no model…no nothing. And, hey, it was August 1945, so no CGI. You can change the quality here from the default of 360 to 480.

Red appeared in several Avery productions, always with Wolfie and sometimes with Droopy the dog as Wolfie’s foil, but I think this one’s the best. (The full cartoon is over seven minutes, but I uploaded just this portion in the hope that it won’t be summarily removed at the behest of MGM. You know, the ones who won’t release the Avery library on DVD or Blu-ray in the US.) I don’t believe I’ve seen finer free-hand animation of the female figure. For a treat, watch again and follow just her hands. I think their complex and varied natural movements push the cartoon into extraordinary territory.

It’s no surprise that cels of Red dancing were once stolen from an animation stand where they had been left unattended overnight before filming. Blair had to re-do the work, but considered the theft high praise.

In one of his books, Blair explains one sequence in a chart:

preston-blair-red-hot

Click to see a larger version

Red’s singing voice was provided by the silken notes of Imogene Lynn, perhaps best known for her lead in the most popular recording of “Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive” with Artie Shaw, and shown here performing “Big Boy”.

My best mate also loves the Red Hot Riding Hood cartoons and recently got a new mobile, so I customised this skin for the back of her phone on Skinit.com and gave it to her at Christmas – to her great delight.

20141225_131020

Here are a few of the variants of Red that appeared in Tex Avery cartoons:

Red Hot Riding Hood variants

Click to see a larger version

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *