Blair was born on October 11, 1911 in Los Angeles, CA to a family of architects and contractors. He attended Polytechnic High School. There, he and his brother Preston (1908-1995), who was also an artist, were encouraged by teacher Mary Louise Arnold to pursue art and was awarded a scholarship to attend the prominent Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. It was there in 1931 that he met his future wife Mary and won the gold medal in the watercolor competition of the Los Angeles Olympics for his work titled "Rodeo". He also worked on frescos that decorated the walls of Chouinard and participated in local exhibitions.
Growing in notoriety and his progressive artistic style earning him the role of president of the California Watercolor Society, Blair started animation work for Ub Iwerks producing art for Flip the Frog Cartoons. In 1938, Lee and Mary, along with Walt and Lillian Disney, went on a goodwill sketching tour to South America that was sponsored by FDR’s Good Neighbor Policy. This was a pivotal trip that influenced the animated films Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.
He taught landscape painting at Chouinard while working with The Walt Disney Studios as Director of Color and Animation for the 1938 Silly Symphony animated short, Merbabies and the 1940 Donald Duck animated short, Donald's Dog Laundry, art supervision and location photographer for Saludos Amigos, story development for the "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" segment from Fantasia, a writer for the Disneyland episode "An Adventure in Art" and appeared as himself in the 1942 short documentary, South of the Border with Disney and in archive footage in the 2009 documentary film, Walt & El Grupo.
In 1942, he joined the Navy during World War II where he animated training films for the Naval Bureau of Aeronautics. After being discharged, Blair and his wife moved to Great Neck, New York with Mary and started Film/TV Graphics Inc., a dual advertising company. Through this joint husband and wife partnership they went on to produce animated, training and educational films along with television commercials. It was at this time that Blair studied at the Art Students League in New York and started an additional film production/advertising firm in New York City.
In 1968, Lee and Mary moved to back to California settling in the beautiful city of Soquel. Blair taught figure and landscape painting classes at Santa Cruz Community College as well as taught film animation at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 1983, Blair was awarded a lifetime membership to the American Watercolor Society in recognition of his "… unusual achievement in the advancement of watercolor painting in America."
Blair died in 1993 in Soquel, California.
|1938||Merbabies||animator - uncredited|
|1940||Donald's Dog Laundry||animator - uncredited|
|1940||Fantasia||story development - "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor"|
storyboard artist - "Dance of the Hours" and "The Pastoral Symphony"
|1942||Bambi||color director - uncredited|
|1942||South of the Border with Disney||Himself|
|1942||Saludos Amigos||Art supervision|
Character Design (José Carioca
Location photographer: 16 mm. - uncredited
|1958||The Magical World of Disney||Writer: "An Adventure in Art"|