Creator of ‘Dragon Tales’ to bring whimsy to fair
Triple bypass heart surgery made Ron Rodecker mad and led him to become the creator of a public television program, which became the number one animated series for children 2 to 6 years old.
Rodecker’s “Dragon Tales” embodies the same whimsy that caused him to wake up with a pun on his lips.
“When I came out of the anesthetic, the first thing I said was, ‘I hope this wasn’t all in ‘vein.” Along with that came an anger. I had this ability all my life, and I got this notice that my life was in peril and I hadn’t done anything with my art talent,” Rodecker said.
So he abandoned the careers he had pursued after graduating from UCLA with an emphasis on art. Gone were the jobs working at an ad agency as an art director, working at an insurance agency, a bank, the post office and as a teacher.
He got some sheets of illustration board and started doing pen-and-ink drawings.
“I did some pretty good stuff and got into the Festival of Art in Laguna Beach,” Rodecker said.
Then he moved to the Sawdust Festival across the street, where he sold prints of his work, which by this time included some whimsical dragons.
“One day people from Columbia Tri-Star pictures came into my booth and really liked what they saw. They invited me to Culver City and asked me if I could create a series based on my art. That’s how ‘Dragon Tales’ was born,” Rodecker said.
The series, which started in 1999, is still airing on PBS. Emmy nomination plaques hang on his studio wall.
A Nevada County resident since 2004, along with his wife Katherine and two golden retrievers, Rodecker still serves as producer for the program and is in charge of developing new characters. For a year he drew a series of more than 50 whimsical cartoons for The Union.
One of his main activities these days is serving as the star attraction at the Nevada County Fair’s Magic Forest, a special area that presents day-long entertainment for young fair visitors.
In the magic forest, youngsters can watch Rodecker at his drawing board as he creates his whimsical dragons. The Nevada County Fair – and the Magic Forest – runs from Aug. 8 though 12 at the fairgrounds in Grass Valley. His artistic interpretation of the theme, Pirates of the Barnyard, graces this year’s fair poster.
What’s ahead? “I’m 77, so I prefer to think of the now instead of the future,” he says whimsically.
Don Baumgart is a former newspaper reporter, was an Associated Press editor and is now a magazine journalist living in Nevada City. He has written articles for national publications, including Better Homes & Gardens, International Railway Traveler and Porthole cruise ship magazine, taking readers to such diverse experiences as dining aboard California’s Wine Train and a Nevada burger stop for outer-space aliens. He also serves as publicist for the Nevada County Fair.
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