Dragons return to Laguna

Teacher, longtime Sawdust exhibitor and creator of PBS' "Dragon Tales" Ron Rodecker returns this summer to Laguna Beach.

Rodecker is the guest artist at the show where his Dragon's Castle was for decades one of the most popular booths on the Sawdust grounds.

He will make his first appearance at the show from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He expects to be at the show on alternate weekends throughout the summer, traveling from his woodsy Northern California home.

Rodecker, his wife, Katherine, and their two dogs moved from Laguna in 2004.

"It was time for a change," he said then.

Many felt he was looking at the wrong clock.

"It felt like I let the whole town down," Rodecker said Wednesday.

Rodecker was a fixture in Laguna Beach since he began teaching here in 1963.

Among his students were Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman's son, Nick; cartoonist John Lara; and a host of students at the now-closed Aliso and El Morro elementary schools and at Thurston Middle School, where he met his future wife.

Rodecker loved teaching art to youngsters, but felt something was missing from his life.

After by-pass surgery in 1977, Rodecker returned to teaching, but committed himself to his art.

The next year he was juried into the Festival of Arts, shifting in 1981 to the Sawdust.

In 1985, he happened on some books on sale at a local market. The stack included "Encyclopedia of Legendary Creatures."

The book was the incubator for Cassie, Ord, Wheezie and Quetzel, the adorable dragons that have captivated children with their antics on television, while teaching them life lessons. Watercolor was their mother's milk — he had previously worked in pen and ink.

Rodecker's based his dragons on the personalities of his two beloved golden retrievers, Tessa and Remington, both now dead.

"Cassie was Tessa, Remmy was Ord," Rodecker said Wednesday.

Rodecker underwent his second by-pass surgery in 1989, and continued to exhibit his drawings at the Sawdust.

Like most people in town, the Rodeckers were forced to leave their home when the firestorm hit Laguna in 1993.

They took their computer and some reproductions of Rodecker's work. His wife went to Irvine. He stayed at the home of friend to keep tabs on the home.

"But the main thing was us and our pets; the rest is just stuff," Rodecker said in later years.

Fortunately the house was saved.

Two years after the fire, a chance visit to the Sawdust Festival led to the television series that features Rodecker's dragons.

Lisa Bach, who was tasked with finding new products for Sony Television, wandered into Rodecker's castle that summer. She found a winner.

Rodecker not only had the characters, he had story ideas and an underlying theme for a television series that combined his art and his philosophy as an educator: "To teach children to meet challenging situations that occur in every child's life."

Sony took the concept to Children's Television Workshop, which produced the series for PBS.

Rodecker subsequently sold the rights to the show, but he is still recognized as the originator of the characters and developed all the new ones.

"Dragon Tales" was nominated three times for an Emmy and was the winner of the "Parents Magazine Award for Excellence."

Cassie made her debut as a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2003.

"We believe the show is seen in 110 countries," said Paul Golde, Rodecker's agent-manager.

Cels and original drawings for the show will be on sale at the Sawdust. The booth will also have reproductions of his classic dragons and originals of new ones.

For more information, call Golde at (949) 715-5418.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World