Mary Blair by Michael Netzer
|Born||Mary Browne Robinson
October 21, 1911
McAlester, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||July 26, 1978
Soquel, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||San Jose State University|
|Known for||Artist, animator|
|Notable work(s)||Alice in Wonderland
Song of the South
|Awards||Disney Legend Award
Winsor McCay Award
Mary Blair (October 21, 1911 – July 26, 1978), born Mary Robinson, was an American artist who 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. Blair also created character designs for enduring attractions such as Disneyland's It's a Small World, the fiesta scene in El Rio del Tiempo in the Mexico pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, and an enormous mosaic inside Disney's Contemporary Resort. Several of her illustrated children's books from the 1950s remain in print, such as I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss. Blair was honored as a Disney Legend in 1991.
Born on October 21, 1911, in McAlester, Oklahoma, Mary Browne Robinson moved to Texas while still a small child, and later to California around the age of seven. After graduating from San Jose State College, Mary won a scholarship to the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, where artists such as Pruett Carter, Morgan Russell and Lawrence Murphy were among the teachers. In 1934, she married another artist, Lee Everett Blair (October 1, 1911 – April 19, 1993). She was the sister-in-law of animator Preston Blair (1908–94).
Mary and Lee Blair both soon began to work in the animation industry, joining the Ub Iwerks studio. Lee went on to work at the Harman-Ising studios, before ultimately joining the Walt Disney studio, where he was joined by his wife in 1940. Mary Blair worked briefly on art for Dumbo, an early version of Lady and the Tramp, and a second version of Fantasia which was not released until the late 1990s.
After leaving the studio for a short time in 1941, Mary travelled to various South American countries with Walt and Lillian Disney and other artists on a research tour as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor policy. During those trips, Mary and Lee worked on concept art for the animated feature films Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, with Mary credited as art supervisor on those films.
After that, she worked on several package films, excluding Fun and Fancy Free, and on two partially animated features — Song of the South and So Dear to My Heart. The early 1950s were a busy time for the Disney studio, with an animated feature released nearly every year. Mary Blair was credited with color styling on Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Peter Pan (1953), and the artistic influence of her concept art is strongly felt in those films, as well as in several animated shorts, including Susie the Little Blue Coupe and The Little House, she designed during that period.
After the completion of Peter Pan, Mary Blair resigned from Disney and worked as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator, creating advertising campaigns for companies such as Nabisco, Pepsodent, Maxwell House, Beatrice Foods and others. She also illustrated several Little Golden Books for publisher Simon & Schuster, some of which remain in print today, and she also designed Christmas and Easter sets for Radio City Music Hall.
At the request of Walt Disney, who regarded highly her innate sense of color styling, Blair began work on Disney's new attraction, "It's a Small World". Originally a Pepsi-Cola-sponsored pavilion benefiting UNICEF at the 1964 New York World's Fair, the attraction moved to Disneyland after the Fair closed and was later replicated at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World Resort as well as Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland.
In 1967, Mary Blair created mural art for the Tomorrowland Promenade. Two similar tile murals flanked the entrance corridor. The mural over Adventure Thru Inner Space was covered over in 1987 with the opening of Star Tours, while the other remained in place until 1998 when the Circle-Vision 360° was replaced by Rocket Rods and a new mural was designed to reflect the new theme. Her design of a 90-foot-high (27 m) mural remains a focal point of the Disney's Contemporary Resort hotel at Walt Disney World, which was completed for the resort's opening in 1971.
While the fine art she created outside of her association with Disney and her work as an illustrator is not widely known, Blair's bold and ground-breaking color design still inspires many of today's contemporary designers and animators. A Google doodle was created on Friday, October 21, 2011, to commemorate the centennial of her birth. The Doodle featured an image of an illustrator as Mary might have drawn herself, surrounded by the simple patterns and shapes that made up her familiar cartoon world.
- "Mary Blair", The Art of Disney Animation, Canal blog, 2009-01-18.
- Carpenter, Eric (October 22, 2011). "Disney's Mary Blair honored by Google". The Orange County Register. Local 2. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
- Google doodle celebrates influential Walt Disney artist Mary Blair, UK: The Guardian, 21 October 2011, retrieved October 21, 2011
- "Mary Blair", Legends, Disney, Go.
- Canemaker, John (2003), The Art and Flair of Mary Blair: An Appreciation, Disney Press, ISBN 0-7868-5391-3.
- Blair, Mary; McHugh, Gelolo (2010) , Baby's House, Little Golden Books, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-375-85460-6.
- Blair, Mary; Krauss, Ruth (1992) , I Can Fly, Little Golden Books, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-307-00146-6.
- Clark Potter, Miriam (1953), The Golden Book of Little Verses, Simon & Schuster.
- Blair, Mary; Lloyd, Norman (1955), The New Golden Song Book, Golden Press.
- Mary Blair at the Internet Movie Database
- "Mary Blair at the Disney Studio", Inkling Studio (JPEG) (Photograph), Typepad, c. 1941.
- Blair, Mary, Meadow Gold ice cream (TV commercial) in the style of her "I Can Fly" book illustrations.
- "Mary Blair Week", Cartoon Modern, Blogsome.
- LIFE magazine photos from the 1941 Disney tour of South America
- Mary Blair at LC Authorities — with catalog records