Mary Blair, A Disney Legend

January 25, 2008

Well-known for her colorful and stylized concept art designs for many Disney animated features and shorts, Mary Blair is Disney legend. She is noted for introducing the world of modern art to the world of Walt Disney.

As a young woman in her hometown of McAlester, Oklahoma, Blair showed a budding artistic talent, and was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, California. Upon completion of her studies in 1933, she went to work in the animation department at the Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer (MGM) Studio. In 1940, she joined The Walt Disney Studios, where she was a prolific background and concept artist for many years. She worked on films such as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan, shorts including “The Little House” and “Susie, the Little Blue Coupe,” and other projects such as “Melody Time” and “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.”

In 1941, Blair was part of a Disney expedition to South America, where she and other animators spent three months touring the area, capturing the Latin culture and landscape in their art. Her watercolors were so impressive that she was appointed art supervisor for “The Three Caballeros” and “Saludos Amigos.”

For the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, Walt Disney asked Mary Blair to help with the design of “It’s a Small World,” now a famous attraction at Disney theme parks. In 1967, Blair created mural art for Tomorrowland, the futuristic park within the Magic Kingdom. A 1971 mural by Blair continues to be a focal point of the Contemporary Resort hotel at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Blair passed away in 1978. In 1991, she was posthumously awarded the honor of Disney Legend, and in 1996, she was awarded with the Winsor McKay award from the Association Internationale du Film d’Animation (ASIFA) – Hollywood.

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