Mary Blair: Animator & Imagineer

Mary Blair

If you’ve ever been to a Disney park or seen a Disney animated film, chances are you’ve seen some of Mary Blair’s work.  Animator Mary Blair worked on many classic Disney animated films.  At the request of Walt Disney, she also worked as an imagineer on one of the most well known Disney attractions.  The vibrant colors and stylistic designs found in her artwork have made it some of my favorite Disney art.

Throughout her career, Mary Blair was instrumental in creating many of the classic Disney characters we all know and love.  While traveling with the Disney’s and other fellow animators on a research trip, Mary worked on concept art for Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.  These films were used as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy.  Mary worked on the color styling for classic films including Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, and Peter Pan.  The concept art she created for these films looks wonderful.  Mary Blair also worked  on several other animated shorts while at the Disney studio.  After Peter Pan was completed, she left Disney to work as a freelance artist.

When Walt Disney was approached by Pepsi-Cola to create an attraction for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, he specifically requested that Mary Blair work on the project.  Walt loved the use of color in her work and thought it would greatly benefit this attraction.  This attraction which showcased unity through children from all over the world was called It’s A Small World and benefited UNICEF.  After the fair ended, the attraction was moved to Disneyland where it remains today.  Since then, It’s A Small World has been replicated at four other Disney parks.  Mary’s color and stylized art is clearly evident today in each parks’ version of It’s A Small World.

Mary Blair also created several murals for Disney parks.  The most of which is the mural found in the Grand Canyon Concourse at the Contemporary Resort.  This 90-foot-tall mural took 18 months to complete.  It features birds, other animals, and American Indian children.  The mural also includes a 5-legged goat to symbolize that nothing is perfect.  Next time you’re at the Contemporary, be sure to look for him!

Mary’s contribution to The Walt Disney Company has proven to be invaluable.  In 1991, Mary was named a Disney Legend.  In 2010, The Walt Disney Family Museum honored her with a special exhibit.  Mary Blair’s work continues to inspire animators and imagineers today.  She has been named as an influence for recent films such as Up and Tangled.

photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc

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Kimberly's love of Disney began at an early age and grew even more when her family won a Walt Disney World vacation from a local radio station. She grew up visiting the parks every one to two years and is fascinated by Disney history and trivia. Whether at the parks or at home, Kimberly is constantly looking for hidden Mickeys. She enjoys sharing tips and helping others plan their Disney vacations. In addition to Frontierland Station, she can also be found writing for Park World Travel and selecting music for Park World Radio.

Latest posts by Kimberly (see all)

  • Lisa Cameron

    Interesting article. All of her work is so similar in style, especially the Contemporary mural and It’s a Small World. Thanks for sharing the name behind the beautiful art.

  • I love the mural in the Contemporary! The first time I heard about the five legged goat was from the monorail conductor (this was back in the day when you could wait and ride in front.) Thanks for reminding me to look for it!

  • Mouse Ears Mom

    Mary Blair is one of the great female artists that Walt employed. I enjoyed reading your post. If you’ve written about any other female artists within Walt’s circle, I’d love to read about them.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! I think this is the only article I have so far about any of Disney’s great female artists/imagineers. I’ve been wanting to do an article about Harriet Burns, but I have gotten around to it yet.

  • Awesome information!! I love learning more about the talented people responsible for some of my favorite attractions and movies.

  • I love the goat! I need to get a picture of it next time. Mary Blair was an amazing contributor to Disney!!

  • Deb @ Focused on the Magic

    Amazing legend! I grew up loving her designs. It all started for me at the NY ’64 World’s Fair.Great post!

    • I love her work on It’s A Small World! I read that they actually made a doll designed to look like her. If I remember correctly, I believe it’s on the Eiffel Tower at Disneyland’s version of the ride.

  • Pingback: Disney Ride Secrets: it's a small world - Frontierland Station()

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