Mary Blair was a fine artist, commercial artist, concept artist, and Disney Imagineer. After graduating from Chouinard and marrying Lee Blair, Mary was set to build a career as a regionalist watercolor painter like her husband. Due to World War 2, fine art was not working out, and the two entered the world of commercial art and animation. Both landed positions at Ub Iwerks Studio. In 1940, Blair joined Walt Disney studios as a sketch artist. The job frustrated her, and she quit shortly after. A few months later, Walt Disney animators went on strike in 1941, right when Walt left on a Goodwill tour of South America. Lee Blair was invited to go with a group of Disney artists. Mary desperately wanted to go, so she convinced Walt to bring her. The South American tour was where Mary Blair flourished as an artist and developed the style we know of today. Walt supported and encouraged her work and involved her in a number of projects back at the studios. Blair was the art director on the films Three Caballeros and Saludos Amigos, and concept artist for Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. Blair left the Disney studios and moved to New York to pursue freelance commercial art. She illustrated for Little Golden Books, did set designs for Radio City Music Hall, and designed ads for Bakers Cocoa and Pall Mall. Mary returned to Disney for her biggest project yet: creating the look for a new Disneyland attraction called “It’s a Small World.” Mary Blair’s modern style had a huge impact on the way Disney created their films and her influence at Disney can be seen to this day.
1911 – b Mcalister, Oklahoma
1918 – moved to Morgan Hill, California
1933 – Graduated Chouinard Art Institute
1940 – hired at Disney Studios
1941 – quit Disney
1941 – Animators Strike at the Walt Disney Animation Studios
1941 – Disney’s South American Goodwill Tour
~1940-1960 – Mary Blair worked on Saludos Amigos, 3 Caballeros Peter Pan, Cinderella, etc.
1953 – Left disney to begin freelance commercial artist work in New York
1951 – Illustrated “I Can Fly” golden book
1963 – Walt asked Mary Blair to art direct “It’s a Small World”
1964 – World’s Fair
1967 – murals for Disneyland’s Tomorrowland
1970 – moved to Soquel, California
1971 – mural for Disney World Contemporary Resort
1978 – d Soquel, California
1991 – Awarded Disney Legends award
Bemis, B. (2018, October 18). Mickey Mouse morale: Disney on the World War II home front. National Museum of American History. https://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/ww2-disney
Canemaker, J. (1996). Before the Animation Begins: The Art and Lives of Disney Inspirational Sketch Artists (1st ed.). Hyperion.
Canemaker, J. (2012). Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books. Golden Books.
Canemaker, J. (2014). The Art and Flair of Mary Blair (Updated Edition): An Appreciation (Disney Editions Deluxe)(Updated ed.). Disney Editions.
Chatting with Hal Ambro and Lee Blair. (2016, June 28). Cartoon Research. https://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/chatting-with-hal-ambro-and-lee-blair/
Cook, G. (2016, February 15). Modernist Cute: Mary Blair’s Art For ‘Dumbo,’ Golden Books, ‘It’s A Small World’ | The ARTery. WBUR.Org. https://www.wbur.org/artery/2016/02/15/mary-blair
The Life Behind the Color: A Brief Biography of Mary Blair. (2014, March 19). LaughingPlace.Com. https://www.laughingplace.com/w/articles/2014/03/19/the-life-behind-the-color-a-brief-biography-of-mary-blair/
Hanke, L. (1945, March). What Is the Good Neighbor Policy? | AHA. Historians.Org. https://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/gi-roundtable-series/pamphlets/em-14-is-the-good-neighbor-policy-a-success-(1945)/what-is-the-good-neighbor-policy
Hillcrest Press, Inc. (2002). Lee Blair Biography – California Watercolor. Californiawatercolor.Com. https://www.californiawatercolor.com/pages/lee-blair-biography
Kinder, B. (2015, November 7). There’s Something About Mary: The World of Mary Blair. EatDrinkFilms.Com. https://eatdrinkfilms.com/2014/07/23/theres-something-about-mary-the-world-of-mary-blair/
Llamoca, J. (2017, November 27). That Time Walt Disney Went to Latin America to Fight Nazi Sentiment. Latino USA. https://www.latinousa.org/2017/11/17/time-walt-disney-went-latin-america-fight-nazi-sentiment/
MARY BLAIR (1911-1978). (2007). Sullivangoss.Com. https://www.sullivangoss.com/artists/mary-blair-1911-1978
Norman Rockwell Museum. Mary Blair - Illustration History. Illustration History https://www.illustrationhistory.org/artists/mary-blair
Okubo, K. (Producer), & Thomas, T. (Director). (2009). Walt & El Grupo [Motion Picture]. USA: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Private Snafu Cartoon Series. (2020, May 19). The National WWII Museum | New Orleans. https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/private-snafu-cartoon-series
Reed, G. (2017, April 5). The Surprising Impact of World War II Propaganda Animation Design. Ethos3.Com. https://www.ethos3.com/2017/04/the-surprising-impact-of-world-war-ii-propaganda-animation-design/
Schmidt, N. (2020, April 21). Six Things You Didn’t Know About Disney Icon Mary Blair. AllEars.Net. https://allears.net/2020/04/19/six-things-you-didnt-know-about-disney-icon-mary-blair/
Sito, T. (2005, July 19). The Disney Strike of 1941: How It Changed Animation & Comics. Animation World Network. https://www.awn.com/animationworld/disney-Strike-1941-How-It-Changed-Animation-Comics
Sito, T. The Disney Strike, 1941 | Animation Guild. Animationguild.Org. https://animationguild.org/about-the-guild/disney-strike-1941/
Walt and the Goodwill Tour | The Walt Disney Family Museum. (2016, September 8). Waltdisney.Org. https://www.waltdisney.org/blog/walt-and-goodwill-tour
Yesterland: Mary Blair Tomorrowland Tile Murals. (2019, March 1). Yesterland.Com. https://www.yesterland.com/maryblair.html