incomplet: a podcast about design history

a podcast about design history

Mary Blair

    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 


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    Chatting with Hal Ambro and Lee Blair. (2016, June 28). Cartoon Research.

    Cook, G. (2016, February 15). Modernist Cute: Mary Blair’s Art For ‘Dumbo,’ Golden Books, ‘It’s A Small World’ | The ARTery. WBUR.Org.

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    Yesterland: Mary Blair Tomorrowland Tile Murals. (2019, March 1). Yesterland.Com.