Why Disney Wouldn’t Be Disney Without Mary Blair

Mary Blair.

Chances are even if you aren’t familiar with her name, you are absolutely familiar with her work.

©Disney

Mary Blair is the artist behind “it’s a small world,” as well as concept art for some of the most iconic Disney classics — Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland.

Let’s take a look at some of her most iconic work.

Walt Disney and Mary Blair ©Disney

Mary started working for Disney in the 1930s, along with her husband Lee. The two accompanied Walt and his wife Lillian to South America in 1941, when the Disney team was sent on a Good Will Tour by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The culture and colors of South America drastically influenced Mary’s artistic style, and she impressed Walt with her water colors. Mary Blair served as art supervisor on both Saludos Amigos and Three Caballeros. 

©D23

The early 1950s were when Mary’s animation style was really showcased. Many of the Disney Studios’ biggest hits were released in the first half of the decade, and they relied heavily on Mary’s use of bright colors and designs in her concept art.

First up was Cinderella (1950).

©MagicofMaryBlair

How stunning is this!?

©MagicofMaryBlair

Fans of the film will immediately recognize the “So This is Love” scene above — it’s clear Mary’s color styling was a tremendous influence.

Following the success of Cinderella, the studio released its most whimsical film to date, Alice in Wonderland in 1951.

©MagicofMaryBlair

I love Mary’s take on the Mad Hatter and her whimsy in the teacups.

©MagicofMaryBlair

Next up, the studio released Peter Pan in 1953.

©MagicofMaryBlair

Just look at this stunning map of Neverland — complete with the Jolly Roger.

©MagicofMaryBlair

You can see the power of color in Mary’s work — just look at the strong contrast between dark, bland London versus the bright colors of the fantasy and whimsy of Neverland.

In the mid-1960s, Disney and his team were designing exhibits for the New York World’s Fair. He was approached by Pepsico to design an attraction where the proceeds would benefit UNICEF and help children around the world. Having such high regard for Mary and her use of color, Walt personally requested she work on “it’s a small world.”

©Disney

You can see how strongly her concept art influenced the look on the dolls in “it’s a small world.”

“it’s a small world” dolls

She also drew concepts for the backgrounds, which were also heavily used.

©Disney

Mary’s work can also be easily spotted if you’ve ever been to, or ridden through, the Contemporary Resort.

Mary Blair Contemporary Mural

And while most people won’t see it, her concept art of Cinderella hangs in the Cinderella Castle Suite.

Mary Blair Cinderella Concept Art

Without Mary Blair, some of Disney’s most iconic films wouldn’t look the same, and we would be without one of the “Disney-est” attractions. Hopefully the next time you watch one of these films or ride “it’s a small world” you’ll think about Mary — Disney just wouldn’t be Disney without her!

Which of Mary’s artwork is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

 

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Molly is a lifelong Disney enthusiast, and former Walt Disney World Guest Relations Cast Member and tour guide. Her Walt Disney World favorites include Festival of the Lion King, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Fantasmic!, Mickey-shaped pretzels and rice krispie treats, and anything with Buzz Lightyear! She lives in Orlando with her husband (who she met in Guest Relations) and their two rescue dogs, Kronk and Cruella de Vil (Ella for short!)

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One Reply to “Why Disney Wouldn’t Be Disney Without Mary Blair”

  1. While the mural in the Contemporary is iconic, I’ve long felt that it is out of place with the resort’s theming.