One of my favorite artists who worked at the Disney Studios was Mary Blair; known for her unique designs, sophisticated style, and whimsical color palette, Mary Blair is, at times, the definition of animated film designs during the 40s and 50s. I don’t know too much about Mary Blair as a person, but I simply adore her concept artwork from films such as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. Take a look:
Alice in Wonderland:
Mary Blair’s style is unmistakeable; you can always tell what is a Mary Blair piece of art. She also worked on a variety of other projects. For instance, Mary Blair, on behalf of Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy, went with Walt Disney and her fellow artists/animators to South America, creating concept art for Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. Blair also created concept art for some of the other “package features” for Disney (those ranging from Saludos Amigos to The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad), as well as artwork for the animated portions of Song of the South and So Dear to My Heart. Blair also drew concept art for a variety of short films that the Disney studio produced. However, the three films that I’ve previously mentioned (Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan) are, perhaps, the most representative of her style; however, they are most certainly watered-down versions. After her work on Peter Pan, Mary Blair resigned from the company to become a freelance graphic designer and illustrator.
At the request of Walt Disney, however, Mary Blair did come back to design It’s a Small World After All, the rather famous attraction that, after being at the 1964 World’s Fair, ended up at Disneyland (and, subsequently, Disney World in Florida, and the Disneylands in Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong).
She is a truly astounding artist. Now, John Canemaker (an animator and animation historian; he’s also one of my favorites) wrote an appreciation book entitled The Art and Flair of Mary Blair, which detailed the work done by Mary Blair. It has long been out of print, and, of course, the price for buying the book sky-rocketed (making it virtually impossible to buy, at least for me). If anyone is curious, there is an updated version of The Art and Flair of Mary Blair which will be released on May 20, 2014; I have the new cover art for that book:
I am so excited that John Canemaker updated his book because I’ve been meaning to see the original book for quite some time (it was published in 2003). I’m bummed that I have to wait until March of next year, but I simply cannot wait to finally enjoy all of the splendors that Mary Blair produced. I could stare at her artwork all day and never get tired of it.