Mary Blair was an American animator, best known for her work with Disney Studios.
In 1934, Blair married another artist and took on the last name of Lee Everett Blair, who was the brother of the celebrated animator Preston Blair. Mary and Lee both got their start in the animation industry at the Ub Iwerks studio, and eventually both ended up at Walt Disney in 1940. Blair contributed to the art work of Dumbo, an earlier version of Lady and the Tramp, as well as an earlier version of Fantasia.
In 1941, Mary travelled extensively with Walt and Lillian Disney to promote President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy, and the couple both worked on features like Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.During this booming period at Disney, Blair contributed to animated or partially animated films such as Fun and Fancy and Free, and the now banned Song of the South, So Dear To My Heart.
In the 50′s, Disney was experiencing a boomimg golden age, and Blair created the concept art for many of Disney’s most beloved films, and was also credited for her work as a colour stylist in Cinderella (1950), Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan (1953), as well as on animated shorts like Susie the Little Blue Coupe and The Little House.
After completing the Peter Pan project, Blair started working freelance instead as a graphic designer and illustrator, working alongside advertising agencies for companies such as Maxwell House, and illustrated children’s books for Little Golden Books under Simon & Schuster, and even creating the set design at Radio City Music Hall. In 1964, Blair was coaxed back by Walt Disney to work as a colour stylist on the theme park ride “It’s a Small World”, which is an old mill boat ride at several Disney theme park locations all over the world, featuring 300 colourful and lively animatronic children of the world.
In 1967, Blair created mural art for Disney’s popular theme parks, precisely within the Tomorrowland Promenade and the Adventure Thru Inner Space rides. She also created a 90-fod-high mural at the Disney Contemporary Resort Hotel, titled “Mosaic”. In her last credited work, Blair was the colour designer on the 1967 film How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
While Blair’s work outside of Disney is not widely known, her work as a colour designer is still hugely influential to this day, as a Google Doodle commemorated the centennial of her birthday on October 21st, Friday, 2011.
Blair passed away in Soquel, California on July 26th, 1978.
Known for her unusual, colourful, child-like and graphic style, Blair helped bring modern art to Disney, and was compared by Marc Davis as skilled as Matisse in use of colour.
Honors and awards
In 1991, she was also credited as a Disney Legend, receiving in addition the ASIFA award for Lifetime Achievement.