Today in Disney history, 1911: Disney Legend, Mary Blair Was Born

by | Oct 21, 2020 | Disney History, WDW Blog

On Sale Now- The Pirates of the Caribbean Attraction Special from WDW Magazine!

Today in Disney history, October 21st, 1911: Disney Legend, Mary Blair was born.

If you’ve stepped foot onto Disney property, you’ve likely been affected by one of Disney’s most influential artists and ahead-of-her-time Imagineers to ever have existed: Mary Blair!

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Dream Finder (@figmentinwonderland) on

Mary Blair, born Mary Browne Robinson, was born on this day over a century ago in 1911.

She was destined to bless Walt Disney himself and those of us who dream in color through her majestic murals and alluring watercolors. 

Blair famously made her mark in all five of the Disney parks around the world with her “its a small world” art. But you may be surprised to learn that her influence can also be seen in EPCOT and one of Magic Kingdom’s most popular resorts.

It’s a Not-So-Small Mosaic!

Disney-History-Mary-Blair-Mosaic-Sapp

At 90 feet tall, Blair’s mosaic at the Contemporary is hard to miss. Photo by Laurie Sapp

Like so many Imagineers after her, Blair had her hands in a multitude of projects. 

In fact, it is hard to talk about the allure of Disney, whether you’re inside or outside the parks, without her work coming into the conversation. 

You may first encounter her work just outside of the parks on Magic Kingdom resort property.

The Contemporary Resort is home to a giant tile mosaic of the Grand Canyon (your first hint that Blair created this gorgeous piece lies in the design, as the mosaic is very reminiscent of “its a small world”). 

It is a beautiful representation of land, livestock, and people of the great Southwest America.

At a towering 90 feet tall, this work of art draws a parallel to the sentiment of how large the world is, but how small and connected we truly are. 

The Fourth Caballero?


While most famously known for her elementary, yet stunning character blueprints on “its a small world”, Mary is also responsible for the Fiesta scene in El Rio del Tiempo in the Mexico Pavilion in EPCOT. 

Wait, you may be saying—didn’t Gran Fiesta Tour replace El Rio del Tiempo in 2007? Yes, it did! 

But the design elements (like the Mayan temples, the color schemes, and the overall makeup of the ride) remained the same. 

EPCOT merely added a bit more light and color to the ride, as well as adding the story of the Three Caballeros into the video work. The heart and soul of Mary Blair’s design are still there.

This change also touches a bit close to home, as Mary Blair was actually the art supervisor for The Three Caballeros animated film starring Donald, 

While Blair most definitely has a certain style as an artist, the contrast of “it’s a small world and El Rio del Tiempo/Gran Fiesta is a great example of her diversity as an artist.

Mary Blair’s Film Work

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Little Oyster 🧜🏻‍♀️ (@the.little.oyster.disneygram) on

While Mary Blair worked at Disney’s animation studio, she was an integral part of films, including, 

  • Cinderella
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Peter Pan
  • Fantasia
  • Lady and the Tramp
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

She was an artist through and through, and—as evidenced by Walt Disney World itself—her style remains timeless to this day. 

In fact, and we encourage you to try this yourself: when I envision the opening credits of Disney’s Cinderella, the nostalgia and color scheme of ‘“it’s a small world”’ are an extraordinary parallel. 

Disney-History-Mary Blair-Book-DPB

The Art and Flair of Mary Blair is a collection of Blair’s iconic artwork. Image courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

If you’d like to see more of Mary’s work, check out The Art and Flair of Mary Blair. This book takes us through some of Mary’s most inspiring art via beautifully printed pages.

It’s a Little Golden Book

Disney-History-Mary-Blair-Walt-Disney-DPB

Mary Blair worked very closely with Walt during her tenure at Disney. Image courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

Mary Blair didn’t always work for Disney. She took some time away during the 50s and 60s to focus on her own art. 

She took her art to several clients, offering her talent to huge name brands like Maxwell House and Nabisco. She even worked with Radio City Music Hall!  

But one thing you may not realize (yet) is that if you were an avid reader as a child (like me) then you probably already had your own Mary Blair artwork in your own home.

Mary Blair illustrated many of the Little Golden Books for children, and if you look closely enough you will start to see some… similarities. 

The Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books puts this work on full display. 

Mary Blair Golden Books

Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books

We encourage you to find them for yourselves (whether it’s for your own child(ren) or just yourself). And it’s not just Disney film characters that make a surprise appearance in her designs. You’ll likely see some familiar faces from the Happiest Cruise that Ever Set Sail in the parks.

Mary Blair, Disney Legend

Disney-History-Mary-Blair-Small-World-DPB

Mary Blair was tasked with designing the environment for It’s a Small World. Photo courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

Mary Blair could see through the eyes of a child and translate it onto the page in a way unlike any other

It didn’t matter whether it was for Disney or for an outside company, Mary Blair lived with her heart on her palette and dedicated every moment of her life to bringing the beauty of the world as she saw it to our homes, vacations, and entertainment. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Will & Jillian & Dawn & Adam (@thehitchhikingbones) on

Mary Blair passed away on July 26th, 1978. If she were with us today, we know that she would be proud of her legacy. Many artists argue that people live on via the works they created. 

In fact, next time you’re in Disneyland, be sure to look near the Eiffel Tower on “its a small world”— take a look at the girl holding the balloon and you might just see a familiar face. 

To help keep our site free of annoying ads flying in your face like a crazed Peter Pan, we have included affiliate links in this post. Thanks for helping us keep our blog ad-free! If you’d like to support us directly, consider subscribing to our print edition.

Keep the magic going!

Written by Britta Stephens

epcot-clothing_creations-shop_chiu
Britta Stephens is a contributing writer for WDW Magazine, Disney blogger, hairstylist, and dog mom x2. The first book she ever read was Hans Christan Anderson’s The Little Mermaid and she's been a fan of Disney endings ever since. When she’s not fostering kittens, she can be found reading literature from a dog’s perspective and singing the opening of The Lion King to her greenhouse plants.
Britta Stephens

Written by Britta Stephens

Britta Stephens is a contributing writer for WDW Magazine, Disney blogger, hairstylist, and dog mom x2. The first book she ever read was Hans Christan Anderson’s The Little Mermaid and she's been a fan of Disney endings ever since. When she’s not fostering kittens, she can be found reading literature from a dog’s perspective and singing the opening of The Lion King to her greenhouse plants.