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A Disney Artist Comes Into Her Own

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by Leonard Maltin
May 31, 2010 12:17 PM
2 Comments
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Mary Blair now has her own website. This is a giant leap forward for a woman whose name was virtually unknown to the general public during her lifetime, but whose reputation has grown with each passing year. Walt Disney had the highest regard for her work, and her bold use of color and charming character designs had a profound influence on a number of movies we all saw (including Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan) and attractions we attended at Disneyland, notably It’s a Small World. Insiders and colleagues knew how talented she was, but it’s only in recent years that her name has come to the forefront among animation aficionados. John Canemaker’s book The Art and Flair of Mary Blair (Disney Editions, 2003) had a lot to do with that; nowadays, her original artwork commands lofty prices at animation auctions. She was also part of the Disney tour to—

—Central and South America in the early 1940s, documented in Ted Thomas’ documentary Walt & El Grupo and JB Kaufman’s recent book South of the Border With Disney (Disney Editions/The Walt Disney Family Foundation, 2009).

And now, Mary’s nieces Maggie and Jeanne have launched a site which includes a gallery of their aunt’s beautiful and distinctive artwork, which they have also turned into a select line of merchandise and art reproductions. It’s well worth a look at www.magicofmaryblair.com.

The site also pays tribute to Mary’s husband, fellow Disney artist Lee Blair, and his talented brother Preston Blair, who made his mark on animation at several studios (including MGM, where he brought Tex Avery’s sexy redhead to life) and left a lasting impression on several generations of aspiring animators through his popular Walter E. Foster book on the fundamentals of animation. There was no other book like it for decades.

One of Mary’s murals is on display at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, which is just one more reason to make that a destination if you’re doing any traveling this summer. You can also purchase Mary Blair merchandise there, including a beautiful catalog that was prepared for a major exhibition of her work in Japan not long ago. www.disney.go.com/disneyatoz/familymuseum/

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2 Comments

  • Geoff Gardner | January 10, 2012 1:56 PMReply

    Leonard, I've sent you several emails complimenting your old Walt Disney Treasures DVD series, and I have been equally grateful for your comments in various interviews regarding artists like Mary Blair and Eyvind Earle. They certainly deserve to be household names; like I said I didn't know who they were back then but I know who they were now - thank you SO MUCH for helping to increase our awareness.

  • YR | June 4, 2010 1:45 AMReply

    A small correction: Preston Blair was Mary Blair's brother in law, not her brother.

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