Last week, we shared the story of of Leota Toombs Thomas, as one of the many legendary women who have helped shape the Disneyland Resort. Today, we’re sharing the story of designer and artist Mary Blair.
Read the story below, which originally ran in the Disneyland Resort Line, a magazine published exclusively for Disneyland Resort cast members.
After bringing her talents to films like “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Peter Pan,” Walt Disney asked artist Mary Blair to develop the environment of “it’s a small world,” a new attraction heading to the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair — with less than a year to spare.
Luckily, the playful project was perfect for Mary; her creative expression led to one of Disney’s most colorful and charming attractions. The universal appeal of “it’s a small world,” and the whimsical flair of Mary Blair can be seen in interpretations of the iconic attraction at Magic Kingdom Park in Florida, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland.
Then, Mary took on Tomorrowland with two larger-than-life murals. The ceramic tile artwork, much like “it’s a small world,” evoked an optimistic look towards the future, with children of the world coming together to dance and make music. Mary’s cheery designs continue to inspire Disney artists today, including Disney artist and historian Stacia Martin. “I’d say inspire and intimidate,” jokes Stacia, who got her start nearly 40 years ago in the original Disneyana shop and has gone on to write and illustrate books. “Mary Blair went to Walt Disney Imagineering and made such a big difference by extrapolating her film work experience. … She was the first one to take her own work from blank sheet of paper all the way up to model to finished environment.”
And while Stacia never got to meet Mary, who passed away in 1978, Stacia takes pride in knowing how much joy Mary got from her work — and how much joy it has brought to the world. “I certainly hope that whatever I do will continue to bring me joy and will give whoever it is that’s on the viewing or listening end of what I do, some measure of happiness as well.”
Mary Blair without even knowing her had made my childhood very sweet and creative! Her creativity is still inspiring and has woven itself into life everywhere! What a tremendous Disney legend.
It would be an amazing thing if Disneyworld and Disneyland could each have a Hall of Fame type of an established building in the parks commemorating these incredible creative geniuses.
We cannot let their visions and creativity fade away.
Mary Blair’s contributions to The Walt Disney Company cannot be overstated. Her work on It’s A Small World was iconic and inspirational. I cannot describe the feeling I get standing in front of the original attraction with a blue sky and puffy white clouds in the background while listening to the “tick, tock” and that gorgeous music suite. Big Disney magic for me!
Any time I see Mary Blair’s art, it cheers me up. I especially love her bright colors and geometric style (which always makes me think of cozy quilts). I hope you also have plans to shine a spotlight on Alice Davis and her costume work – is it true she rescued Pirates of the Caribbean?