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Blair, Mary 1911-1978

Blair, Mary 1911-1978

Personal

Born October 21, 1911, in McAlester, OK; died of a cerebral hemorrhage, July 26, 1978, in Soquel, CA; married Lee Everett Blair (an artist; deceased), 1934. Education: San Jose State College, degree; Chouinard Art Institute, degree, 1933.

Career

Animator, illustrator, and artist. Ub Iwerks studio, animator; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Hollywood, CA, animator; Walt Disney Studios, animator, art supervisor, and concept artist, 1940-53, member of Disney touring expedition to South America, 1941; freelance graphic designer and illustrator. Film credits include: (art supervisor) Saludos Amigos; (art supervisor) The Three Caballeros; (art supervisor) Make Mine Music; (artist) Song of the South, 1946; (artist) Melody Time; (artist) Dear to My Heart; (artist) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad; (concept artist and color stylist) Cinderella, 1950; (concept artist) Alice in Wonderland, 1951; and (color stylist) Peter Pan, 1953. Other works included "It's a Small World" pavilion, 1964 New York World's Fair. Exhibitions: Mural installations include Tomorrowland Promenade, Disneyland, 1967 (covered over, 1987); and Disney's Contemporary Resort Hotel, Walt Disney World, 1971.

Awards, Honors

Named Disney Legend, 1991; Winsor McCay Award, ASIFA-Hollywood, 1996.

Illustrator

Ruth Krauss, I Can Fly, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1950, reprinted, Western Pub. Co. (Racine, WI), 1992.

Baby's House, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1950.

Ruth Krauss, The Up and Down Book, Golden Press (New York, NY), 1964, reprinted, Golden Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Cynthia Rylant, reteller, Walt Disney's Cinderella (includes concept art from the Disney film), Disney/Hyperion (New York, NY), 2007.

Jon Scieszka, reteller, Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland (includes concept art from the Disney film), Disney Press (New York, NY), 2008.

Sidelights

Born in Oklahoma in 1911, artist and animator Mary Blair is best remembered for her contributions to classic films by Walt Disney Company. Considered a significant influence within 1950s animation, Blair's modernist concept art—the paintings that mapped out the look of each scene for Disney animators—defined the look of such classic films as Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Alice and Wonderland. In addition, she also designed the characters for Disneyland's popular "It's a Small World" exhibit. According to School Library Journal critic Marian Drabkin, Blair's work for the film Cinderella is "spare and impressionistic, reflecting trends in the art of animation during the 1950s."

In addition to appearing in film, Blair's concept art for Disney has been adapted for the picture-book format in Walt Disney's Cinderella, with a text by Cynthia Rylant, and Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, with a story by Jon Scieszka. In addition, her vibrantly colored illustrations appear in Ruth Krauss's classic "Golden Books" titles I Can Fly and The Up and Down House, both of which have remained in print since first appearing in the mid-twentieth century. In a review of Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, Joy Fleishhacker wrote in School Library Journal that Blair's "stunning concept art … shaped the look of the Disney animated film" upon which Sciezka's text is based. The artist's "whimsical style and exuberant palette" was groundbreaking within film animation, observed a Publishers Weekly critic in a review of Walt Disney's Cinderella before predicting that the book "will find its way onto collectors' shelves."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Canemaker, John, The Art and Flair of Mary Blair, Disney Editions (New York, NY), 2003.

PERIODICALS

Horn Book, September, 2003, review of I Can Fly, p. 569; January-February, 2008, Christine M. Heppermann, review of Walt Disney's Cinderella, p. 100; September-October, 2008, Monica Edinger, review of Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, p. 573.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2007, review of Walt Disney's Cinderella; August 1, 2008, review of Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland.

Publishers Weekly, July 15, 2007, review of Walt Disney's Cinderella, p. 163.

School Library Journal, February, 2008, Marian Drabkin, review of Walt Disney's Cinderella, p. 96; October, 2008, Joy Fleishhacker, review of Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, p. 124.

ONLINE

Disney Legends Web site,http://legends.disney.go.com/ (November 15, 2008).

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