Mary Blair (born Mary Browne Robinson; October 21, 1911 – July 26, 1978) was an American artist, animator, and designer who was prominent in producing art and animation for The Walt Disney Company, drawing concept art for such films as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Song of the South and Cinderella. Blair also created character designs for enduring attractions such as Disneyland's It's a Small World, the fiesta scene in El Rio del Tiempo in the Mexico pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, and an enormous mosaic inside Disney's Contemporary Resort. Several of her illustrated children's books from the 1950s remain in print, such as I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss. Blair was inducted into the prestigious group of Disney Legends in 1991.
Born on October 21, 1911, in McAlester, Oklahoma, Mary Browne Robinson moved to Texas while still a small child, and later to the city of Morgan Hill, California in the early 20s. After graduating from San Jose State University which she attended from 1929 to 1931, Mary won a scholarship to the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, where artists such as Pruett Carter, Morgan Russell and Lawrence Murphy were among the teachers. She graduated from Chouinard in 1933. In 1934 shortly after college, she married another artist, Lee Everett Blair (October 1, 1911 – April 19, 1993). She was the sister-in-law of animator Preston Blair (1908–95). Along with her husband Lee, she became a member of the California School of Watercolor and quickly became known for being an imaginative colorist and designer.
Blair's first professional job in the animation industry was as an animator with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She would soon leave and join Lee Blair at the Ub Iwerks studio before moving to Disney. In the 1930s she was also a part of the innovative California Water-Color Society
Blair joined The Walt Disney Company—initially with some reluctance— in 1940, and worked briefly on art for Dumbo, an early version of Lady and the Tramp, and a second version of Fantasia titled "Baby Ballet" which was not released until the late 1990s.
After leaving the studio for a short time in 1941, Blair travelled to various South American countries with Walt Disney, Lillian Disney and other artists on a research tour. as part of the Good Neighbor policy of the President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Her watercolors impressed Disney, who appointed her as an art supervisor for the animated feature films Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.
Blair first began animation and color design on major films in 1943 and would continue to work on animated films for Disney for a full decade. Her work with animation did not end there however as after that, she worked on several package films, excluding Fun and Fancy Free, and on two partially animated features—Song of the South and So Dear to My Heart. The early 1950s were a busy time for the Disney studio, with an animated feature released nearly every year. Mary Blair was credited with color styling on Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Peter Pan (1953), and the artistic influence of her concept art is strongly felt in those films, as well as in several animated shorts, including Susie the Little Blue Coupe and The Little House, she designed during that period.
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