Mary Blair: Animator & Imagineer

Mary Blair

If you’ve ever been to a Disney park or seen a Disney animated film, chances are you’ve seen some of Mary Blair’s work.  Animator Mary Blair worked on many classic Disney animated films.  At the request of Walt Disney, she also worked as an imagineer on one of the most well known Disney attractions.  The vibrant colors and stylistic designs found in her artwork have made it some of my favorite Disney art.

Throughout her career, Mary Blair was instrumental in creating many of the classic Disney characters we all know and love.  While traveling with the Disney’s and other fellow animators on a research trip, Mary worked on concept art for Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.  These films were used as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy.  Mary worked on the color styling for classic films including Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, and Peter Pan.  The concept art she created for these films looks wonderful.  Mary Blair also worked  on several other animated shorts while at the Disney studio.  After Peter Pan was completed, she left Disney to work as a freelance artist.

When Walt Disney was approached by Pepsi-Cola to create an attraction for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, he specifically requested that Mary Blair work on the project.  Walt loved the use of color in her work and thought it would greatly benefit this attraction.  This attraction which showcased unity through children from all over the world was called It’s A Small World and benefited UNICEF.  After the fair ended, the attraction was moved to Disneyland where it remains today.  Since then, It’s A Small World has been replicated at four other Disney parks.  Mary’s color and stylized art is clearly evident today in each parks’ version of It’s A Small World.

Mary Blair also created several murals for Disney parks.  The most of which is the mural found in the Grand Canyon Concourse at the Contemporary Resort.  This 90-foot-tall mural took 18 months to complete.  It features birds, other animals, and American Indian children.  The mural also includes a 5-legged goat to symbolize that nothing is perfect.  Next time you’re at the Contemporary, be sure to look for him!

Mary’s contribution to The Walt Disney Company has proven to be invaluable.  In 1991, Mary was named a Disney Legend.  In 2010, The Walt Disney Family Museum honored her with a special exhibit.  Mary Blair’s work continues to inspire animators and imagineers today.  She has been named as an influence for recent films such as Up and Tangled.

photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc

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Lisa Cameron

Interesting article. All of her work is so similar in style, especially the Contemporary mural and It’s a Small World. Thanks for sharing the name behind the beautiful art.

I love all of her work! The mural at the Contemporary is gorgeous!

lori ketcherside

I love the mural in the Contemporary! The first time I heard about the five legged goat was from the monorail conductor (this was back in the day when you could wait and ride in front.) Thanks for reminding me to look for it!

I used to love riding up front! That might actually be where I first heard about the 5 legged goat too!

Mouse Ears Mom

Mary Blair is one of the great female artists that Walt employed. I enjoyed reading your post. If you’ve written about any other female artists within Walt’s circle, I’d love to read about them.

I’m glad you enjoyed it! I think this is the only article I have so far about any of Disney’s great female artists/imagineers. I’ve been wanting to do an article about Harriet Burns, but I have gotten around to it yet.

Lynn Wiltse

Awesome information!! I love learning more about the talented people responsible for some of my favorite attractions and movies.


Beth Green

I love the goat! I need to get a picture of it next time. Mary Blair was an amazing contributor to Disney!!


She sure was!

Deb @ Focused on the Magic

Amazing legend! I grew up loving her designs. It all started for me at the NY ’64 World’s Fair.Great post!


I love her work on It’s A Small World! I read that they actually made a doll designed to look like her. If I remember correctly, I believe it’s on the Eiffel Tower at Disneyland’s version of the ride.


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