You may not know the name Mary Blair, but we assure you, you know her work by heart! Her childlike fondness for playfulness in imagery can be spotted throughout Disney films and theme parks, far and wide!

Mary Blair (October 21, 1911 – July 26, 1978) joined Walt Disney Animation Studios in 1940 where she worked on art for Dumbo, an early version of Lady and the Tramp, and a second version of Fantasia titled “Baby Ballet.”

Blair travelled to various South American countries with Walt Disney, Lillian Disney, and other artists on a research tour. Her watercolours caught the attention of Walt, who assigned her the role of art supervisor for the animated feature films The Three Caballeros and Saludos Amigos.

As John Canemaker points out in The Magic of Mary Blair, “Though much of her art veers away from naturalism toward abstraction, she was one of Walt Disney’s favourite artists; he personally responded to her use of colour, naïve graphics, and the storytelling aspect in her pictures, especially the underlying emotions palpable in much of her art.”

Her palate and style influenced several Disney productions, such as Song of the South, Make Mine Music, Melody Time, So Dear to My Heart, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan.

Later, Walt would ask Mary to assist in the design of the “it’s a small world” attraction for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, which resulted in an entirely Mary Blair style and concept.

Over the years, Mary contributed to the design of several attractions and murals throughout the theme parks, including the fanciful murals in the Grand Canyon Concourse at Walt Disney World’s Contemporary Resort Hotel.

Mary Blair’s Inspired Cinderella Castle 50th Anniversary Art

Blair’s whimsical art and highly prolific art has made a not-so-small impact on film, print, theme parks, architectural decor, and advertising.

According to Walt Disney Imagineer Zach Riddley, the 50th-anniversary transformation of Cinderella Castle was inspired by Mary Blair’s Cinderella art, as you can see right here!

In Riddley’s Words

“Our past is always inspiring our future. Our Imagineering team drew inspiration from Disney Legend Mary Blair for our transformation of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom in honor of the upcoming 50th Anniversary celebration beginning October 1, 2021.
A couple weeks ago we shared a rendering of how this new décor will come to life. And for the first time – I’m excited to reveal this new @WaltDisneyImagineering illustration of Cinderella Castle in full 50th Anniversary regalia in the style of Mary Blair.
Her enchanting visual designs and use of color for the film Cinderella were our source of inspiration, which you can swipe to see courtesy of the @DisneyAnimation Research Library. We wanted to go back to the original story of this beautiful structure to create something entirely original for this grand celebration. Fanciful ribbons wrap in air around the castle turrets – inspired by the scene in the film where Cinderella is transformed in her stunning gown. And Mary’s designs provided us a beautiful palette of rich hues to choose from – deep blues, purples and shimmering golds mesh with a touch of EARidescence that will catch light and evolve through the day and into each evening.”