Welcome to those of you joining me from Heidi’s Head and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 3rd stop on our Magical Blogorail.
Today, the Golden Anniversary of “it’s a small world”, is the perfect time to reflect on treasures we cannot take for granted. This “Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed” has brought untold smiles to children and adults around the world for 50 years. Its happiness coefficient might not have been so remarkable had it not been for the friendship, respect and affinity in this collaboration. The relationship spanned 25 years, and was much, much, more memorable than the iconic colorful singing dolls themselves. Walt Disney and Mary Blair were visionaries and artists, true. They were also international goodwill ambassadors and leaders in the feminist movement!
– Mary Blair’s distinctive and innovative style influenced the early classics, such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Cinderella. It is said that Walt was particularly drawn to Mary’s use of color and abstracts to tell a story.
– A mere 11 months before the opening of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Walt Disney was approached to design the Pepsi sponsored UNICEF pavilion. In this “salute to the children of the world”, Walt selected Mary Blair as the point person for style, concept and color. She worked alongside such legendary personalities as Rolly Crump, and Blaine Gibson, (who sculpted the dolls under Walt’s direction). “it’s a small world” is and was regarded as the most successful pavilion in the fair.
– In the 1960’s, Walt personally choose Mary to re-design the mural in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland to portray lightheartedness and optimism for the future.
– Sadly, when Walt passed in 1965, Mary’s work with the company also ended, with the exception of The Grand Canyon Concourse in Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
_ After early work at Walt Disney Studio, (for Dumbo and Lady and the Tramp), Mary briefly left to work in commercial advertising. (She also is credited as set color designer for the Broadway show “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” during this period.) Walt and Lillian, invited her to accompany them to South America to do research for FDR’s Good Neighbor program. This initiative was intended to promote unity amongst North and South American countries, and seen as a counter to the Nazi propaganda that was infiltrating South America during World War II. As a result of this trip, Disney produced The Three Caballeros and Saludos Amigos. Guess who was named art supervisor on both productions?? This “peace through understanding” theme would continue through Mary’s work for the New York World’s Fair.
– Frozen made Disney history because it featured the first female director in Disney Animation history. Yet, in 1941 Walt gave the following speech to his Burbank studio employees: (LA Times, November 29. 2013)
“If a woman can do the work as well, she is worth as much as a man,” Disney said, according to studio archives. “The girl artists have the right to expect the same chances for advancement as men, and I honestly believe they may eventually contribute something to this business that men never would or could.”
In a time when many males animators were being drafted for World War II, Walt recognized the value of his female collaborators. He recognized talent- pure and simple!
– San Francisco’s Walt Disney Family Museum‘s Mary Blair Exhibition entitled, “MAGIC, COLOR, FLAIR: the World of Mary Blair”. (March 13 – September 7, 2014) In over 200 works, this exhibit showcases the modern art that captivated Walt Disney; the work that he promoted first in his films, and then in his theme parks.
Today, the 50th anniversary of this, their most famous collaboration, I celebrate too! I share this birthday, and remember well the April day when I took my first happy cruise at the New York World’s Fair. What a joyful legacy this duo left behind. How grand. How golden.
Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Return to Disney.
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard: