My Special Mary Blair Connection

Written by Rick Wright. Posted in Features, Walt Disney Family Museum, Weekend Update

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Published on January 05, 2014 at 3:00 am with 5 Comments

Today, Scarlett Stahl shares a very special visit she had with Maggie Richardson, legendary Imagineer Mary Blair’s niece.  ~~Rick

My Special Mary Blair Connection

By Scarlett Stahl

At Disney Legend Alice Davis’ 80th Birthday Party, I was fortunate to be seated at a table with Maggie Richardson, who is the niece of another Disney Legend, Mary Blair. Maggie is also co-trustee of Mary’s estate along with her sister, Jeanne Chamberlain. Through this chance encounter, we became acquainted and began a friendship which has lasted even after Maggie moved to Northern California. Alice Davis has said that Maggie has a pleasant and even tempered personality just like her aunt Mary and went on to say that if you have met Maggie, you have met Mary.

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Penguin from original Small World ride given to Maggie from Disney via Kim Irvine and Marty Sklar. It is displayed on her buffet along with a print of the Small World facade and a photo of Mary and Walt who is holding the original Mary Blair Doll made in the likeness of Mary

 

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Penguin from original Small World ride

Monster's Inc. poster signed by Pixar's Pete Docter, family friend and huge Mary Blair fan.

Monster’s Inc. poster signed by Pixar’s Pete Docter, family friend and huge Mary Blair fan.

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Large prototype tile from the Contemporary Hotel Mural in Disney World, Florida. It hangs proudly in the entryway of Maggie’s home.

This past May, I was invited to spend a few days as Maggie’s guest in her lovely home, which is filled with Mary’s art and memories. With an article in mind and surrounded by such beauty, I asked her permission to photograph Mary’s art, which she gladly gave.

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Reproduction of Lee Blair’s oil painting “Mary by the Sea” — hanging over Maggie’s fireplace.

 

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“Children’s Chorus” influenced by her South American travels

She also mentioned that the Walt Disney Family Museum had plans for a special Mary Blair exhibit in the spring of 2014, but asked that I not announce the news until given permission from the museum. After some discussion, we decided that when I was able to announce the exhibit, I would accompany the news with the pictures I had taken in her home.

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“Purple Madonna” — painted by Mary as a family Christmas card in the early 60′s.

 

Mary Blair was one of a handful of Disney artists, who, along with her husband, artist Lee Blair, accompanied Walt Disney on his research trip to various South American countries as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy. Her concept art was showcased in the resulting animated feature films: Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, in which Mary is credited as Art Supervisor. Mary created concept art for and is credited for Color Styling on Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Song of the South, and Cinderella.

Mary was one of Walt Disney’s favorite artists – he personally coaxed her away from her home in New York in 1963 to spearhead the design of the It’s A Small World attraction for the 1964 New York’s World Fair. The Small World attraction was a huge hit and was later moved to Disneyland as well as replicated at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World Resort, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland. She also created the fiesta scene in the Mexico pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase as well as the impressive 90 foot high Grand Canyon tile mural at Disney’s Contemporary Resort Hotel which opened in 1971. Her two tile murals created for the Tomorrowland Promenade, unfortunately, are no longer on display.

Aside from her work for Disney, Mary worked as a freelance designer and illustrator creating advertising campaigns for Nabisco, Pepsodent, Maxwell House, Beatrice Foods and others. Some of her illustrated children’s books, such as I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss, are still in print today. She also designed Christmas and Easter sets for Radio City Music Hall and a movie set for the film How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Her creativity seemed endless. Her timeless bold and unique color design is studied and emulated by artists today, while her art is widely collected and coveted around the world. Mary has been honored with the Disney Legend Award, the Winsor McCay award from ASIFA-Hollywood and her own “Google Doodle” on October 21, 2011, the anniversary of her 100th birthday.

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Maggie’s collection of Mary Blair handkerchiefs designed for Carole Stanley Studio in New York in 1950 and sold exclusively through Lord & Taylor.

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“Halloween Plate” painted by Mary in the early 1950′s.

John Canemaker was selected as the curator for the Mary Blair exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum, which means that he chooses and coordinates the art to be exhibited. John was selected as he is an expert on Mary Blair and his book, The Art and Flair of Mary Blair, will have a second printing next spring. John is an independent animator, animation historian, author, teacher and lecturer. In 1980, he began teaching and developing the animation program at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, Kanbar Institute of Film and Television Department. Since 1988 he has directed the program and is currently a tenured full professor. From 2001-2002 he was Acting Chair of the NYU Undergraduate Film and Television Department.

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Sleeping Beauty and the Prince (submitted for cover of Disney children’s book but not used)

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Maggie on her patio holding the Mary Blair doll she made.

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Scarlett with Maggie’s dog “Doodle”

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Maggie holding plate Mary painted for her in the late 1950′s

In 2006, his film The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation, a 28 minute animated piece about Canemaker’s relationship with his father, won the Academy Award for best animated short. In 2007, the same piece won an Emmy award for it’s graphic and artistic design. His research in the history of animation inspired two of his own films, Remembering Winsor McCay (1976) and Otto Messmer and Felix the Cat (1977). John is a much sought after speaker and has moderated several events at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, CA.

Alice doll and notebook in Maggie's bookcase

Alice doll and notebook in Maggie’s bookcase

The Mary Blair reading corner in Maggie's living room with Disney Cinderella pillow in chair and original "Children's Chorus" on wall --- A favorite relaxing spot for Maggie's dog Doodle.

The Mary Blair reading corner in Maggie’s living room with Disney Cinderella pillow in chair and original “Children’s Chorus” on wall — A favorite relaxing spot for Maggie’s dog Doodle.

 

The Mary Blair reading corner of Maggie's living room (without Doodle)

The Mary Blair reading corner of Maggie’s living room (without Doodle)

Mary Blair female sculpture with Disney Grand Canyon vase designed by Kevin Kidney

Mary Blair female sculpture with Disney Grand Canyon vase designed by Kevin Kidney

Reclining Women tiles -- in guest bath.

Reclining Women tiles — in guest bath.

"Triple Giraffes" -- in office

“Triple Giraffes” — in office

"Family Totem" in hallway

“Family Totem” in hallway

Maggie's Mary Blair doll in bookcase

Maggie’s Mary Blair doll in bookcase

 

Maggie's Rocking Horse plate in bookcase

Maggie’s Rocking Horse plate in bookcase

mall World footstools (2) in den

Small World footstools (2) in den

The Goblet People --- appropriately hangs over the bar and wine rack.

The Goblet People — appropriately hangs over the bar and wine rack.

Don’t miss this exciting exhibit!

A picture of John Canemaker, curator of the Mary Blair Exhibit, with Disney Legend Alice Davis

A picture of John Canemaker, curator of the Mary Blair Exhibit, with Disney Legend Alice Davis

Magic. Color. Flair
The world of Mary Blair
March 13, 2014 – September 7, 2014
At the Walt Disney Family Museum

104 Montgomery Street, The Presidio of San Francisco
San Francisco, California 94129
(415) 345-6800
[email protected]
www.waltdisney.org

Museum Hours: Wednesday – Monday 10:AM -6PM

Located in the Presidio of San Francisco, The Walt Disney Family Museum is one of the Bay Area’s newest event and meeting venues, with the Golden Gate Bridge to the west, Crissy Field to the north, and the City to the east.

As a picture is worth a thousand words, I will cease and let the images tell the story and tempt you to visit the exhibit yourself. Being a collector, I was delighted to learn that the Gift Shop has plans for a new line of lovely Mary Blair merchandise.

 

About Rick Wright

Rick has been a long term MiceChat author and co-founder of the Weekend Update. You will often find Rick in the position of "Greeter" at official events due to his warm and welcoming spirit. If you've got photos, news or trip reports to share, Rick would love to hear from you: [email protected]

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5 Comments

Comments for My Special Mary Blair Connection are now closed.

  1. Great news!! Can’t wait to see the exhibit. Great post and phots!!!! Thanks.

  2. Mary Blair is right up there with Herb Ryman as my favorite Disney artists. Maggie sure is a lucky woman to live in a house full of Mary Blair artwork! Thank you for the news Scarlett, can’t wait to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum for this exhibit.

  3. It is my understanding that Marc Davis said that Mary Blair was Walt Disney’s favorite artist and I know she is definitely at the top of my own favorites list. The picture shown at the beginning of my article is of Sleeping Beauty and is one that I particularly love, To my great surprise, I was gifted a copy from Maggie Richardson and her sister, Jeanne Chamberlain. The framed picture is on my bedroom wall and I am arranging for my walls to be painted peach to go with it. Additionally I have begun buying peach satin bedding. Obviously I am obsessed with the picture, which is so vibrant and unique.
    Please see:
    http://www.MagicofMaryBlair.com

  4. Wow, thanks for sharing these pictures and stories with us. I will be sure to visit the WDFM to see the special Mary Blair exhibit.

  5. How do I get a copy of the modonna. And the reclining. Women, and the totem. Just wow!