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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t miss this exciting exhibit!
Magic. Color. Flair
The world of Mary Blair
March 13, 2014 – September 7, 2014
At the Walt Disney Family Museum
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.