The Bewitching Mary Blair Project

Pub date February 27, 2008
WriterAva Jancar
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

REVIEW Beginning in 1940 and continuing through the ’60s, Mary Blair was a key contributor to the Disney aesthetic. As one of Walt Disney’s right hands, she was responsible for the design of both the It’s a Small World and Alice in Wonderland rides at Disneyland, as well as numerous large-scale tile murals that adorned the exteriors of Tomorrowland and still grace the lobby of the Walt Disney World Contemporary Resort in Florida. Not only is her work part of the Disney canon but she also created illustrations for the classic children’s Little Golden Books. Illustrative artifacts of Blair’s life and concept art for her now-legendary amusement park architecture are all part of "The Art and Flair of Mary Blair."

The Cartoon Art Museum exhibit includes a representative sample of Blair’s illustrative range. From the announcement of the birth of her son to a cigarette advertisement, her distinct sense of color and design inevitably indicate the era in which they were produced. And in its innocent nostalgia — most clearly displayed in the stylized gouache sketches made during her South American travels — Blair’s work simultaneously projects an idealistic view of the future.

In her plan for the exterior of It’s a Small World, she combines squares, triangles, and diamonds with overlapping fields of color to shape a complex geometric composition. The patchwork quality of the surface closely resembles the fabric designs of one of Blair’s modernist contemporaries, Ray Eames, who also recognized the intricacies and the simplicity of both natural and built environments. Composed of the world’s most recognized landmarks, Blair’s condensed multi-cityscape is less representative than it is abstract: its Eiffel Tower resembles a geodesic slice.


Through March 18

Tues.–Sun., 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

Cartoon Art Museum

655 Mission, SF


(415) 227-8666,