Yesterday, I got an email from Disney historian extraordinaire Jim Korkis, who currently works at the Disney Learning Center at Epcot in Walt Disney World. He shares this excerpt from an interview he did in 2000 with Joyce Carlson, who had worked with Mary Blair on the “It’s a Small World” ride. The entire interview can be read in WALT’S PEOPLE, vo. 1. Here are Joyce’s personal recollections of Blair:
Mary was very friendly and very artistic. She had a lot of glasses. She used to have a lot of different colored contact lenses as well. She used to wear green or blue or any color to go with the outfit she was wearing that day. I’d watch her put them in and I thought, “I wouldn’t want to wear those.” Maybe that affected her colors. Her colors were always bright. She used theatrical gels and cut them up and put them on top of her artwork. I had to match the colors she picked and that was a problem because those colors didn’t exist with the paints we had. I had to go and get some of the paints from the ink and paint department and mix them in with our paint and they didn’t always mix well. It was like painting with mud. When I worked with her on the mural in the Walt Disney World Contemporary Hotel, it was a little easier because the tile work wasn’t as bright like Small World but it was still tough. I would finally get what she wanted but it took time.
Mary painted very flat and it wasn’t very dimensional. We often had to cut pieces of Styrofoam for her and let her move them around. She wasn’t always happy how her artwork got translated to animation, but she was happy with the finished product of Small World, I think. Of course, other hands were involved as well. Mary would let us put our ideas together and she’d pick things we’d do and put them in the show. I created a cardboard giraffe for the Africa scene and Mary loved it and put it in. We’d always be changing characters and adding things.
And here is today’s Blair piece. I have no idea what it’s from. If any of you do, please let us know. There are a lot of artists today whose work is influenced by Mary Blair—and I do mean a lot of artists—but few are able to draw characters whose shapes are as dynamic and interesting to look at as the design of this frog. Blair understood how to incorporate daring asymmetrical shapes into her design without getting too wonky with the individual shapes or losing sight of the overall composition. Easier said than done.