Did you go to Disney World or Disney land when you were little (like maybe in the 70’s?)? Quick-what was your favorite ride?
Mine was “Its a Small World“.
We went to Disney World in 1978 and let me tell you…it was not a great trip. We drove from Indiana (we lived in Indiana for 3 years) to Orlando in the station wagon with my brother and I– at each other’s THROATS. Then when we finally got there I remember our hotel did not live up to expectations. In fact our room had a giant hole in the ceiling. After that I pretty much blocked most of my memories of this trip….but the things that really stick out to me were 1-the heat; 2-the LINES (being little all I could see where people); 3-my mom refusing to make Dumbo go UP; 4-chickening out of the Haunted House line after seeing a kid in tears leaving the ride (after waiting in line god-knows-how-long my dad was not a happy camper-sorry Dad!) & (this is the good part) 5–the Its a Small World ride which was by far my favorite. I ADORED that ride! I mean that one ride really made up for the all the other stuff. (except maybe the raging ear infection my dad got and then my mom had to drive the whole way back to Indiana on her own–ahhhh good times.)
Anyway for years after that when the subject of Disney World would come up I pretty much swore up and down I was NEVER going back, and then (at the same time) I raved and raved about Its a Small World. I loved it! It was like the illustrations of a book just came to life-right in front of my eyes. The idea of all the children from all over the world in their native costumes just lit my childhood imagination up! I dreamt about traveling the world one day-and always these images inspired my future daydreaming and wanderlust. (I don’t have any photos from my childhood visit –do we mom??–these are from the current exhibit. )
Little did I know that a very talented FEMALE artist named Mary Blair was the concept artist behind the look I loved. (As you may already know, the ride was originally an attraction at the 1964 New York World’s Fair before finding a permanent home at Disneyland.) It wasn’t until adulthood that I had even heard of Mary Blair ( did you see the Google illustration celebrating her birthday in 2011?)–but when I found out that she was the brilliant mind that dreamt up the wonder from my childhood, well I just fell in love with her, just like I fell in love with her art as a kid. From the Huffington Post: “In the 1960s, Disney recruited Blair’s expertise in the design and creation of the memorable “It’s a Small World” ride, transforming her two-dimensional illustrations into three-dimensional works of art.”
Turns out she wasn’t just the artist behind the ride, she was the concept artist behind many of my very favorite childhood movies–Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella. It was Mary’s job to create the look and feel of the movie. Her bold use of color is one of her signatures.
Last winter I found out there was a Mary Blair exhibit in San Francisco at the Walt Disney Family Museum–well I mean if there wasn’t reason enough to go to San Fran–I just HAD to get there to see that too! The stars were lined up in my favor, friends, because my hubby had a biz trip planned and my parents could come watch the girls (thank you mom and dad!!) so….off we went on my very FIRST trip to the west coast. Of course I loved everything about San Francisco–how could I not? It was dreamy. (I wrote about how I tracked down all the Vertigo sights when I had one of the days to myself.)
The exhibit was fabulous–with original sketches and paintings from her work on Disney animated films. (She worked in gouache a lot –which may explain why I immediately came home and bought my first set of gouache since college!)
There were also original sketches~
and there were her book illustrations~
a scarf she designed~ (she was prolific!)
and a little something from “Its a Small World”~
There’s magic in her work and it continues to inspire me and light up my imagination, just as it did when I was 8. The exhibit was extraordinary-like her. I ate every little bit of it up–took my sweet time and read every plaque and note along the way. And I’ve been wanting to share it with you ever since! I’m so sorry its taken me so long–and now the exhibit is over but you can get the book (which I didn’t get when I was there!!)
I think I can see a glimmer of her effect on me in a new collection I made recently-do you see it? The geometric shapes and bright colors! Modern and whimsical at the same time was what I was going for~
PS-we DID go back to Disney World (with my mom and dad!!) and we had a splendid, MAGICAL time. And Its a Small World was even better (actually everything was better!)