The Color Styling of Mary Blair

I first saw Walt Disney's “Alice in Wonderland” in 1952 at the Granada Theater in Santa Barbara. Sure, the story had its share of problems but that didn't stop me from watching the film a second time. (you could do that in those days) I stuck around for a second viewing of the animated Disney classic because I was totally blown away by the art direction and color styling. Even though I was just a kid I knew I was viewing something very special.

Speaking of special, look at this beautiful color sketch by the amazing, Mary Blair. If I recall correctly, the screen credits on “Alice” read, Color and Styling by Claude Coates and Mary Blair. Correct me if I'm wrong. In any case, Mary did a ton of work on “Alice in Wonderland,” and this piece is only one of many. I have no idea how many color sketches she turned out but she was, no doubt, prolific.

It's interesting that I stumbled across this piece this morning. I loved this sequence in particular. It's where Alice is put on trial in the film's third act and the use of color in the sequence is remarkable. I remember gathering every scrap of the Disney film I could find. I so wanted to understand Mary's use of color. Back in those days gaining access to Disney art of any kind was hardly easy. Of course, there was always the published story books, but getting access to any artwork from the Disney motion picture was darn near impossible.

Take a second look at this painting by Mary Blair. I'm still knocked out by the simplicity of the color study and she probably did this in ten minutes or less. Her work never fails to amaze me and I guess it always will.