Dreams, inspiration, color: Japan celebrates 100 years of Mary Blair’s birth

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By Alexandra Homma

Professional in her career, gracious in style, respected worldwide, a wife and a mother of two -- Mary Blair (1911-1978) lived a life of dreams, color and inspiration, atypical in an age of various social constraints and regulations in 1950s America. Blair could hardly foresee that her legacy would expand across the globe, influencing and inspiring future generations.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Blair, one of Walt Disney’s most respected color stylists and designers, and one of the very few holders of the Disney Legend award, which she received posthumously in 1991. As a way to commemorate Blair's life and work, a three-year-long exhibition titled “Mary Blair – Life Choices, The Work of a Mother” will start in Tokyo on April 28 and move to Sapporo, Osaka and other cities.

Divided in three zones: Mary Blair Works Zone, Mary Blair Respect Zone and Design Store Zone, the exhibition is the largest of its kind to be ever held in Japan. It shows rare exhibits of Blair’s work completed by the artist during and outside her time at Disney, including six never-before displayed items.

Blair, born in Oklahoma in 1911, became one of the first women to join Disney as a professional artist. She produced striking art for films such as "Alice in Wonderland," "Peter Pan" and "Cinderella." But despite the numerous compositions she produced in her lifetime, she is perhaps best known for her work on the It’s a Small World attraction, which she originally produced for the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

It’s a Small World, the interior Fantasyland boat cruise, is one of the most popular Disney attractions today, attracting millions in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris, in addition to California and Florida. The color variation, interior design, and concept represent the way Blair imagined her life as an artist: vivid, explicit, united, dreamy and, certainly not the least – inspiring.

Now that Tokyo Disneyland has reopened after the March 11 earthquake, the concept of It’s a Small World may now be more important than it ever was. Blair’s exhibition and the reopening of Disneyland synchronize the birth of new hope, expectations and dreams for a better and brighter future for Japan.

Exhibition: “Mary Blair – Life Choices, The Work of a Mother” Date: April 28 (Thu) – May 9 (Sun), 2011 Venue: Ginza Mutsukoshi, 8F Gallery, Tokyo Fee: 500 Yen (Free for elementary school students)

For information on exhibition in other cities see http://www.maryblair.jp/

© Japan Today

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When I was a kid I loved Alice in Wonderland. Cinderella was kind of scary (that wicked witch). We never hear about the people behind it doing the ground work that makes it all possible.

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