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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Born on October 21, 1911, in McAlester, Oklahoma, artist and designer Mary Browne Robinson Blair gained distinction for her work on Walt Disney's animated children's films Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), and Peter Pan (1953). Her parents, John Donovan and Varda Morton Valliant Robinson, her twin sister Augusta, and her sister Margaret lived in Texas before the family moved during the 1920s to Morgan Hill, California. After graduating from high school there, Mary Robinson majored in fine art at San Jose State College. She attained a scholarship to the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles where she met fellow art student Lee Everett Blair. They married on March 3, 1934, in Los Altos, California, and had two sons, Donovan Valliant and Kevin Lee.

During the 1930s the Blairs exhibited their artwork in California and Texas. They both worked at Ub Iwerks animation studio in Los Angeles before she was employed as color director at Harman and Ising, a Metro-Goldwin-Mayer studio. In 1940 Walt Disney Studio hired Mary Blair. During her tenure at the Disney studio, she and her husband traveled to South America with Walt Disney on a goodwill tour and film research trip. She also journeyed to Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the southern United States before working on Saludos Amigos (1942), The Three Caballeros (1944), and Song of the South (1946).

In 1953 Mary Blair resigned from Walt Disney Studio. She became a free-lance designer and created artwork for national advertising campaigns and for the children's Little Golden Books series published by Simon and Schuster. She also designed murals for a children's wing at a medical clinic, for a hotel at Walt Disney World, and other venues. Her creative work was featured at the 1964 New York World's Fair in the "It's a Small World" exhibit. After the fair ended, the exhibit was moved to Disneyland and later duplicated in other Disney parks worldwide. Noted for her whimsical characters and her color styling, Blair was posthumously honored with the Disney Legend Award in 1991 and the Winsor McCay Award in 1996. She died on July 26, 1978, of a cerebral hemorrhage in Soquel, California.

Linda D. Wilson


John Canemaker, The Art and Flair of Mary Blair: An Appreciation (New York: Disney Editions, 2003).

McAlester (Oklahoma) News-Capital and Democrat, 29 April 2012.

Larry O'Dell, comp., Oklahoma @ The Movies (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 2012).

Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 11 May 2012.


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Linda D. Wilson, “Blair, Mary Browne Robinson,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=BL017.

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