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Mary Blair: The artistic force behind Disney's 'Cinderella'

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Mary Blair was the artist behind Disney's "Cinderella." The live action version of the classic animated feature is out in theaters March 13.

Though you may not know the name Mary Blair, you're likely familiar with her work. Blair was a Disney studio artist and the concept designer behind the animated films "Peter Pan," "Alice in Wonderland," and "Cinderella," arguably the most iconic of the Disney classics.

The live action version of Cinderella will be out in theaters tomorrow, March 13.  

For more on the Disney legend, Host Alex Cohen spoke with John Canemaker, professor and head of animation at New York University Tisch School of the Arts and author of "The Art and Flair of Mary Blair." 

Beginning in the 1940's, Blair's work dominated at the Disney studios, which was an unusual amount of power for a woman to wield at the time.  She was one of Walt Disney's favorite artists. 

"Mary Blair was a fine art water colorist. She had this real classical background to her work so that when she did the fantasy she had a sophistication to her work that belied the naiveté of the work itself. Her work is often called 'childlike' but the technique behind it is anything but,"  said Canemaker. 

Blair's role as a concept artists was to bring the ideas of the writers to life.  

"A concept artist is someone who comes on at the very beginning of the production. They literally create from nothing the characters, what they might look like, what they wear, the colors that go into the costumes, the settings, the character relationships. She worked very closely with the story people, the writers at the studio. They would come up with these ideas and she would be asked to make a visualization of an idea." Said Canemaker. 

Blair passed away in 1978, but the mark she left on the Disney brand and the animation landscape endures.  

"Pete Doctor, who directed 'Monsters, Inc.' said every time they start a project they take out images of Mary Blair as inspiration.They look at her for ideas for color, shape, designs, and imaginative possibilities. She's still a big influence on children's book illustrators. Many of them admire her so much and they still consider her an inspiration. She's, in fact, almost bigger than she ever was when she was alive." 

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