See the Original Concept Art for Disney's Animated 'Cinderella' Movie
Next month, Disney will release the latest live re-imagining of one of its animated classics, when director Kenneth Branagh unveils a new rendering of Cinderella. The film, which stars Downton Abbey’s Lily James as the titular peasant-turned-princess, has big glass slippers to fill; in many ways the 1950 cartoon version of Cinderella is the studio’s most iconic animated film.
Cinderella’s cartoon-classic status comes thanks in no small part to the work of legendary artist and animator Mary Blair, whose concept art you can see above and below, courtesy of the new issue of Disney twenty-three magazine, the publication of Disney’s official fan club, D23.
After joining Walt Disney’s studio in 1940, Blair would soon grow close to the founder of the Mouse House, joining his government-sponsored expedition to South America, which was intended to counter Nazi influence in the region. The trip would eventually inspire the films Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944), both of which Blair worked on. In a era when men dominated the animation industry, Blair was given plenty of license to explore her artistic interests — and, as fellow legendary animator Marc Davis once noted, her passion for modern art helped bring the style to the studio.
“Though much of her art veers away from naturalism toward abstraction, she was one of Walt Disney’s favorite artists,” John Canemaker, an Oscar-winning animator who wrote a book about Blair, said. “Disney personally responded to her use of color, naïve graphics, and the storytelling aspect in her pictures, especially the underlying emotions palpable in much of her art.”
Blair’s Cinderella work, which helped define the animation’s timeless look and feel, was made with pastel and gouache, a water color-like material. She also contributed vital style guidance to Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, along with several shorts and anthology films.
If the artwork looks familiar in style, it might be because Blair was also designed the concept for everyone’s favorite journey through multicultural utopia, the World’s Fair exhibit-turned theme park It’s a Small World ride. She also painted murals for other attractions in the parks and the Contemporary hotel, as well as illustrations for Golden Books and ad campaigns.
Blair was the subject of a Google Doodle on what would have been her 100th birthday in 2011, and her legacy continues: She’s also been cited as a huge influence on the style of Pixar’s Up and Disney’s Tangled, among other modern-day animated movies.