A five-legged goat and the children of the world might not seem to have much in common, but, for Disney parks fans, they’re both grand examples of the incredible talent of one artist – Mary Blair.
In the children’s book “Mary Blair’s Unique Flair,” writer Amy Novesky and illustrator Brittney Lee showcase the life of Blair, an artist, animator, and Disney legend, with vibrant whimsy. Starting with her youth, the book covers Blair’s journey into the Disney company, her time joining Walt in South America, her work on such films as “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan” and finally, what many consider her masterpiece, “It’s a Small World.”
But the book never feels like a biography. It positions itself as a real-life fairy tale, even ending with a “happily ever after,” and in many ways it feels like the appropriate approach to such a fantastical life.
One interesting note, is that this isn’t the first children’s book about Blair’s life (that would be “Pocket Full of Colors”), but it is the first sanctioned by Disney. In this way, the book seems to focus on her successes within the company more than, as “Pocket” did through visuals and narrative, the fact that Mary was often one of the few women in the room.
This isn’t to suggest that either approach is better, but just that “Unique Flair” focuses on her Disney experience more then her career as a whole or the issues she might have faced and conquered along the way. It remains a charming tale nonetheless.
One thing that can’t be denied is Brittney Lee’s amazing visuals throughout. Though a daunting task it must be to pay homage to Blair’s style, Lee knocks it out of the park with her cut paper art, which adds great depth and tactility to every page.
Moments of Blair’s life are full color pallettes unto themselves as Lee brings out the deep purples of dusk in South America and the pink hues of the final scene of “Small World.” It’s a thing of beauty that keeps your eyes lingering on every page long after you’ve finished reading the words.
“Mary Blair’s Unique Flair” is a wonderful rendering of an artistic life well lived that shines a spotlight on a Disney legend that will not only inspire the children who hear her story, but their parents too.
Note: Review copy of this title provided by Disney Press.