Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mary Blair Mural, Tomorrowland - August 1968

Over the last two decades, Mary Blair's name has become familiar to most Disney fans. And her artwork, with its distinctive styling and amazing use of color, has become extremely popular. I'm sure that Mary would be astonished at how her star has risen. I've heard that even commies are enchanted by her charming work! 

Here's a nice detail (taken from the Peoplemover) of one of the two tile murals that could once be seen in Tomorrowland's main corridor. Both of today's photos feature the "south mural". Those darn children are goofing off again, instead of toiling in the mill like they should be. Their tiny hands and fingers are just right for reaching into machinery.

Hello there, Mr. Sunshine! He reminds me a little bit of the smiling clock over at "It's a Small World".   

The south mural was covered (and partially destroyed) in 1986; if the Disney powers-that-be had only known how beloved Mary Blair's artwork would become, and how marketable it is now, I wonder if they would have been more reluctant to replace it? I don't recall anyone EVER talking about how much they like the murals that are there now!


TokyoMagic! said...

Major, the first image is actually of the north mural. The second one is of the south mural. Both of the murals that are there today, make me cringe every time I look at them. There is no reason why they couldn't have gone ahead and updated/ruined Tomorrowland over the years and still have left Mary Blair's tile murals intact. After all, the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World has been updated over the years, but her mural there has remained.

TokyoMagic! said...

P.S. Kathie Lee Gifford would just love these kids!

Alonzo P Hawk said...

I agree with TokyoMagic. It's a travishamockery that they removed one and covered they other mural.

These could have been a redeeming quality to a BLAH makeover (98'and to present) gone wrong.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

The last time I was at D-land (2004ish) there was some kind of pseudo-Art Deco thing they did, which I didn’t really think was all that bad. After all anything was better than the Star Tours murals. I will forever hold the Star Tours murals in contemned for what they did to the Mary Blairs I grew up with.

So, what do they have up there now? Do they still have the Deco ones up?

K. Martinez said...

I like the Tomorrowland murals that are there now. The Buzz Lightyear spaceships and Space Mountain space stations on the northern mural and the Starspeeder 3000's on the south mural. They're certainly better than the 1987 Star Tours mural and 1998 Tomorrowland Mural which were badly executed in my opinion.

The Mary Blair murals were great and absolute classics. It's just unfortunate they weren't carefully removed for placement elsewhere. They would've been a perfect fit for the Disneyland Hotel as it is now.

The second image reminds me of Frank Capra's "Our Mr. Sun" from the Bell Lab film series. Thanks, Major.

JG said...

Even sadder, when considering the loss of the originals, is the knowledge that most of the maquettes, sketchwork and drafts of these masterpieces are also lost.

In my recent visit to the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco (you must all go there, it's required), the Mary Blair exhibit discussed these works, but noted that there was very little archival material remaining. Most of this priceless backup was tossed out. No reason was given, but it might have been that the murals were seen as ephemeral and intended to be replaced someday with something else, as so much of Disneyland, especially Tomorrowland at that time, was prone to do.

This might also be why so little concern was given to retaining the murals. I don't see it as necessarily short-sighted or pecuniary on the part of Park management, literally everything in Disneyland is subject to modification over time. That was part of the founding program.

Also, as much as we love them now, they are peculiarly apt examples of a '60's style that became as dated and out-of-favor as the Candle Shop and plastic flowers. For a long time, I didn't care for these murals at all, they looked old-fashioned. I was an idiot (still am), but it's not an uncommon affliction. Now they're stylish again and we are all complaining that they're gone. We should rejoice that we have Small World, as pure a vision of Mary Blair's style and philosophy as can be found anywhere, and the various other pieces of her surviving works, including photos of the beloved murals.

Many great works of art have been lost to time, war or the hand of stupid Man, think of the Last Supper or the murals of the Battle of Anghiari... etc.

Mary;s murals are just the ones "we" have each experienced.

Thanks for posting these, Major. I still think it would be fun to do replicas to (small)scale using the archive photos from your collection and Daveland. Maybe when I'm old(er) and gray(er).


Kevin said...

Did you coordinate with Daveland today? Or was that just a happy coincidence? Great post as always!

K. Martinez said...

"Mary;s murals are just the ones "we" have each experienced."

I agree. I have found that so much of what each individual loves about Disneyland is generational and based on personal experiences. I remember reading comments left by an old-timer who was older than I, lamenting the loss of the 20,000 Leagues Exhibit because of the New Tomorrowland 1967.

Nanook said...

As much as I, too, love the murals (now), I must agree with JG.

Remember all- "These are the good old days"

Melissa said...

Other than her amazing artwork, my favorite thing about Mary Blair is that her poor eyesight, like mine, couldn't be corrected with a single pair of glasses. I've read that she traveled with a purse full of various prescription and non-prescription glasses, and was always reaching in for a new pair depending on the task at hand. It makes me feel a lot less silly when I have to do the same thing, especially at a Disney park with impatient people behind me.

Both U.S. Tomorrowlands are badly in need of renovations; it's my fervent hope that renovation in Anaheim will result in being able to get to the murals and remove them to some other location (like the Disneyland hotel - what a great idea; it would be a great counterpart to the murals in the Contemporary resort Hotel at WDW!) where they can be seen.

beachgal said...

I am an oldester and didn't appreciate what was done with the new Tomorrowland. I never thought these murals fit into anything to do with Tomorrowland - more like they belonged in a play yard.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, thanks for the correction! So much for my extensive research (which was NONE). I think that, sometimes, things are changed at Disneyland without completely thinking it through. I know the park is “not a museum”, but why replace something great with something “blah”?

TokyoMagic! again, I don’t get it. Kathie Lee Gifford?

Alonzo, I’ll bet there were some imagineers that were against the removal (destruction) of the murals. But the new guys always need to make their mark!

Monkey Cage Kurt, I think that the murals you are referring to can be seen on I’m not that crazy about ‘em - as you said, they’re not bad… but they just didn’t do it for me! You can also see photos of the current murals on that same Yesterland page.

K. Martinez, the current murals aren’t terrible, but until your comment, I never heard anybody say that they liked them! It astonishes me that a company with so many incredible artists can’t do something better/classier than what is there now.

JG, I really want to go to the Walt Disney Family Museum!! Someday. Weird that there are no complete records of the murals. I’m sure that, if one was dedicated, it would be possible to reconstruct what was there through video and photo reference. Not that it would be easy! You make a good point about art and architecture “going out of style”; I think of beautiful buildings in L.A. that have been torn down (the amazing Richfield building, for instance), and sure wish I could have seen it for myself. The Eiffel Tower was considered a terrible eyesore by many when it was new, and now it is the very symbol of the city. I guess I just wish that what was in Tomorrowland now was even as daring or interesting as the Eiffel Tower was over a century ago.

Kevin, it was just a wild coincidence!

K. Martinez, even more recent iterations of the park are beloved by a younger generation. Many people who grew up in the 1980’s will tell you that THAT was when Disneyland was at its absolute peak!

Nanook, I guess I am more of a “half-empty glass” guy!!

Melissa, you should see my brother… he sometimes goes out in public with one pair of glasses on, and two more around his neck on lanyards. People probably think he is loony! Don’t ask me why he needs three pairs, I couldn’t tell you. I need to stay positive (see my comment to Nanook!), and need to believe that Tomorrowland will be fixed up to a new, wondrous state.

beachgal, while I agree with you, maybe it is a generational thing. I know that a lot of folks thought that Mary Blair’s murals did not seem very “Tomorrow-ish”.

JG said...

@Kmartinez, that was probably me.

@Nanook, thanks brother.

I remember one single visit to the 20K Leagues exhibit and then it was gone forever, except the parts that got moved to the Haunted Mansion.

@Major, at the bottom, that's all that architecture is... style. Just like shoes. If it were not, I'd be out of work, again.

The Eiffel tower is a great example, it was ugly then, ugly now, but it's the symbol of that city. Watched a Star Trek movie last night and the silhouette of the Eiffel tower in the window was all that was needed to place the scene on Earth, in Paris. Sometimes, ugly never goes out of style, or ends up defines it.


Melissa said...

Hmmm, maybe it's no coincidence that jolie laide ("beautiful ugly") is a French concept.

K. Martinez said...

JG - As much as my early memories are faded and distorted, I liked the original Tomorrowland with it's Moonliner, round skyway buckets and HOF. I do remember some of it.

Dean Finder said...

I've never visited Tomorrowland when those murals were visible, so I have no personal attachment to them; but it's a shame that they are just stuck there out of sight. I'd agree with the comments that there's nothing particularly "Tomorrowlandish" about them, but I'd at least like to see them removed and installed somewhere else that makes sense (in the DL hotel, near iasw, at the Museum) rather than behind other murals.

TokyoMagic! said...

The narration on the PeopleMover used to explain that the murals were "a reminder that tomorrow will be built by our youth."

Speaking of youth, Major....the Kathie Lee reference was adding on to your kids "toiling in the mill" theme. Some years back, Kathie Lee was caught employing children in the overseas factories that make her name brand clothing. She claimed she had no idea.

K. Martinez said...


I thought the Mary Blair murals looked great in Tomorrowland '67 and fit thematically as well, but the changes to this land made the murals obsolete and they didn't fit anymore. As is said before, it's too bad they didn't save it and place it somewhere else like the Disneyland Hotel.

Anonymous said...

@Melissa First time I've heard that term, but Paris in particular and France in general certainly define the concept to me.