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Monday, May 12, 2014

Three Gals, One Amazing, Vintage Disney Artist and The Cliff House = A Very Fun Day!

Disneyland is one of my modern, yet vintage obsessions. So of course I also love The Walt Disney Family Museum. It's located in San Francisco in The Presidio, and on a clear, sunny day the views are fantastic. The museum is loaded with great Disney pieces from displays of souvenir collectibles, Disney movie memorabilia and artifacts to many of Walt's personal belongings. The museum takes you through the history of his life, the stories behind the creation of Disney movies, through the creation of Disneyland and ends with Walt's passing. You can access their website here. One of the many great things about the museum is that they always feature an additional special exhibit or two, and they are GOOD.  Right now it's MAGIC, COLOR, FLAIR: the world of Mary Blair. It's running until September, so you still have time to get out there and see it.

I've wanted to see this exhibit there since I saw the billboards announcing that it was coming weeks ago and learned who Mary Blair was. My friends Penny and Loraine were on board to go see it with me, so off we went a couple of weeks ago.

Who was Mary Blair?  

Mary Blair was an artist who became one of Walt Disney's most ingenious and significant designers and art directors.  When you see her work, you get how she had such an influence on many other artists during her time.  Working for Disney, she learned how to stretch herself in her abilities and to progressively do bigger and more challenging projects. Even if you don't know her by name, you know her work.  She did the concept art for such classics as Peter Pan, Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland (to name a few). She is most famous for her design of the Its a Small World ride!

My favorite Disney movie!  Concept art of Alice and the White Rabbit.

The Exhibit

As any other biographical museum tour does, this exhibit starts at the beginning of her artistic journey by showing drawings and paintings from her years in school, and then moves through her beginning, middle and end with Disney.  After she left Disney to move on to other things, she came back to work on special projects, such as the It's a Small World ride at Disneyland and Disney World. 

More concept art for the Alice in Wonderland movie.  I would love a copy of this to hang in my home.

Peter Pan concept art.

I LOVE this.  Look at how amazing the shapes, vivid colors and details are.

So true! 

At first glance, Mary Blair seems like an art goddess that just waved a magic wand, and amazing pieces appeared. Her creative sense is so fun and magical that it's almost as if she was a creation of Walt Disney himself. However, upon entering the exhibit we learn that she went to school, which helps make her more of a mortal like the rest of us (at least in my mind). She was a graduate of San Jose State College. Then she attended the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. Still, this exhibit shows that she had a special gift. It is obvious that art was her passion, and she worked very hard at it. I found that so inspiring.

Little things here and there in the exhibit make Mary more lovable and relatable. For example, the audio clip of an interview with her now elderly nieces about visits with their fun Aunt Mary, her hard hat covered in fake flowers (photographed below), and the quote of hers posted on one of the walls at the exhibit that reads, "I had three jobs. Raising children, keeping house, and doing my art work." You can't get much more human than that.  

View from the second level.  Hi Loraine and Penny!

Mary's hard hat! I adore that.

It's a Small World penguin prototype. So cute!

There was even art hanging from the ceiling.

A colorful feast for the eyes!  I just loved the art hanging from the ceiling. This exhibit sprinkles happiness all over you, right? 

This exhibit is extremely well done. Mary Blair's artwork is respectfully hung in a fun, colorful environment befitting her brilliant creations.  It was a very happy exhibit, full of bright paintings, cartoon-like sculptures, beautiful photographs and even a video that brought Mrs. Blair to life.  When I saw her preliminary paintings for such films as Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland (my favorite Disney movie), I was touched, because they reminded me of how much fun I had seeing those movies and going to Disneyland in my childhood. Vivid colors and fun, silly characters, what's not to love? 

Sorry, Walt Disney Family Museum, but I could not do the audio tour. Although I did try.  The narrator had such a slow, soothing voice, and it contrasted so much with the fun, bright environment that it wasn't holding my attention. I just didn't have the patience to slow down and listen to the words droning on and on through my headset. It was way too distracting, so I turned it off.

My tips for going to the Walt Disney Family Museum:
- Make sure to schedule plenty of time. Especially if you want to do the special exhibit in addition to the main museum. 
-The museum is for adults or older children...maybe teens who love Disneyland.  There is not enough to keep small children busy here. They would get bored. 
- Take a break between exhibits. See the special one first, take a break, eat, drink or whatever; and THEN go see the main Museum. 
- There is a great gift shop there where you can stock up on unique gifts for those Disney lovers in your life...even if that is YOU!
-They are closed on Tuesdays. I recommend going during the week.  I haven't been there on a weekend, but I imagine it's busy. I don't like crowds, so I avoid things like this on weekends. But do check their website for closures, because you never know when there will be a special event.
- Check out their event schedule. Animate Your Night is an event they have every month or so, where you can attend the museum in the evening and there's a special theme, booze for sale and gourmet food trucks with yummy food to buy. 

FYI: The next exhibit is Leading Ladies and Femme Fatales: The Art of Marc Davis. I can't wait to see that one!


After the Disney Family Museum, we decided that it would be fun to cap off the day by going to the Cliff House for snacks and drinks.  That place never disappoints!  It was very foggy, but I think was still a beautiful day, just in a different way. 

This is the fourth, and hopefully final, rebuild of the Cliff House. I think it's very tastefully done.  I love the addition of artifacts from the Sutro Baths and Playland at the Beach used as decor inside.

From Playland at the Beach. He welcomes you as you walk in the
doors to the Cliff House.

Wall art from the Sutro Baths.

Modeling an actual bathing suit used at Sutro Baths!
The Cliff House was an excellent way to cap off a very fun day. Click here for their website.


  1. I love your blog! Excellent writing and visuals. Keep 'em coming. So well done!!

    1. Thanks so much, Erin!! And thanks for stopping by : )

  2. I never knew about the museum. Maybe I can meet you one time when you come down. Great post!

    1. Dawn-that would be great. Thanks for reading my blog!!!!

  3. Thanks for posting pics from the exhibition. I saw that image of Alice in Wonderland when Camille Rose Garcia had her show there a few months ago and I think I gasped out loud. So happy that female artists are getting credit, too!

  4. Thanks for the comment, Jo Anne! If you can go see the exhibit, go! It's so fun. Linda