What’s A Girl Gonna Do?

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Careers, Community Helpers, Women’s History, People Who Make A Difference, Countries Around The World

Mathematics – Geometry (Shapes), Language Arts – Literature, Science – Movement

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Mary Blair

Animator, Animation, Illustrator, Portraits, Abstraction, Geometric Shapes, Organic Shapes

Today’s  young girls are growing up in a world where the sky is the limit, as far as careers go.  Look, we even have a woman running for president. In the past, it wasn’t like that.  When I was growing up, I remember thinking, women had two choices. They could become a nurse or a teacher. I became a teacher. Thankfully historically, there have been women who thought outside the box. We’re going to look at one such woman today.

Today we’re going to investigate Mary Blair. You may think that you don’t know her, but if you’ve seen the Disney movies, Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, and Peter Pan, or ridden the It’s a Small World amusement ride, you do! Blair had a hand in designing them all. She worked in the male dominated animation world for Walt Disney in the 1940s and 50s. She brought modern design and color to the Disney studios. Read a short biography about her here. See examples of Blair’s work here.

Mary Blair achieved her career goal. What are your students’ career dreams? For motivation you might read one or more of these books: Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty, Rosie Revere, Engineer also by Andrea Beaty and Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viva.  Using this painting , students could brainstorm props to symbolize different careers. Then, they could each draw or paint a portrait in the theme of their favorite career.

If you happen to be studying geometry and 2D shapes, have students point out the 2D shapes and patterns from Blair’s It’s a Small World building designs found in this blog. Do you think her small world buildings may have been influenced by  Paul Klee’s “Castle and Sun” and Henri Matisse’s “Cut Outs” ?  This lesson is a perfect opportunity to practice cutting 2D shapes. Simply switch out Klee for Mary Blair at the beginning of the lesson. Markers and/or  watercolors can be used if you don’t have paint markers.

It’s a Small World would also correlate well with a countries around the world unit. Try googling Mary Blair’s It’s a Small World international figures. Study the traditional dress of the animatronic figures. Find a video about the costumes here. Disney even has a set of Mary Blair style videos highlighting traditions of different countries found here. Students could create their own international figures following this lesson. You could always use wall paper scraps or wrapping paper instead of cloth to help simplify the process.

Since Mary Blair was an animator, you might also want to delve into the steps in creating the illusion of movement through animation. I think the easiest method is a flip book. Look here to find several examples of flip books and ways to incorporate them into your curriculum. Students can learn how to create a stop motion film here.

So you see, one artist can be used in many different ways across the curriculum.

 “Happy Arts Advocacy Day and International Women’s Day!” What a perfect post to incorporate both occasions, wouldn’t you say? How about sharing it with a friend?

Drop by again real soon!



  1. Pingback: Silhouettes and Shadows | OH THE ART PLACES WE CAN GO
  2. Lynn Goff · June 12, 2016

    Great post Kris! It just so happens I was looking for animation ideas for art camp this summer! Thank you for all of your hard work!


  3. Pingback: “A Line Connects To Become A Shape!” | OH THE ART PLACES WE CAN GO
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