April 24, 2014 posted by

More On Mary Blair: “Ceramic Mural” (1965)


Jerry’s post from yesterday about John Canemaker’s new book had me thinking about the Disney Educational film Ceramic Mural (1965). It’s a fascinating little document; it’s perhaps the only film Disney ever made documenting one specific artist’s work. It’s a bit rare; still, with all the interest in Mary Blair’s work, I’m surprised it hadn’t shown up sooner.

Funny enough, even though the film was released by Disney, it was actually made by Norman Wright productions *for* Disney. Wright was a former Disney animator and storyboard artist, working through the late 30s into the 40s. He formed his own production company sometime in the 1950s.

My guess is that the film was shot in 16mm. This copy is an IB Technicolor print, struck in 1966.

It’s especially interesting to see the entire process of creating a mural documented, including creating porcelain and glazes. Seeing Blair working with student artists from Cal-Arts is a highlight as well.


The film was part of the Walt Disney Educational Media Catalog for only a handful of years; it seems to disappear from the educational offerings around 1974; perhaps this is why it’s harder to find a 16mm print (and why it hasn’t shown up on youtube any sooner). Even though the film is about Mary’s creative process in creating the mural, her past experience sadly isn’t touched upon at all. Perhaps the attempt at making a more educational short and the seriousness
of the subject (creating a mural for the outside of a surgery room) merits a less commercialized approach.

I find the film to be really enjoyable. It’s a bit odd to have such a cheesy ending though, with children acting as if they’re singing the clearly pre-recorded It’s a Small World song.

Ceramic Mural from Animation Scoop on Vimeo.

Since we’re on the subject of Mary’s murals:

Here is a little clip showing a model and creating tiles for what would be part
of Tomorrowland:

..and, sadly, removing those same Mary Blair tiles from Tomorrowland in 1986:


  • Amazing video! It´s really interesting to see the entire process of creation, the time and dedication of a lot of hands to make a service from art.
    PS: And of course, a pleasure to see Mary Blair in action and his beautiful designs.

  • That was a nice little film. It was good to see Mary getting recognized at that time.

  • Has the mural been preserved? Obviously, it was taken down, but was it perhaps retained in storage?

    • It looked like they were smashing the tile to bits but perhaps that was only an illusion. Less of an illusion was that technician’s bare hands in close proximity to all that pink fiberglass insulation, a known carcinogen. But that was Florida, where less stringent environmental codes applied in 1986.

  • Your timing is good on this. This week is the 50th
    anniversary of the opening of the 64 NY Worlds Fair.
    I think the Small World pavilion was seen there first.

  • The music for the Mary Blair Tiles clip sounds like Franklyn Marks…he had a fascinating style of scoring…that is a cool clip showing the miniature city being built!

  • It was wonderful seeing these videos especially since Mary Blair’s assistant was my father Edward Aguilar, an accomplished artist in his own right working for Disney WED for over a decade. Although he was only referred to as “Mary’s Assistant,” I recognized him immediately. He also worked on Pirates of the Caribbean.

    I was always very proud to see his name “Ed” listed below Mary Blair’s name on the Small World mural in Tomorrowland in Anaheim. Was this the mural that was torn down? If so where are the tiles? I was distressed to see the demolition as I will not be able to show my grandchildren their grandfather’s name clearly associating him with such a wonderful artistically historic project.

    Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Yolanda, the Tomorrowland’s murals are not totally destroyed, may be a 15%, they were covered by a steel structure that is supporting the murals placed after. I’m an admirer of Mary Blair’s work and I already wrote to the Disney Company to encourage they to recover de murals and move them to a public building like a Library, an auditorium or some place where the public can enjoy seiing them again. But as usual, the Disney company “answered” with an automatic reply saying nothing. Anyway I consider it’s very important that this company (Disney) nows there’s a public claim to recover this master pieces of art. Actually I’m doing a scale copy of Tomorrowland’s murals just for my enjoy. Greetings from San Miguel de Allende, México.

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