Now famous intentional flaw in a mural created by Mary Blair at Disney World’s Contemporary Resort continues to evolve in meaning and influence.
Mary Blair (October 21st, 1911 to July 26th 1978) was quite an influential member of the Disney team for many years. Blair did work in animation and design, but was most widely acclaimed for her revolutionary use of color, and her specific character styling. These can most prominently be seen in “It’s a Small World” where her techniques are clearly demonstrated, however, she also did work on such films as Dumbo, Lady and the Tramp and Fantasia.
Blair was also part of the “El Groupo” trip to South America, and as a result of that trip was the art supervisor on Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. Upon her return from that trip she worked on several other films including Song of the South and was credited with the color styling on Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan.
Blair has created several murals for the Disney Company, including ones that were formerly in Tomorrowland. However, when Star Tours was added, one was covered and the other was covered when Rocket Rods came to Disneyland as part of the updated theming. Rumors exist, and are hopefully true, that the murals were covered, not removed or completely destroyed. However, even if it is true, I doubt that today’s executives would revert to the use of the murals as they were originally created.
One of Blair’s murals still exists. This one is located in the Grand Canyon Concourse at the Contemporary Hotel in Disney World. Featuring “stylized birds, animals, flowers, and American Indian children” this mural has been in place since the opening day of the hotel. Created with 1,800 hand-painted, 1 foot square tiles and stands 90 feet tall. The mural alone took 18 months to construct.
Near the top of the mural is a stylized goat. If you look closely, the goat actually has 5 legs. When asked about this, Blair indicated that no piece of artwork should be perfect because only God was perfect, so she purposely created the mistake. This theory is not new. The Islamic culture believes this as well, and the same, yet different, application of the theory can be seen in the Morocco pavilion at EPCOT. If you look closely at the mosaics there, you can also find one small, sometimes hard to locate, flaw in the art work. It will either be something like a discolored tile, a tile out of place, or even an intentionally cracked tile.
In the “Disney Community” the five legged goat has come to represent more than just an intentional error by a famous Disney artist. It has grown in meaning, and is now a term used to represent those small Disney touches, or tributes that exist when you take the time to stop and look at things at Disney parks. Tributes to former rides (like the picture of Mr. Toad in the Winnie the Pooh Ride, or the Nautilus embedded in the rockwork of the Little Mermaid). Window displays with hidden tributes or meanings, decorations in some stores, or in some of the queues, any thing that’s a small detail with some hidden meaning that not everyone will notice….all of these things can be considered “five legged goats”.
The goat has recently become more well-known than ever. Disney has produced Vinylmations, food, such as Rice Krispy treats, and even a pin, all with representations of the now famous goat. Even people who know very little about Disney Trivia, or consider themselves to be “experts” on Disney, love to use the goat as an example of their knowledge of Disney parks when pointing it out to others. However, I believe that the mural needs to represent more than just a space to find another “Hidden Mickey”, or in this case, “Hidden Goat”. I would hope that people would take the time to find out more about why the goat has 5 legs, this history and importance of the mural, and the extremely talented woman behind the mural where the goat exists.
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