Ah, speeches. Some of us love them, some of us hate them, but we can all agree that writing them is quite the arduous process.

Let’s back up to the beginning of the month, when I hadn’t even written my speech – seems like worlds away. Trust me, starting the speech is the hardest part. You’re intimidated, you’re apprehensive and you have no idea where to begin. I have three words for you: JUST DO IT.
It’s honestly the best thing you can do for yourself. Once you force yourself to get started, you keep going.

Since you had to write your speech from the perspective of someone (or something) your eminent person knew, I chose Walt Disney!

Mr Jackson sugessted a good way to start your speech – just write three possible beginnings. That’s definitely not as intimidating as writing an entire speech, but you’ll be surprised as to how effective it can be. Here were mine:

It was August of 1941 when I invited Mary Blair to my trip to South America, and that’s when everything changed. Once just another artist frustrated with lack of creative freedom, Mary Blair then transformed herself and proved to me that she was so much more, and I had full faith in her. 

Mary Blair’s time at my studio, the Walt Disney Studio, changed our company and women’s roles for the drastically for the better. I almost lost her when she quit in June of 1941, but I made sure her hiatus was short-lived and invited her to our trip to South America. God, am I glad I did that.

I saw a little bit of myself in her. And seeing a bit of Walt Disney in someone else, well, that’s quite the honour if I do say so myself. Call it what you will, a sixth sense, a gut feeling, but I knew that even when Mary Blair resigned from my company in June of 1941, there was something special in her that I couldn’t quite let go of.

Although I didn’t end up using any of those beginnings in my final speech, I was surprised as to how effective writing possible beginnings could be. After coming up with them, I felt inspired and I had direction. Writing a speech didn’t seem so hard after all! In fact, I even wrote possible endings, since I am aware I struggle with conclusions:

To conclude, I was right. Mary had something special in her, something that had the power to change the industry – and it did. At this point in time, women were scare and uniqueness was at a premium, but Mary Blair’s work shines above the rest and as you can see, truly stood the test of time.

The colours, the vibrance, the surrealism you see and love in our movies today, well you can thank Mary Blair for that. She paved the way for women in the animation industry and created a colour palette that was never to leave our company. What she did during her time caused a ripple effect, one that saturated everything in her future and brought her paintings to life. It stayed in my heart, and truly stood the test of time.

Playing to your strength and weaknesses is also really tactful. I thought writing possible endings was a good idea because I knew that when it came to it, I would struggle with writing my ending. I picked my favourite beginning and ending, so now all I had to do was fill in the space between the introduction and conclusion! That’s what I worked on for the next week and a half (ish), and here is what came of that:

I saw a little bit of myself in her. And seeing a bit of Walt Disney in someone else, well, that’s quite the compliment if I do say so myself. She was fighting against the odds, something I could personally relate to. Call it what you will –  a sixth sense, a gut feeling, but I knew that even when Mary Blair resigned from my company in June of 1941, there was something special in her that I couldn’t quite let go of. I saw to it myself that her hiatus must be short-lived and invited her on our Good Neighbour tour to South America. After that trip, I knew I was right about her. Once just another artist frustrated with lack of creative freedom afforded to her, Mary Blair then transformed herself and proved to me that she was so much more, and I had full faith in her. 

I got to see it happen live – unadulterated, the raw uncut. South America sparked something in her. Getting up close and personal with authentic Latin themes would come in handy for our upcoming projects – The Three Caballeros and Saludos Amigos. One of the first things Mary and I did when we got to Rio de Janeiro was take a tandem bike ride along the coast of a beautiful Brazilian beach – it really set the tone for our inspiring, happy-go-lucky trip. The scenes, culture and atmosphere we observed led to sketches and concepts that would make those upcoming movies and have a massive impact on our team of artists – especially Mary.

Captivated by the culture, Mary started to see the world in a way that would change everything. It would change future artists, it would change the legacy of our company, it would change women’s roles in the animation industry! And all of that blossomed from a change in her colour palette. That trip was more successful than I could have ever dreamed! She turned her Californian watercolours into South American inspired stories filled with sparkling, saturated colours full of vim and vigor. Being immersed in the South American environment led to brilliantly hued impressions with a modernized style like nothing we’ve ever seen before. 

She found herself as an artist, and strengthened bonds with her team, particularly myself. We became quite close, and I valued her as a person as much as an employee. The observational skills, painterly passion and sense of wonder that came from this trip reaped rewards that were unimaginable, even for me. Although new, modern, and idiosyncratic styles may have confused or even scared some of our animators, it didn’t take us long to realize that this was something special.  I was profoundly excited for what was to come, and assigned her lead art supervisor for both The Three Caballeros and Saludos Amigos, where she created some of her most iconic work.

Mary Blair had to work immensely hard to get where she was, she was fighting an uphill battle all the way through. I knew how she felt. I was rejected countless times, told I lacked imagination and had no good ideas. Mary Blair and I both proved the world wrong. In fact, she would’ve rather worked in the fine arts rather than my studios, but it didn’t take long for her to realize that this is where she belonged. The 40’s weren’t a great time for the art industry in general, and especially not for females. Yet, I didn’t see that as a downside at all. 

As I have made clear to my employees before, “If a woman can do the work as well, she is worth as much as a man. The girl artists have the right to expect the same chances for advancement as men, and I honestly believe they may eventually contribute something to this business that men never would or could.” But the world saw it a little differently. It’s okay, I’m used to that. Even in a male-dominated industry, and being one of the only females apart from my wife in South America with us, Mary thrived. It was impossible to ignore her wild imagination, her vibrant mind that translated directly into her work. Strikingly similar to a heroine in a Disney movie, Mary overcame critics objections, the public’s doubts and became a dominant force at our studios.

Mary had the rare talent to create something out of nothing. Her modern vision of concepts and characters, inexhaustible creativity and outside-the-box thinking made her an inspiration to everyone lucky enough to be part of her life. She really captured my attention, with her daring ideas and paintings that followed no rules but her own. I came to depend on Mary for creative advice, and actually promoted her to artistic director. She really proved herself as art supervisor for those South American inspired features, and I knew she could do amazing things with this company.

What I can’t even put into words is the way she used her colours, how she worked as an artist. It was indeed something amazing to witness, and it all sprouted from that trip to South America. Inspiration’s a funny thing. She was so new, so modernized, so deceivingly simple that most everyone was baffled by her process. Her artwork possessed a quality that I hadn’t seen before, ever. It was endearing. The way she painted, it reminded me of a little girl – a little girl with amazing technique, that is. And that was something I’d been searching for. Beneath that seemingly minimalist style, lay enormous visual sophistication and craftsmanship. 

Her artistry brought something so different to the table, and held so many different aspects within them. She had the ability to tell stories through her craft, every painting would strike a chord and you would feel the underlying emotion behind it. She was a storyteller, an artist, a creator through and through. I had no idea how Mary could get those colours to work together. But then I’d walk out, there’d be a sunset, and that’s where I would see those very colours. She amazed me, time and time again.

The colours, the vibrance, the surrealism you see and love in our movies today is something you can thank Mary Blair for. What she did during her time caused a ripple effect, one that saturated everything in her future and brought her paintings to life. She happened to work at a time where women were scanty in the animation industry, and where uniqueness was not fully accepted. However, as we can see, her work shined above all the rest and truly has stood the test of time. 

That was just my first draft, I knew I still had a lot of work to do! However, it didn’t seem all that bad anymore, because I now have something to work around. Things definitely change from your first to final draft. You realize little errors, find more exciting ways to say things, and maybe even scratch an entire section and start over. Personally, I wanted to rewrite some of my speech after the interview, because my interviewee had a lot of interesting points I wanted to address. Over the process of editing, revising, idea changing, interviewing and self-doubting, I finally had my finished speech. The glorious piece of work that would be presented to my classmates! I was quite proud of this achievement, and was actually very excited to present it, since I love public speaking. Crazy, I know. Here is my final speech about Mary Blair:

Everything changed when I invited Mary Blair on our research expedition all the way from Los Angeles *spin world globe* to South America. *point on globe*  I saw a little bit of myself in her, and seeing a bit of Walt Disney in someone else, well, that’s quite the compliment if I do say so myself.  Even though Mary Blair resigned from my company in June of 1941, I invited her on this trip just two months later. Call it what you will – a sixth sense, a gut feeling, but there was something special in her that I couldn’t quite let go of. And after that trip, I knew I was right about her. I’m sure you’ve seen our movies – bursting with vibrant colours, imaginative characters and settings. Mary Blair was the story behind the story. All of what you know us for, know me for, may not have been the same if it weren’t for Mary Blair, and what she did while in South America.

I invited a team of artists to South America to get up close and personal with authentic Latino themes, which would come in handy for our upcoming animated films – The Three Caballeros and Saludos Amigos. We made sure we recorded everything. Photographs, paintings, reports, were all being created by the hour, for excitement was in the air in this new lush setting. We had great plans for these projects, and we all worked incredibly hard to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The scenes, culture and atmosphere we observed led to sketches and concepts that would make those upcoming movies and have a massive impact on our team of artists – especially Mary.

I got to see it happen live – unadulterated, the raw uncut. South America sparked something in her. Captivated by the culture, Mary started to see the world in a way that would change everything. It would change future artists, it would change the legacy of our company, it would change women’s roles in the animation industry! And all of that blossomed from a change in her colour palette. Electric turquoises, deep fuchsias, venetian reds, that’s what it was all about! She turned her Californian watercolours into South American inspired stories filled with sparkling, saturated shades full of vim and vigour. 

She found herself as an artist, and strengthened her bond with me. We became quite close, and I valued her as a person as much as an employee, now re-hired. The observational skills, painterly passion and sense of wonder that came from this trip reaped rewards that were unimaginable. Although new, modern, and idiosyncratic styles may have confused or even scared some of our animators, it didn’t take us long to realize that this was something special. The way she worked with colours, the way she painted with whim and wonder, it was nothing like we’d ever seen before. She turned already amazing South American landscapes into something even more magical. I could tell Mary Blair’s future here was something to be excited about.

Mary had to work immensely hard to get where she was, she was fighting an uphill battle all the way through. I knew how she felt. I was rejected countless times, told I “lacked imagination” and had “no good ideas.” Mary Blair and I both proved the world wrong. Strikingly similar to a heroine in a Disney movie, Mary overcame critics objections, the public’s doubts and became a dominant force at our studios. The fact that she was doing this as a female in the 40’s just makes this all the more remarkable.

As I have made clear in a speech to my employees before, “If a woman can do the work as well, she is worth as much as a man. The girl artists have the right to expect the same chances for advancement as men, and I honestly believe they may eventually contribute something to this business that men never would or could.” But the world saw it a little differently. It’s okay, I’m used to that. Even in a male-dominated industry, and being one of the only females apart from my wife in South America with us, and working at a time where our studio was suffering because of the financial effects of WWII, Mary still thrived. It was impossible to ignore her wild imagination, her vibrant mind that translated directly into her work. 

What I can’t even begin to put into words is the way she used her colours, and the way she worked as an artist. It was incredible to watch it develop in South America firsthand. She was so new, so modernized, so deceivingly simple that nearly everyone was baffled by her process. Frank Thomas, one of our animators said himself “Mary was the first artist I knew of to have different shades of red next to each other. You just didn’t do that! But Mary made it work.” He’s right, her artwork bent the rules, and did things that just shouldn’t be done, but somehow it still worked – it worked tremendously. 

She was everything I’d been searching for – youthful, bright, eclectic, and inexhaustibly creative. I was so used to concept artists who were realists, detail-oriented, and who always seemed to paint in a European storybook style, which is what we were known for at the time. Through the art she created in South America, I could tell she was almost the opposite. She was a surrealist, a modernist, she showed me something I’d never seen before. Her art had depth, it had spunk, and it didn’t have to be complicated for it to be transcendent. Beneath that seemingly minimalist style, lay enormous visual sophistication and craftsmanship. 

She had the ability to tell stories through her craft, every painting would strike a chord and you would feel the underlying emotion behind it. She was a storyteller, a rule-breaker, a creator through and through. I had no idea how Mary could get those colours to work together. But then I’d walk out, there’d be a sunset, and I’d see those very colours. She amazed me, time and time again. I’m not one to play favourites, but I won’t deny that Mary certainly was an artist that stood out to me, and one that I came to depend on for creative advice.

I wasn’t the only one blown away by her artistic magic. Walk into any children’s bookstore, *flip through children’s book* you’ll see her. Saunter into any home design shop, she’ll be there. Take a trip to an art gallery, you’ll feel her. Ever watched Cinderella? Alice in Wonderland? Peter Pan? You can thank her. She poured herself into her work, and that’s something that just can’t be taught. Few things truly stand the test of time, and Mary Blair’s art passed with flying colours. 

And that’s that! All in all, writing this speech was a little tedious, but really improved my speech writing skills as a whole. Presenting it went really well too, and I decided to use props! I learned a lot about my eminent person of course, and a lot about myself and my work habits too.