Monday, May 21, 2007

Priceless (to us) Disney cel

Twenty-three years ago I was a career newbie, working at my first "real job" at a now-defunct division of Disney called WDEMCO -- Walt Disney Educational Media Company. I loved the job, in spite of the torturous hour-long commute from Westchester, near LAX to Glendale, in "the valley."

One of my mentors at Disney was an artist and animator named Geppy Vacarro. Geppy was aptly named, as he reminded me of the kindly grandfather in Pinnochio -- sweet, loving and a wonderful craftsman. Geppy, who had been trained by Walt himself, hand-drew each individual slide for the filmstrip (OK, that definitely dates me!) I produced for a multi-media kit (which, in those days meant comic book, poster and filmstrip) called Cheeseburger, This is Your Life, a production about food origins which was to be part of the opening of the Land Pavilion at EPCOT in October, 1982. One of the characters of the production Chelsea Cheese, an animated slice of Swiss cheese with rosy round cheeks and a huge cheesy smile. I was honored -- and a bit befuddled -- when Geppy announced that Chelsea was modeled after me, and I must admit that I've saved all the components that featured Chelsea, more as a memento than as a part of my portfolio!

In 1984, when Elisabeth was born, Geppy asked Tom for a photo of me and my new baby. Tom had no idea what Geppy wanted to do with the photo, but obliged, sending him a picture taken at the hospital, just moments before we were to be discharged. I was adoring my new baby and completely awestruck by this gorgeous new creature in our lives. A few weeks after Elisabeth was born, Geppy presented me with this priceless (to us, anyway) piece of art. Drawn in classic Disney cel style, Geppy had surrounded newborn Elisabeth with new friends -- Mickey fanning Elisabeth's sweet lips (and Minnie, perhaps a bit jealous), Goofy pulling back the blanket to adore her, Tinkerbell sprinkling pixie dust on her, and Donald and Daisy, showing off their newborn friend. I still absolutely love this and selfishly dread the day when Elisabeth will take it with her, but look forward to the day when it will don my grandchild's newborn nursery.

What a gift Geppy gave us - and I am forever grateful to him for it!

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Anonymous said...

What a priceless gift and a treasure to be passed on to your daughter when she has her first child! Not that this compares, but I kept my oldest son's first German teddybear and a sweater my mom knitted for him and passed that on to his daughter when she was born.

Anonymous said...

It is a sweet memento and a wonderful piece of artwork... Just so you know, I worked on EPCOT also. I was one of the scenic painters working on the sets for the Land pavilion and all the others... like Spaceship Earth which was in the big sphere... It was great that all of the old time Disney artists were still around then and were consultants or artists for the project. said...

That is priceless.......

Dixie said...

I am bowled over with that gift to you. It's absolutely gorgeous and absolutely priceless.

Anonymous said...

I too met Geppy when I was fledgling Illusrtator in LA...he was wonderful. I am just doing some research and typed in his name and your post came up! What a lovely story...he was that kind of you know what happened to him? Is he still around?

Thanks, Leesa

Carol said...

Hi leesa,

I was soooo hoping that someone would post a comment saying they knew Geppy... and (hopefully) that they know how/where he is. I have no idea if he's still around, but I sure hope he is! Anyone? Anyone?


Anonymous said...

Yes, Geppy is still around. He semi-retired about 10 years ago and now lives in Fallbrook, CA, near San Diego. He has done several children's books the last few years, among other things and is still very active.
I just read him all your kind comments and he was excited to hear them.
His email address is
I am Geppy's son and my email is

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