Tanti auguri, Giorgio!

Giorgio Cavazzano's impromptu self portrait, sketched on a flip-chart at his 2007 birthday party.

Exactly one year ago I had the privilege of being in Venezia with Giorgio Cavazzano to celebrate his sixtieth birthday---as well as Rodolfo Cimino's eightieth. Here are a few belated notes, written on the anniversary of that happiest of occasions.

Mirano (VE), 2007-10-19

I arrived in Venezia the day before the birthday. Giorgio picked me up at the airport and took me to Mirano, where he lives. He had booked me into a splendid Venetian villa so we dropped off my luggage there and then we went to his studio and spent a wonderful day together. That morning he had a couple of Disney covers to do for Egmont; so I had once again the privilege of admiring him at work, from blank page to finished pencils. But that's an experience worthy of a blog post all of its own, so I'll retell it in greater detail another time.

Once the idea works, Giorgio continues to draw his cover even while he is answering a phone call

We had a delicious lunch at home (spaghetti alle vongole), together with his lovely wife Elena; then he and I went back to his studio for the afternoon. We talked about many topics and generally had a nice time; I'm not going to make this into a diary, and I didn't formally interview him (sorry, no podcast file this time) but you may admire below a wonderful pencil scene he had prepared for me earlier and which he gave me as a present. It's now hanging on the wall at home and I like to think of it as a kind of self-portrait of us on that magical day.

In this brief illustrated essay (in Italian, sorry) I explain why I believe the talented Giorgio is a true master, in the deepest sense of the word---in the same way as a Japanese calligraphy master or sword master.

Giorgio spent the day of his birthday, Friday 19th October, with Elena; I, meanwhile, spent the day in Mestre with another very special friend, Rodolfo Cimino, who had just turned eighty three days before. But let's stick with Giorgio for today: I'll write about the magical Rodolfo in another post. The fun and exciting thing is that Elena, Gabriele and Alberto, with Giorgio's longtime friend (and Disney author) Silvano Mezzavilla, had secretly organized a surprise event: a Cavazzano exhibition in the heart of Venice! (In the entrance lobby of Venice's famous casino, to be precise, on the Grand Canal.) So Elena took Giorgio for a romantic day out and then, as the afternoon came to an end, she nonchalantly suggested heading towards the casino for a little cocktail before heading back to Mirano for the planned birthday party...

Giorgio hugs Silvano Mezzavilla, who prepared the exhibition and edited the accompanying book as his present for his friend's 60th birthday.

Little did Giorgio know that dozens and dozens of his friends, relatives and colleagues, plus a press photographer, were by then piling up at the casino, admiring the comics originals on display while waiting for him to arrive.

The title of the exhibition was "Cento per cento Cavazzano" (one hundred percent Cavazzano), with the "one hundred" obtained as 60+40, i.e. sixty years of age and 40 years of professional cartooning—taking as a starting point Giorgio's first "solo" Disney story (not as an inker of Romano Scarpa), namely "Paperino e il singhiozzo a martello", scripted by Abramo and Giampaolo Barosso and published in Topolino in 1967.

Tito Faraci and Giorgio Cavazzano

Most of the friends of Giorgio who were waiting for him at the casino that evening were people I didn't know; but one of the few I knew was the talented and versatile author Tito Faraci, who had started as a script writer for Disney Italia some ten years ago. Tito has a special relationship with Giorgio, who immediately recognized his talent the first time Disney gave him one of Tito's scripts to illustrate. Their chemistry developed immediately and Tito and Giorgio have since produced some excellent creations together---from the Rock Sassi stories to the opening installment of Mickey Mouse Mistery Magazine; as well as, outside Disney, a special story of Spiderman visiting Venezia, Il segreto del vetro.

Elena and Giorgio arrive at the casino, with all of us clapping and singing Happy Birthday

Giorgio, Elena, Alberto and Gabriele in front of a poster-sized reproduction of the first page of Giorgio's first story

Finally Giorgio and Elena arrived, hand in hand. Giorgio later said he felt Elena's hand squeeze his, and he wasn't sure why, as they headed towards the door... and then he recognized one face, and another, and wondered what was going on... but as soon as they got through the door we started applauding and then singing "Happy birthday to you" and he was overcome with emotion, surprise and joy as he realized the magnitude of the surprise party and noticed his name on the exhibition signs and his works on display. It was fantastic!

We then had a long, enjoyable cocktail party in a private area of the casino. After that, a subset of us took Giorgio to dinner at a nice seafood restaurant. All this was totally unexpected for him! I had a very enjoyable conversation with my dinnertime neighbour Mauro Lepore, Vice President for the children's magazines division at The Walt Disney Company Italia.

What Giorgio thought was going to be his birthday party in Mirano had instead been moved to the following evening. The next day, then, Saturday 20th October, in Mirano, we had a special dinner reunion with about fifty of Giorgio's closest friends, including the members of his old rock group from his teenage years, I Randagi. And so, after the first few rounds of food, a bunch of molto simpatici guys started taking out their acoustic guitars, bass guitars and microphones, Giorgio took a seat behind his drum kit and, between one course and the next, the reunited Randagi treated us to an absolutely fantastic sequence of lively tracks from the Sixties. It was incredibly vibrant and full of energy and we were all beaming with happiness. The party went on until perhaps 3am!

Giorgio gave each of his guests a copy of a magnificent "Memory" card game set produced by Italian playing card manufacturer Dal Negro with his characters from Altai & Jonson, and also a copy of the catalogue of the Cavazzano exhibition—a splendid booklet in full colour edited by Silvano and with contributions from several people connected with Giorgio's life and career: from famous Disney coauthors such as Rodolfo Cimino, Giorgio Pezzin and Tito Faraci to special friends such as Claudio Hintermann. The book includes a wealth of illustrations (both reproductions of comics works and photos of Giorgio at various stages of his career and private life) and a chronology edited by Luca Boschi covering both Disney and non-Disney work.

Silvano Mezzavilla (a cura di), Cento per cento Cavazzano, Edizioni if, 2007. ISBN 978-88-524-0238-8.

Words fail me when I try to convey to the unknown readers of this blog the happiness that pervaded that fantastic evening. I hope the photos help a little.

Thanks a million, Giorgio, and happy birthday again.

Finally, here are a couple of sites that wrote about "cento per cento Cavazzano".


Don Rosa January 2008, part 4

Here I am again (earlier than expected, for once: hooray!) with part 4 of the Rosa interview. The first three parts were recorded in one sitting, around noon on Sunday 20th January 2008. Then, as you might have noticed at the end of the last recording, we stopped for lunch: we ate some mushroom risotto, with the dried porcini mushrooms I had brought from Italy. We then resumed the interview in the afternoon. In this initial short additional chunk, Don picks up where we left off and completes the story of the TV themes archive.

A small part of the duck figurines in Don's studio. Note the glass cabinets full of them and also, by the way, the glass dome with the Number One dime.

In this recording he also refers in passing to a new collecting hobby that's keeping him busy lately: books. He is into adventure novels, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs ones, and likes to read them in their first edition. He has piles of them in his library! This new activity seems to have taken over from his previous occupation of collecting Disney duck figures from all over the world, which used to be his main thing until a few years ago. Well, maybe not his main thing: one of his main things. As he says himself, he has so many hobbies that they'd keep five people busy! The duck figures of all sizes that he accumulated during years and years of dedicated collecting spill over from their glass cabinets and are to be found in every corner of his study room.

That's what those plaques under the picture between the windows are; hmmm... do they ring a bell? Seen this before somewhere perhaps?...

The next chunk of interview to appear on this podcast will deal with the 12 amazing pin-ups that Don did to celebrate Uncle Scrooge's 60th anniversary and which some countries have published as a calendar. I have the Finnish one here (can any non-Finns guess what "Lokakuu" and "Keskiviikko" mean?) and this month shows the epic fights between Scrooge McDuck and Flintheart Glomgold.

As I write this, by coincidence Don is actually in Finland! Check this video by Timo Ronkainen to see the monstruously long queue of people who line up for the privilege of having their comics signed by Don. If they're very lucky, maybe some of the people who attend these signing sessions will also have a chance to buy high-quality life-size versions of these Scrooge pin-ups and have them autographed by Don on the spot. Ask him! He told me he considers them the most complicated twelve drawings he ever did and he is really proud of them. They are his personal tribute to Carl Barks: he honours the Duck Man by recalling the salient moments from Barks's own Scrooge stories.

But more on that next time. Now, without further ado, let's get on with today's interview chunk. You may download the audio of the interview in mp3 format or play it directly with the Flash gadget below. I'm pleased to say that I managed to record this session in stereo, unlike the previous one, which makes a subtle but noticeable difference!

DR: When we last left off, I was talking about the 16 hours of TV themes that I had. Dan Shane was going to transfer them to a CD (or a set of CDs, I guess: 16 hours!) and then I offered to let him sell copies if he wanted to, since he was doing that for me, which was such a nice thing. And so, a couple of hours later, he told me about a web site where this guy has got what looks like every TV theme in history! I mean, all the way from 1947 up to 2007! You know, I only had from 1947 to about 1977, so he's got another 30 years of TV themes, in alphabetical order, and you just click on one and you listen to it, and you go and click on another and you listen to it...

FS: Did it take all the fun out of your thing, or did you think it was great?

Well... both! And that's exactly what I told [Dan Shane]. This is wonderful but I spent decades... I mean, not decades but there were over a thousand or two thousand themes, each one recorded individually. I think I got a few small groups from other collectors but for the most part I was recording them individually, and timing them, and waiting a whole week to get it, and maybe not getting it that week and then waiting another week... I want to ask him to please go ahead and put those on a CD, just to preserve them for me, but that's going to be tough because he's doing it just as a friend and now we both know that there is just no reason for him to be doing that!

He could still digitize the tapes without indexing everything minute by minute...

What we might do then is, instead of, like we were saying, putting them in alphabetical order... because the only problem with that is the way they are now they are introduced verbally by me...

That's the fun part! Then you should preserve [them] for that!

Yeah, and one of his first questions was (I didn't even mention that part), "Should I retain your numbered introductions or should I arrange them alphabetically?" And when I was typing that answer I was thinking (my thoughts were racing ahead of what I was typing) and I said "How could you possibly do that with 16 hours of tapes unless... you put them into the computer file and title them and... tell the computer to do it..." and I said yeah, I'd hate to lose all those introductions of myself speaking back in 1970 but it wouldn't make any sense. It would be "number 732" and then "number 4"...

Back into comics!

The way we got onto that was that I took over the Information Center, where I would answer questions but not simply on the history of comic books but also the history of television and movies. And that's when I did movie indexes and TV show episode indexes, which at the time you could not get anyplace else on Earth, but now you can just click a computer key and it takes you right to it. So, I served my purpose at the time, now I'm obsolete. I'm like a buggy whip!

I think what you said about answering this column also to have an excuse to go back to your collection is the reason why many people do this indexing and so on.


Once you've got it all, unless you make a regular re-reading schedule, you want some excuse, some stimulus to go back and dig more into it--- because that's the fun of it!

Ah! So that's where you'd seen that plaque before... Chapter 12 of the Life of $crooge! (Gladstone edition)

I'll tell you something. Actually changing the subject, but there's this huge book collection now that I'm working on---and it would apply to the comic books also. I want to go back and read all my old comic books. I want to read all these books I'm buying. I'm buying more books than I can ever read! I was telling a friend of mine who is a book dealer, maybe a year or two ago. I said: as of now, I already own more books than I can possibly read for the rest of my life if I did nothing but read books! I've just got so many of them! But I still enjoy buying them, 'cos' I might get some more in the future that I want to read more than the ones I've got now. But the problem that I have, every day, and I have the same problem with these DVDs, my movie collection---I've got thousands of movies here, both on videotape and laserdisc and DVD, and I sit down on a Sunday, and I think... OK, I'm going to watch a DVD, or I'm going to read a book, or I'm going to read some comic book from my collection or some of these other books, history of pulp magazines, history of this... OK, I'm going to do it all afternoon! Now. Which... what do I do? Which one? Which book do I read? Which DVD do I watch? I need someone to tell me which one to watch, because I can't decide! There's too many of them to choose from! And I can't possibly pick one that I'd rather watch more than another! Sometimes I'll just sit there, dumbfounded that I've got so much to do that I want to do that I can't decide where to start! So, like you're saying, in those days it was nice to have somebody point me at a certain comic book title, or a certain TV show; it would force me to get into that show, I'd have a reason. And it's the same way I need now: I wish someone would, once a week send me a list, my reading list: this is what you're going to read this week; these comics, you're going to watch these DVDs and start reading this book.

It's the reason people do the indexing and sometimes also the reason people are on the Internet, maybe someone mentions an interesting story they've read before, they go back and reread it.