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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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".