The worlds created by Disney animation have the magical ability to transport us to the nostalgic wonder of our childhoods all over again, hence why so many of us are still watching and rewatching Disney videotapes from the 80s.
For Latina artist Gabby Zapata, that magic is something she gets to experience every day through her vibrant and beautiful artwork. As Senior Visual Development artist at Walt Disney Animation Studio, Gabby helps create the gorgeous content you’ll see across all of Disney’s social media platforms. She and her team of animators collaborate on different projects to create original art inspired by Disney classics.
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But for 29-year-old Gabby, her work with Disney Animation Studios is much more than a job. It’s the manifestation of a life-long dream. As a young girl, she moved around regularly, everywhere from Mexico City to New York, because of her father’s job in the hotel industry. Gabby was naturally drawn to art as an outlet for her budding imagination. From the very beginning, her subject of choice was the animated characters of her favorite Disney cartoons.
“‘The Little Mermaid’ is what made me want to keep pursuing art,” Gabby recently shared with FIERCE. “I loved the appeal and the movement and thought I could do the same.”
Inspired by the interesting shapes and fluidity of motion that she saw in Disney’s mermaids, Gabby explored those elements in her individual style. She was drawn to the simplicity and shape manipulation of iconic Disney Animator Mary Blair. Blair’s storyboards for Disney classics like “Peter Pan” and “Alice in Wonderland” showcased the same vibrancy of color that resonates so well in Gabby’s artwork.
This influence helped give her direction during her years at Ringling College of Art and Design— a time when she worked to discover who she was as an animator with her own, unique style. But no matter what changed in Gabby’s artistic and personal lives, her love of Disney’s imagery and bold, cheerful colors never changed.
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🧡SWIPE to see process video! I’ve been loving discovering and seeing new wall murals around the city! Do you have a favorite place where you live?? This one was inspired by a place in SF ☺️🧡 . . Drawn using iPad 9.7/Apple Pencil, generic built in brush in @procreate ✌🏼
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But it isn’t only her Disney artwork that is worth attention. Using bright palettes and free-flowing shapes, Gabby’s original artwork features diverse, sweet women. Most being unmistakably Latina, her ladies are as brilliant and dynamic as the real-life members of the Latinidad that influenced them. Her newest inspiration comes from her local L.A. neighborhood and the romance of old photographs. These beautiful pieces, along with her remarkable Disney artwork have become Gabby’s signature.
It’s for this reason that the Mexican and Colomian-American artist was chosen by Disney to be featured during Hispanic Heritage Month at Voces @ Disney, which was created to celebrate the contributions that Latinxs to the world of Disney Animation.
An internal art exhibit at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, Voces @ Disney features five amazing Latinx artists. For the rest of 2018, the exhibit will display the artwork of Jose Velasquez, Paul Felix, Isaac Pelayo, Antonio Pelayo and Gabby Zapata— the only Latina chosen for this honor.
It was an honor being able to display my work celebrating Hispanic Heritage month at Disney Animation! An art show with Paul Felix, Jose Velasquez, Antonio Pelayo, & Isaac Pelayo. It means so much, I’m grateful for the opportunity being able to share this wall amongst giants(😭) pic.twitter.com/IkRVo8pXXz
— ✨Gabby Zapata✨ (@gabbyzapata) September 14, 2018
Being selected to represent Latinos in the World of Disney Animation is a little overwhelming for Gabby but is also a dream come true.
“[I] never would have thought that this little brown girl, with big dreams, would have her art hanging among giants,” Gabby gushed as she talked with FIERCE. “If you would’ve told five-year-old Gabby that her art would be on those walls, she wouldn’t have believed you. It’s a dream come true.”
But the highlight of her life came from her first, and biggest, fan. When Gabby received the news that she had been chosen to rep Latinos, the first thing she did was call her mom. According to Gabby, hearing her mother say, “‘Estoy muy orgullosa de ti,’” brought happy tears.
Still, even with a huge online following on Instagram and Twitter, a successful Etsy store featuring her artwork, her dream job at Disney and the honor of being featured in the Voces @ Disney exhibit, Gabby is humbled by all of her accomplishments.
Acknowledging the enormity of her success, Gabby revealed a common concern that so many young female professionals experience. “I get impostor syndrome,” she admitted. “Where I feel like I don’t belong, but I’m glad that I was able to represent the community in the best way I know how: through art.”
CREDIT: Gabby Zapata
Anyone who sees Gabby’s gorgeous artwork has to acknowledge that she is very much worthy of the hype she receives. Her original pieces proudly portray the liveliness and charm of the Latinx culture while also showing a soft, delicate sentiment. Her artwork made with Disney Animation honors our favorite classic characters, bringing a little cheer to social media.
But, perhaps most importantly, Gabby is living proof that if you work hard and keep believing, your dreams, too, can come true.