Not all aspiring artists must wait years to gain recognition. At age 6, Danielle Corneto of Seal Beach already has a nationwide audience for her works of art, now being displayed on The Disney Channel.
The cable television channel gets its young viewers directly involved in programming by encouraging the submission of original artworks to be displayed on its "Small World" programs or in The Disney Channel Magazine subscriber guide.
Gail Matsunaga, Disney publicity supervisor, said the channel is deluged with about 5,000 original works each month. From those, 100 drawings are selected. They appear in the 10, one-minute "Small World" segments produced each month and aired at various times as non-commercial breaks between longer programs.
The segments, broadcast to 2.5 million subscribers, show the children's works labeled with their names, ages and cities of residence. The children receive no payment for their works except the excitement of seeing their creations on television or in the magazine.
Danielle's drawing of Dumbo the elephant was the only one selected from Orange County to be aired during February. It has been shown on The Disney Channel three times this month.
"Basically, the drawings are selected on an emotional level," Matsunaga said. "We look for something that will evoke laughter or a smile."
Danielle said her felt-pen drawing was inspired by one of her favorite Disney programs, "Dumbo's Circus," which runs twice daily on The Disney Channel. She also has submitted drawings of Pluto and Jiminy Cricket.
Matsunaga was quick to point out that "Small World" is not a contest, but a showcase of art by children for children. "It's so other kids can see what their peers are doing. They are often more excited by seeing others' artwork than their own."
Danielle's mother, Marilyn Corneto, concurred. "The value of 'Small World' is not to foster competition, but to get kids involved in something they like to do," she said as she surveyed the dining-room table, covered with Danielle's notebooks and boxes of colored markers and crayons.
"Danielle is always drawing," her mother said. "The best present anyone can give her is a pad of blank paper to draw on. But I don't think she believed it when they told us her drawing was chosen for The Disney Channel."
The art showcase was started in 1983, during the first year of The Disney Channel. The idea of using the children's drawings for programming came from the children themselves, Matsunaga said. "We got so many letters and drawings from fans of Mickey Mouse. Pretty soon we had boxes and boxes of them, so we thought we could develop it into a pilot program. It proved to be a success in the schools when we tested (the idea). It's a very grass-roots approach to programming."
Based on the success of "SmaLl World," The Disney Channel developed "Pets & Pals" and "Family Gallery," which display photographs of children with their pets and families. Danielle is an active contributor to all three programs, but drawing is her first love. "I want to be an artist when I grow up, so I can spend all day practicing drawing," she said.