AGBU Welcomes the Writer Behind the “Vardavar!” Episode on Disney’s Mickey Mouse Funhouse—Kathleen Sarnelli Kapukchyan

April 11, 2024

On April 6, the AGBU Western Region created a unique opportunity to highlight the rich Armenian culture with the “Vardavar at Disney” event. It was held at the Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Cultural Center just steps away from the flagship AGBU Innovation Studios, a weekend program where Armenian youth can stretch their innovative and creative muscles through STEAM education.

The guest of honor was Kathleen Sarnelli Kapukchyan, the talented writer who worked behind the scenes to bring the story of Vardavar to the masses on the Mickey Mouse Funhouse, an animated series on the Disney Channel that introduces preschoolers to the people, places and cultures beyond their own small world.

According to AGBU Western Region Director, Gohar Stambolyan, “The event not only celebrates Disney’s cultural representation, but also recognizes Armenian contributions in media, aligning seamlessly with AGBU Innovation Studios’ mission to cultivate the next generation of Armenian innovators.”

Over 100 attendees were captivated as Kathleen shared her insights and the experiences that influenced the creation of the groundbreaking Vardavar episode. Prior to the event, she was given a tour of the Innovation Studios facilities, immersing herself in the creative atmosphere. She visited the Animation studio, where she was impressed by the young innovators’ skills and the high caliber of work produced. She also explored the Deep-Sea Robotics and AI studios, expressing her excitement for the resource rich environment and remarking, “I wish we had something like this when we were younger.”

There were many questions for Kathleen who gladly described her educational journey and the influence of her husband’s Armenian family background. She highlighted the contribution of her husband’s grandmother, who provided valuable input on Armenian elements woven into the episode.

To show their appreciation, the AGBU Innovation Studios team presented Kathleen with a laser-cut model of the Astghik, the Armenian mythological goddess of fertility, love, skylight, and beauty, who is also the inspiration for the Vardavar holiday. Today, just as in pre-Christian times, Armenians release doves and splash water on each other to wish them health and good luck.

The afternoon concluded with Kathleen autographing the event signage and taking photos with attendees, fostering a special connection with her new friends in the AGBU community.

Nare Avagyan, AGBU Western Region’s Educational Programs Manager, reflected on the impact of the event on the children. “First, they had the privilege to engage in person with such an accomplished and talented person, which gives them tacit permission to explore their own creative potentials. Then to see their favorite Disney characters celebrating authentic Armenian culture is an endorsement of its value to the world, instilling Armenian ethnic pride at an early age.”

She added, “In essence, the entire experience was a tribute to the Armenian spirit that exists in all of us and what Innovation Studios is dedicated to nurturing with the latest creative resources, technologies, and inspiration from professionals like Kathleen.”

AGBU Innovation Studios is a project-based extracurricular program that provides opportunities for Armenian youth to develop skills needed in the 21st century while also being exposed to Armenian culture. The program is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, combining STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) and design thinking, and integrating Armenian culture into the robust and creative curriculum. The mission of AGBU Innovation Studios is to develop engaged and solution-oriented Armenians through a creative curriculum, fostering creativity, connection and collaboration.

For more information, visit the Official Website

The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) is the world’s largest non-profit organization devoted to upholding the Armenian heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian programs. Each year, AGBU is committed to making a difference in the lives of 500,000 people across Armenia, Artsakh and the Armenian diaspora.  Since 1906, AGBU has remained true to one overarching goal: to create a foundation for the prosperity of all Armenians. To learn more visit


Photo 1: Vardavar Event.1.2024

Caption 1: Kathleen Sarnelli Kapukchyan shares her inspiring educational journey, lighting the way for the next generation of animators.

Photo 2: Vardavar Event.2.2024

Caption 2:Kathleen shares her enthusiasm for celebrating Armenian heritage through the beloved water festival of Vardavar.

Photo 3: Vardavar Event.3.2024

Caption 3: Kathleen engaging with aspiring young animators at the AGBU Innovation Studios Makerspace.

Photo 4: Vardavar Event.4.2024

Caption 4: Kathleen joined by her team along with Animation Production Executive and Innovation Studios Animation Coach, Henri Hovhanesyan and Nare Avagyan, AGBU Western Region Educational Programs Manager

Photo 1 Vardavar Event.1.2024

Photo 2 Vardavar Event.2.2024Photo 3 Vardavar Event.3.2024Photo 4 Vardavar Event.4.2024