The Fantastical Case of the Vanicorn

by Tanner D’Ortenzio

Sweet Cecily Daniher is an artist from the Bay Area who has quite the knack for finding rare and mystical unicorns in our modern world, as shown in her photography book I See Unicorns.[1] A tattoo artist by trade, Daniher has used her artistic ability to maintain a career that gives her the opportunity to put forth true forms of expression into the world. One of these expressions took the form of a “tremendously cool, dark blue and/or purple 1972 Chevrolet G10 van, with red shag carpeting, red velour walls and seating, and a white shag carpet roof.”[2] But the truly eye catching feature of the van comes from a mural of a unicorn rearing back. Letting its majestic white hair flow as the equine animal is flanked by bolts of lightning across a psychedelic-starry sky.

Time passed and Sweet Cecily Daniher and the newly dubbed “Vanicorn” began to gain a reputation on the streets of San Francisco, possibly due to how the sight of her van made people question how a van travelled seamlessly from the 1970’s to the present day. The vans reputation went so far as to reach the eyes of Pixar’s production manager Jane Clausen. Clausen reached out to Daniher with the following email:

Sweet Cicely,

We just stumbled upon a badass photo of you and your amazing van in San Francisco Mag and shrieked with joy…I’m working on an event over here at Pixar Animation Studio next week, and was wondering if you’d be willing to rent us your Vanicorn for a couple of days. I have no idea if you get inquiries like this ever, but it is incredibly perfect for the theme of the event we’re working with – kind of a fantasy/rocker sort of thing.[3]

Jane Clausen further explains in the email that Pixar would provide compensations for Daniher, as well as promising to take care of the Vanicorn. Sweet Cecily Daniher agrees, and the Pixar event goes over smoothly with all parties happy in the end.

That is until Daniher learns of the new Pixar film “Onward” where two elf-brothers living in a newly modern magic world search for their now deceased father. On the brothers search they drive around their fantasy-world in a van named Guinevere. The van is a deep purple with a star covered background across its entirety. With a white pegasus surrounded by lighting soaring across the vehicle.

Sweet Cecily Daniher believes Guinevere is Disney Pixar’s attempt at unlawfully recreating the Vanicorn. Claiming on her Instagram that the company “stole” the idea for their upcoming movie. Daniher goes on to claim how following the post, Pixar producer Kori Rae called to apologize. Saying how Pixar rented her van and did not disclose their full intentions or plans.

Daniher and her lawyers Jared Weinstock and J. Conor Corcoran proceeded to file a lawsuit suing for copyright infringement, violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act and violation of the California Artists Protection Act.[4]

The case is currently waiting to be seen, but it is possible to gain an inkling on how the case will fair. Amid Amidi, award-winning author and both the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Cartoon Brew; a news source covering animation and news since 2004 believes Daniher’s case is weak.[5]

Amidi explains how Daniher and her lawyers must prove the standard of substantial similarity.[6] This part of U.S Copyright Law determines whether or not the defendant infringes on the reproduction right of a copyright. Amidi explains how the equine creature on Guinevere’s side is unicron-esque, both parties are drawing on the fantasy art on the sides of vans across the nation in the 1970’s and 1980’s.[7] Additionally arguing how the animal on the Pixar van is in fact not a Unicorn, but a Pegasus; a mythical winged horse.

Time will tell how this fantasy driven tale ends, but it is undeniable that each van is at least somewhat similar. Although, the fact remains that people have been adorning their vans with mythological and otherworldly images long before the Vanicorn was christened. This raises the question of whether or not Sweet Cecily Daniher owns the rights to the image on her van. After all, murals of all kinds of adorned the walls of vans since their original conception. The courts will decide how this case ends, but the legal precedent sides with Disney.


[1] Sweet Cecily Daniher, I See Unicorns, November 7th, 2018


[3] Amid Amidi, Disney Sued By Artist Over Unicorn Van in Pixar’s ‘Onward’, 1-30-20,

[4] Ashley Cummins,  Artist Sues Disney, Pixar Over Unicorn-Adorned Van in ‘Onward’, January 28th, 2020,

[5] Amid Amidi, Disney Sued By Artist Over Unicorn Van in Pixar’s ‘Onward’, 1-30-20,

[6] Id.

[7] Id.