Topo Gigo!

Topo Gigio, sweet and childlike mouse character, was very popular in Italy for many years — not only on TV but also in children’s magazines, animated cartoons, movies, and merchandising. His popularity spread to the world after being featured on Ed Sullivan’s weekly TV show in the U.S. Today Topo Gigio still is an icon of Italian and Spanish pop culture. He performs regularly at Zecchino d’Oro festival and other programs created by Antoniano and RAI. In 1965, a feature length motion picture Le Avventure di topo Gigio (The Adventures of Topo Gigio) was released internationally.

Created by a highly creative troupe of Italian puppeteers, it took four people to bring the 10″ tall character to life, three to manipulate him and one to create his voice. The puppet stood in a special “limbo” black art stage with black velvet curtains, designed to absorb as much ambient light as possible, which helped hide the puppeteers, who also dressed in black from head to toe. Each puppeteer operated a different part of Gigio’s foam rubber body by using several wooden dowel rods (also painted black). The illusion was quite remarkable, since unlike traditional hand puppets, Topo Gigio could actually appear to walk on his feet, sing, make subtle hand gestures, and even walk up Ed Sullivan’s arm and perch on his shoulder. Careful lighting and TV camera adjustment made the “black art” illusion perfect for the television audience, though on at least one appearance, Ed asked the puppeteers to come out and take a bow, revealing their black-clad appearance.

The best way to experience Topo, however, is to see him in action. Photos do not do him justice.(the cacti are pretty darned adorable, too)

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