Topo Gigio [ˈtɔpo ˈdʒidʒo] was the lead character of a children's puppet show on Italian and Spanish television in the early 1960s. The character, created by artist Maria Perego, debuted on Italian television in 1959 and has been customarily voiced by actor Giuseppe "Peppino" Mazzullo and later Davide Garbolino. The Italian nickname "Gigi" is a derivative of Luigi ("Louis"), so Topo Gigio could be translated as Louie Mouse.
Topo Gigio, a soft foam mouse with dreamy eyes and a childish personality, was very popular in Italy for many years — not only on TV, but also in children's magazines, such as the classical Corriere dei Piccoli, animated cartoons, movies, and merchandising. The character's popularity spread to the world after being featured on The Ed Sullivan Show in the US. In a recent interview with Joan Rivers on the Howard Stern Show Joan revealed that she wrote the script for Topo Gigio on the US show, which was the celebrity's first writing gig. Today, Topo Gigio still has a cohort of faithful fans, and has become 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.
The puppet has made appearances and has a fan base in many other countries — including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Uruguay, Venezuela, and the former Yugoslavia.
The puppet made several appearances on UK TV on ITV's "Sunday Night at the London Palladium" in the 1960s, and his wistful persona endeared him to British viewers of all ages.
During the first half of the 1960s (especially in 1964), there was a TV music show presented by the British singer Chris Howland both in Austria and Germany; in Austria Mike Molto had a special small show to help the advertising industry in the early 1960s. (Austrian television advertising first started in 1959.) Topo Gigio was part of the Italian puppet show of Madame Maria Perego. A 1969 color television show especially for children in Austria and Switzerland was called Cappuccetto and Her Adventures with her friends Lupo Lupone, Professor Lhotko, a fox, some other animals of the forest, her grandmother and a music band with five little mushrooms playing on guitars and singing.
During the 1960s, the American Topo Gigio appeared on the long-running CBS-TV variety show The Ed Sullivan Show. Created by a 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 (though deftly hiding Gigio's mechanisms to conceal the secret). In more than fifty appearances on the show, the mouse would appear on stage and greet Sullivan with, "Hello, Eddie!". Gigio would occasionally talk about his girlfriend, Rosie. Gigio ended his weekly visits by crooning to the host, "Eddie, kiss me goodnight!" (pronounced as "Keesa me goo'night!"). Topo Gigio closed Sullivan's final show in 1971.
The character was also introduced in South America, Spain and in Japan. A Japanese animated television series with two seasons, produced by Nippon Animation, aired in Japan in 1988. The character has also appeared in several films. The feature film The Magic World of Topo Gigio was released in 1965. Topo Gigio and the Missile War, a Japanese-Italian international co-production film directed by Kon Ichikawa, was released in 1967 in Japan.
References in popular culture
- In Spanish America, Topo Gigio became a smash hit in 1968, widely remembered even now, featuring Braulio Castillo, Raul Astor (Raúl Ignacio Spangenberg) and later, Julio Alemán. Gigio had several LPs with songs sung by Gabriel Garzón. The show was produced in Peru, and then in Mexico. He made a comeback for the 2006 Germany World Cup, in short segments of a sports show.
- In 1966, Topo Gigio appeared on the first of many occasions in ITV's Sunday Night at the London Palladium with Jimmy Tarbuck (Compere), Nina & Frederik and Lonnie Donegan.
- A mention of Topo Gigio was made in the 1999 film Being John Malkovich. In the movie, Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is in control of John Horatio Malkovich (John Malkovich); while instructing a class of puppetry, he angrily corrects a student's poor performance of the marionettes, instructing that puppetry without emotion is "a novelty act. It's Topo Gigio."
- In the film Being John Malkovich, Malkovich refers to an instance of bad puppeteering as being akin to Topo Gigio.
- Another mention occurs in the 1994 film The Santa Clause. When Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) is giving alternative names for Santa Claus to the police officer in the interrogation scene, Scott imitates Ed Sullivan when he says the name "Topo Gigio". This is a reference to at least one episode of the Ed Sullivan Show, in which Gigio dresses as and imitates Santa.
- The music video for Billy Joel's song "Tell Her About It", which puts Joel on the stage of The Ed Sullivan Show, begins with Sullivan saying, "Thank you, Topo Gigio."
- On an episode of Fantasy Football League during the 1998 FIFA World Cup, a 'lookalikes' segment commented that Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar resembled Topo Gigio.
- Topo Gigio has been the official mascot of the Uruguayan club Huracán Buceo since 1968.
- Popular Mexican singer Victor Yturbe mentions the line "Quiero hacerle al Topo Gigio" in his single "Sabes de que Tengo Ganas".
- In Craig Lucas's play Blue Window, Topo Gigio is referenced.
- The Guardian Guide journalist Charlie Brooker, in his Screen-Burn column, likened All Saints Natalie Appleton to Topo Gigio after her appearance in I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!.
- In the syndicated comic strip 9 Chickweed Lane, on July 16, 2008, Edda refers to her new dance partner as Topo Gigio.
- In the episode "The Last Temptation of Cory" of the television series Boy Meets World, the character Missy Robinson mistakenly calls Topanga "Topo Gigio".
- On August 20, 2008, TMZ.com compared Shawn Johnson to Topo Gigio, which ultimately got the reference removed from the site due to a public uproar.
- In the musical Forever Plaid, the number "Lady of Spain" ends with the phrase "Kiss Topo Gigio Goodnight."
- Argentine footballer Carlos Tevez claimed that his goal celebrations were to honour Topo Gigio after Manchester City's 2–1 win over his former club and fierce rivals Manchester United in the League Cup semi-final first leg 2009/10 season. Tevez claimed that his Argentine team mate Juan Roman Riquelme also honours Topo Gigio with his goal celebrations.
- A restaurant in Chicago is named Topo Gigio in honor of the character.
- Topo Gigio was also a favorite reference in the earlier seasons of the American television series Mystery Science Theater 3000, usually with the character Crow T. Robot (performed by Trace Beaulieu) announcing "Ladies and gentlemen, Topo Gigio!" in the voice of Ed Sullivan.
- Topo Gigio is an Italian restaurant based in Swansea, South Wales, established 1979.
- The Late Show with David Letterman, which records in the Ed Sullivan theater, has made a number of references to Topo Gigio, most elaborately on March 19, 1993, with an appearance by Larry "Bud" Melman as Gigio, wearing a grey mouse costume and shouting non sequiturs about Sullivan and Batman.
- caterina Sacco (2009-03-11), Ma cosa mi dici mai. Happy Birthday Topo Gigio, dietrolanotizia.it. Accessed on 2009-12-16.
- Suschny, Peter. Austrian Museum of Advertising, Vienna, Austria
- Topo Gigio at EdSullivan.com
- Brooker, Charlie. "Grumble in the jungle", The Guardian, 27 November 2004.
- Restaurant Topo Gigio
- Topo Gigio Restaurant, Swansea