Maria Perego tells about herself

By Emmanuel Grossi 

Maria Perego was the “mother” of Topo Gigio, a character who has been loved by generations and generations of children literally from all over the world. We met her in 2012, to ask her to tell us about the advertising history of “Gigio” (as she affectionately called him). 

Topo Gigio was created in 1959 (“in truth, it took quite a bit of time to be created, to take form: it had several different voices, various animations…”), by the inventiveness of Maria Perego and her husband Federico Caldura, author and director. Very soon, it started to be employed in advertising: for the synthetic clothing manufacturer Movil of the Montecatini Group.
“However, the people at RAI got very angry with us! Indeed, we were quite expelled from all programs, because they believed they owned Gigio. The fact that we did advertising got them mortally offended. In that situation – I don’t remember the details, because I didn’t know him, he was an angel from heaven – Enzo Biagi took our defense, and went to look at the contracts in depth (at that time the company was Perego, Topo Gigio srl did not yet exist) and verified that the character did not belong to RAI, so it was free. It was 1961. And indeed in 1962, having been sent away, we got busy and found work in England at first, then in the United States. This was caused by a necessity but turned out to be our fortune”. 

In that same year, 1962, Gigio had his debut as a Pavesini celebrity.
Mario Pavesi, the owner of the company, was still alive. It was him who wanted Gigio! Sometimes he came to watch the shooting. We always filmed in Milan. During the first years, my husband was the director, I was not even present at the studios. I realize this by looking at the animation: it was not me who moved Gigio. That was a period in which I practically lived on airplanes: London, New York, Madrid. And Milan, to be with family. It was being constantly on the move…
We made do: for health reasons, my husband didn’t go out very often, so we had everything inside the house. The laboratory was downstairs, and there we shot the little things …
In the early days, the scripts were written by Italo Terzoli (always with our collaboration), a great author and delightful person. We were always on television, we all knew each other …
After that, many directions were handled by Vieri Bigazzi, of Unionfilm.
For the music we often employed Vittorio Paltrinieri: I did most of Gigio’s songs with him, he was a splendid musician and helped the singers a lot. A delightful person as well. I used to go to him, we did the editing together … I miss the times of “moviola” very much! Paltrinieri also worked out of a cellar … We were all poor. But we lived comfortably all the same. Even Gigio has always been poor: he could have made much more with money. He was born twenty years early: just only to think of the shooting, the lights, he scared the directors!
I was lucky, I was born at the right time: now there are so many talents, but it’s never the right time, they can’t get the right break. At that time there was a need for talent, and there was a love for culture. And Gigio was able to conquer everyone. 

To the extent that it lasted as a celebrity for Pavesini for more than a decade (practically until the end of Carosello), with ever new topics and unchanged appraisal by the public of children… of all ages.