The Little White Miller
by Emmanuel Grossi
It was the dawn of the 1980s. Though it was a young brand (created at the end of 1975), Mulino Bianco had been for some time the undiscussed leader in the cookie sector, and had already seen the rise and fall of many lines of copycat products, produced by the competition in the void attempt to emulate its success.
Meanwhile, the production became much diversified: other formats like crackers, grissini bread, and snacks were added to rusk bread and the original cookies (Campagnole, Galletti, Rigoli, Tarallucci) (1) …
Therefore, it was decided to diversify the advertising campaign as well: the series Quando i mulini erano bianchi (When mills were white), set in the rural society of the end of the 1800s, would continue to advertise those products of the most genuine tradition (rusk bread, biscuits…). Snacks, which were more elaborate, instead would take another path, addressing children directly during the broadcast of their favorite afternoon programs.
Giovanni Gorla, account of the Troost agency, contacted the famous illustrator Grazia Nidasio, who for some time had been drawing for the Corriere dei Piccoli the comic strips of Stefi, little sister of Valentina Mela Verde who had been a very successful character in the 1970s.
From her pencil, The Little White Miller was born, a friendly little character who, in his tiny mill hiding among the ears of wheat of the Valle Felice (Happy Valley) created delicious snacks that were always new, and often filled with chocolate or marmalade: Biricche, Camille, Campanelle, Soldini, Tegolini and variations of the already famous Bomboloni, Crostatine and Saccottini. (2)
The inspiring Muse and privileged recipient of his confectionery masterpieces was the ruddy and somewhat simple Clementina, with whom Piemmebi (3) is madly lost in love, but who is unaware of his existence, and continues to dream about a Prince Charming while she devours the snacks that come to her as a gift from her mysterious admirer.
The series experimented with success the double paths of printed press and television: the adventures of the Little White Miller were published in double pages on the headings of comic books (Il Giornalino, Topolino…) and in parallel, the same episode was broadcast on television, in color animated cartoons.
Two supporting pillars of animation in Milan, Angelo Beretta from 1982 to 1986 with his production studio RDA 70, and Michel Fuzellier from 1987 to 1989 with his society Quicksand, took care of the production of the commercials (generally lasting one minute each).
The success of Piemmebì was such and so great that calendars, gadgets, stationary items, gifts from a collection of points and some of the legendary sorpresine (little surprises) that populated the packages of snacks in those same years and were extremely popular among all children, were dedicated to him in time.
(1) Campagnole, Galletti, Rigoli, Tarallucci – literally Country Ladies, Roosters, Striped Cookies, Small Taralli (a traditional ancient Southern Italian cookie). All names suggest a tie with the Nineteenth century rural world.
(2) Biricche, Camille, Campanelle, Soldini, Tegolini, Bomboloni, Crostatine, Saccottini – literally Doubly Rich, Daisies, Small Bells, Small Coins, Small Roof Tiles, Big Bombs, Small Pies, Small Sacks.
(3) Piemmebì – the name refers to the character of The Little White Miller. In Italian, the initials of the name Piccolo Mugnaio Bianco, PMB, are pronounced Pi Emme Bi and from this comes the nickname Piemmebì.