When Lancelot raised havoc
by Emmanuel Grossi
Marco Biassoni, illustrator, cartoonist and director, had already been working for a few years for Pavesi taking care of animated or stop motion contents to be inserted in live film produced elsewhere in Milan and drawing pretty illustrations for Pavesini, variously interpreted and decontextualized. But in 1965 he debuted in Carosello with his own series, entirely of animated cartoons (at first produced by the Adriatica Film society, and then made in autonomy), for Gran Pavesi crackers, that continued with great success and massive media coverage until 1972, with a few remnants in more recent times: I Cavalieri della Tavola Rotonda.*
Before then, Pavesini had been the rulers of Television campaigns, leaving only the crumbs for the crackers: a few short television communications, a few Carosello commercials in 1964 that were inherited from the old cookie campaign (Sopra… sopra… sopra, a variant of Dentro… dentro… dentro)* that in the meantime found their ideal ambassador in Topo Gigio, an a few other things.
But the table was already an element of the communication campaign to present the crackers as an alternative to bread without engaging in a direct conflict (from which they would have come out inevitably as losers). Biassoni started from this and thought up a funny rewriting of the Camelot saga suitable to the style of Carosello: a narrative scheme that remained almost unchanged through time, with a fixed introduction and coda ending and phrases that immediately entered into common language (“How come in eight we are not? Because we are missing Lancelot!” or “When Lancelot arrives he raises havoc”)*.
The first series was a test trial and many details went in place only later, but the winning feature of the campaign was already defined: surreal irony. The characters were just barely sketched, the situations were hilariously paradoxical. The text was in rhymes (often nonsensical) and was supported by a wide range of background music, noises and sound effects by maestro Ario Albertarelli (who was used to create surreal and fantasy filled pieces thanks to his collaboration with the Pagot brothers in the field of advertising and with “I Gufi”* in the field of songwriting and recording, who were pioneers of Italian Cabaret). All this was to be a counterpoint to the travel and misadventures of the knights in search for Lancelot, who was late for supper making King Arthur nervous.
Year after year new details and memorable elements were added. In 1966 Guinevere arrived and armed with a wooden spoon called everyone to gather and in 1967 she began cooking delicacies. Always in ’66, little Lancelot, who in the first series was lost traveling around the world, finally joins the other table companions (accompanied by his famous jingle).
The style of drawing changed as well: the lines became rounder and King Arthur became a vivacious old man and a bit absent minded, and in the two years of ’71 and ’72 was forced to go out of the castle in search of the late comer, first by himself and later with all of his army. The hands who drew it were different as well: Biassoni was joined by his young assistant Giuseppe Laganà (who was destined to a flourishing career up until his premature death) and for some time Osvaldo Cavandoli collaborated as well, practically at the same time of his first cartoons for his famous Linea* for Lagostina.
*I Cavalieri della Tavola Rotonda = The Knights of the Round Table
*(Sopra… sopra… sopra, a variant of Dentro… dentro… dentro) = (Above…above… above, a variant of Inside…inside…inside) – it is the catch phrase of the commercial
*Come mai non siamo in otto? perché manca Lancillotto! = How come in eight are we not? Because we are missing Lancelot!
*Arriva Lancillotto, succede un Quarantotto = literally: when Lancelot arrives, a fourty eight happens – a historical reference to revolutionary upheavals of 1848 in Italy.
*I Gufi = literally – The Owls
* Linea = Line