Innovation…what a surprise!

by Graziella Carbone

1993 – Here come the Night Owls
The year was 1992: Mulino Bianco wanted to make a “special” promotion for the 1993 Little Surprises campaign: the brief was completely open, with no limits and so the vein of creativity was left to run completely unbridled.
What did children love back then (and still love today)? Answer: animals. Why, then, not give their beloved friends specific “characteristics”, almost as if they belonged to the world of cartoons?
An entire company of small funny animal was crated this way: father, mother and son.
Together with my design studio, we began to visualize the first sketches. The method used was identical for all characters: front, back and side views. Once they were approved, they were used to make the first prototypes and then were used in the production phase that was followed by Antonio Locati.
The families were made of mice, little pigs, fireflies, hares, bears and owls. Six times three is eighteen…but our series was made of 19 characters. The nineteenth one is the extremely rare King Lightening, a very nice big dog, of larger dimensions with respect to the other 3D characters and produced in a very limited edition. All this was good…but we needed something more.
With the passing of days, my eye fell on a statuine that my grandmother brought me from a French sanctuary when I was a child… and that was there, on my bookshelf, from years. By day, it was of a transparent milky colour, but at night it became beautiful: it lit up and also has a halo around itself. That light kept me company.
Then I called Antonio Locati and I presented him with my idea: could the series of our happy company light up at night? He only answered me:«I will call you tomorrow», and then the following day told me: «Yes, we can do it!». Also in different colours? «Yes, also in different colours!».
Therefore, 50 centimeters tall prototypes for production were made ready. Making a 3D object is a complex operation: there must no be undercut parts in the mold because the piece must come out without opposing resistance.
For one of the characters, Daddy Owl, w 4,5 centimeters prototype was made. The characters were produced in 3,5 centimeters dimension, plus some additional details. Details were added to many pother characters in order to “stress” their characteristics. A leaflet accompanied each character in its transparent cellophane bag.
Seeing their great success, besides than into snack packs, the Night Owls were inserted also into the Barilla Instant Pizza box.
«I remember them well – tells Elena Bernardelli, at the time Bakery Marketing Italy Director at Mulino Bianco – because I got married that year and my colleagues at Mulino Bianco threw them at us…instead of rice!».

1994 – Happiness enters the schools
Lots of pencils and pens to play games, write and draw:  the Out of Mind Pens.
This was a series of rather peculiar “pens” that were created by elaborating a Little Surprise of 1989: Hop! The lively turning caps (animated pencil covers featuring swinging animal figurines), Each cap represented a fanciful surprise, of which one were useful and others could be used only as a game.
The pens were inserted in the packages of Trancini, Tegolini and Bomboloni and were made in a number of shapes, like the mini-basket, a soccer shoe with soccer ball, a life saver and a traffic warden on a spring, the snorkeling mask, a pumpkin, a camera…
The series continued with a small transparent dome in which minuscule balls were inserted and a duckling, and then another small transparent dome containing geometrical shapes, and its game consisted in being able to impila them in the center (it was extremely hard to do). Then there was a series of propellers, daisies and bears. Other pencil caps bore a small game that rotated on itself. After this series of game pens, at last there came two pens with a useful cap: the first was shaped as a boot that hid a pencil sharpener, and the second enclosed a secret diary.