PMB in a box

by Graziella Carbone

1985 – The Little Surprises of the Little Miller and Clementine

The legendary box with the image of the Happy Valley was the container of Little Surprises for the entire course of 1983 and 1984. The spring of 1985 marked an important strategic turn in the history of Little Surprises. The Little White Miller and his Beautiful Clementine, protagonists of the animated television spots from 1982 to 1989, starting from 1985 became the protagonists of many Little Surprises as well.
To underline this change and to place it even more in evidence, the packaging of Little Surprises in match boxes is suspended and is substituted by a light blue plastic sachet. This is heat sealed and printed with a lot of little white clouds.
The choice was dictated also by the necessity to produce Little Surprises whose dimensions were not limited to the space available in the match box and to create more valuable Surprises, while saving on the packaging. The elimination of the box (printing of two cardboard items, assembling and filling) immediately brought on a considerable reduction of costs and times need for assembling.
From that time on, manual packaging was substituted and made at specialized firms equipped with continuous production machinery to heat seal the plastic film of the sachets. The first Little Surprise with PMB, catalogued at the Barilla Historical Archives with number 1985/2, is a wax pastel produced in several colours. On the personalized leaflet, the image of the Happy Valley was printed. In the sky, our hero is seen happily flying around in his red helicopter.
Board or challenge games almost completely disappear from the list of Little Surprises, giving more space to small stationary items that can be useful at school, like pencils, markers and mini block notes. One in particular, turned out to be a true masterpiece: shaped as a small cloud, it was bound with a spiral…
The series continued with mini size lined and squared notebooks, mini classifiers, notebook dividers, boxes with clips and rubber bands, rulers, squares, protractors, stencils made of various materials such as plastic, rubber and cardboard. Often a gadget was made both in a plastic and a rubber version, using the same mould. When it was not possible to print PMB’s image on the gadget, a sticker with its figure was applied.
One of the most difficult gadgets to make was the notebook cover. Yes, a real notebook cover, like those you can buy in a stationary store. On one side of the cover, the image of the Happy Valley and on the other, PMB with his helicopter. In order to package this in its sachet, it needed to be folded by hand several times, so to reach the maximum dimension of 3×4 centimetres. Then, many children used to write letters to PMB…so we made paper letter with its related envelopes to be used both to write to friends and to PMB.

1985 – Surprises for adults end up… in little boxes

In parallel to the evolution of Little Surprises, the gadget gift of second generation, A feast for mothers and children” of 1985 was created, (the first generation was that of Coccio).
This new series of gadget gifts was perfectly coherent with the evolution of communication of Mulino Bianco, which moved from an idealized country world to a realistic context tied to everyday life.
Thus, the Dish Set of the Feasts were born, who decorated the tables of millions of Italian families in many different versions, together with all of the accessories to set the Mulino Bianco table: from the first very simple cotton tablecloths to the embroidered ones that through the years became true “collectible” pieces, to store away in the family hope chest.
Not to mention the trays, made of tin and ceramics, all rigorously on a Mulino yellow background and with drawings of stylized Mills and swallows on the background.
A real set of breakfast tableware was designed with the image of PMB, but the only item to be produced was the tray, to which paper napkins, plates and glasses for birthday parties were added together with a coloured napkin holder made of plastic.
The commercial launch of these new items enriched the series of Little Surprises with special erases like the Dish Set of Holidays rubber, and the Pitcher and Sugar Bowl rubbers. To these, a rubber that reproduced the tray in scale was added, beautiful in its simplicity.

1985 – PMB reaches the school desks

Many Little Surprises were created to be “schoolmates” of our children – obviously all bearing the design of our Little White Miller.
Tiny masterpieces, these were designed to be placed in pencil cases and brought to school (often a real source of desperation for teachers, who relegated to the mid morning break the moment of exchange of doubles of Little Surprises).
The first Little Surprise for school was obviously PMB’s diary. A small address book for … “secret” addresses was made at the same time. Block notes of various sizes and shapes, blackboard dividers, coloured rulers and squares, together with pastels, pencils, mal pens, highlighters and erasers were the school friends of millions of children for many months.