Uncovering Tuffolino’s Legacy Amidst Censorship and War in Fascist Italy.
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Tuffolino, a comic character brought to life by Federico Pedrocchi and Pier Lorenzo De Vita, took the place of Mickey Mouse in the eponymous comic magazine in February 1942. This change occurred as a result of press freedom limitations set in place by Mussolini’s Italian regime. Starting in 1938, the fascist government’s autarkic policy led the Ministry of Popular Culture to enforce several restrictions on the media, including a ban on publishing American comics.
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Initially, Mickey Mouse was exempt from these restrictions, likely due to the strong relationship between Mussolini and the Italian publisher Mondadori. However, beginning with issue 303 of the weekly magazine on October 13, 1938, all American comics other than Disney’s were replaced with Italian-produced comics. As the war continued and the United States grew more sympathetic to the Allies, Mickey Mouse’s exemption came under scrutiny.
In an effort to save Mickey Mouse from being removed, Arnoldo Mondadori requested an extension to publish Disney stories through the end of 1941, in a letter to the Ministry of Popular Culture. Changing the magazine’s title would have caused a considerable financial loss, and Disney’s stories only took up a small portion of the magazine (3 out of 12 to 16 pages) and were partially created by Italian authors. The extension was granted, but when the United States declared war on Italy in December 1941, the weekly Topolino magazine (issue 477, February 3, 1942) finally succumbed to the restrictions imposed by the fascist regime. Tuffolino, an advertising agent, replaced the Disney hero, as announced at the bottom of the page. The last published Mickey Mouse story, Mickey Mouse and the Illusionist, hastily concluded in issue 477, with the final 27 strips summarized in just five strips. This allowed readers to see the story’s conclusion while still complying with the fascist regime’s directives, which stipulated that no more Mickey Mouse stories could be published from issue 478 onward.
Mickey Mouse was then replaced by Tuffolino, a human character with similar physical features, except for being a human rather than an anthropomorphic animal, drawn by Pier Lorenzo De Vita. The character debuted in Tuffolino, Advertising Agent, a redesigned version (with humanized versions of the Disney characters) of Mickey Mouse, Advertising Agent, which had just been published in the United States. The newspaper had already received the story before the regime’s ban, but it could no longer be published. Pedrocchi then decided to have De Vita modify the story’s panels, replacing the Disney characters with newly invented ones: Mickey Mouse became Tuffolino, Minnie turned into Mimma, and Clarabelle became Clara.
The plot remained essentially the same: Tuffolino is a hyperactive boy always seeking adventure, causing his girlfriend, Mimma, to worry that he might embark on a dangerous journey. After a discussion with Clara, Mimma finally convinces Tuffolino to work at an advertising agency. Only the last episodes are completely original, serving to connect this story with the subsequent Tuffolino on Vacation. In the end, the character Pippo is introduced, bearing a strong resemblance to the Disney character of the same name in terms of body shape and clothing, with the only difference being a slightly more “humanized” face. This story concluded in issue 495 on June 9, 1942.
The following stories, now entirely original, are as follows:
- Tuffolino on Vacation (issue 496-503, from June 16 to August 4, 1942)
- Tuffolino and the Archaeologist (issue 504-536, from August 11, 1942, to March 23, 1943)
- Tuffolino and the Explosive Pepper (issue 537-564, from March 30 to December 21, 1943)
Federico Pedrocchi penned all the stories, while Pier Lorenzo De Vita was responsible for the illustrations. The exception is Tuffolino and the Explosive Pepper, for which the illustrator is uncertain. However, according to Alberto Becattini, the drawings may be the work of Gustavo Petronio.
Tuffolino’s adventures were published, initially on the last page and later in the inner pages, until the magazine’s suspension in December 1943. The character disappeared when the magazine temporarily ceased publication on December 21, 1943. When the magazine resumed publication in December 1945, Mickey Mouse was once again allowed, rendering Tuffolino, his substitute, obsolete.
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