In the Italian children’s magazine Topolino, European publishing legend Arnoldo Mondadori treated Mickey Mouse with the same respect he afforded such classical authors as Thomas Mann, Ernest Hemingway, and Gabriele D’Annunzio.
Mondadori’s company published Topolino from 1935 to 1988. As former director of Topolino, Gaudenzio Capelli, recalled, “Arnoldo had a keen intuition for discovering new authors such as Pirandello and D’Annunzio. From the moment he first saw Mickey Mouse, he had a feeling he’d become a big Italian star.”
Born November 2, 1889, in the village of Poggio Rusco, Italy, Arnoldo was the son of a farmer and a homemaker. At a young age, he won a job in a typography shop and, by 15, achieved a dream by publishing his very own newspaper, La Luce.
His dream did not stop there, however, and Arnoldo continued to work tirelessly to develop other books and publications. Eventually, he established one of Europe’s most prestigious publishing houses, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore. He published consumer magazines, such as Time, and books, ranging from classical literature to reference works.
In 1935, Arnoldo first saw Disney’s Topolino magazine, which was then printed in newspaper size by the publisher Nerbini in Florence. He fell in love with Topolino and felt he could do more for the image of Disney’s cartoon star if he were publisher of the monthly magazine. So, Arnoldo arranged a personal introduction to Walt and Roy O. Disney and, subsequently, convinced them of his ability to gain a larger audience for Mickey in Italy.
Capelli added, “When Arnoldo met Walt and Roy Disney, they did not speak Italian and he did not speak English. Yet within a few minutes they reached an agreement that he would publish Topolino in Italy.”
Upon gaining rights to the magazine, the publishing genius immediately changed its format to pocket size, so children could easily carry it with them and share it with their friends. This simple innovation, along with Arnoldo’s ability to develop appealing editorial and artistic content, propelled the magazine to extraordinary success at the time, selling 200,000 issues per month. With the success of Topolino, Arnoldo went on to publish Donald Duck magazine, as well as other Disney comic books.
Of all the authors and publications Arnoldo ever dealt with, he held a special spot in his heart for Mickey Mouse. According to former employees, Arnoldo would personally check the work in Topolino every night before he went to sleep.
Arnoldo Mondadori loved his work and never retired. He passed away on July 1, 1972, in Milan.