During his nearly 33-year career, Gaudenzio Capelli helped make Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters honorary citizens of Italy. Gaudenzio served first with Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, the Disney publishing licensee in Italy, and later with Walt Disney Company Italia S.p.A. in Milan. As former director of Topolino, Italy’s Mickey Mouse magazine, he worked diligently to enhance and expand Disney publishing throughout the country.
His wife, Rosalba, later recalled, “He was working, working, working all of the time and he was very happy. He never stopped developing, creating, and making things better. Quality is very important to him. He always says, ‘It is best to do something well or simply do not do it.’”
Born December 7, 1929, in Milan, Gaudenzio graduated as an industrial chemist from the State University of Milan. In 1961, after military service in the Italian Army, he won an editorial position at Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, one of the most important publishing houses in Italy. He began his career there as a reader and translator of Topolino, whose editor-in-chief was then Mario Gentilini.
During the late 1960s, Gaudenzio helped develop the popular Manuali, or Disney Handbooks, a series of “how-to” manuals for children featuring Disney characters.
These provided instruction on such subjects as sports, cooking, and gardening. The success of the Manuali led to the creation of Enciclopedia Disney and Enciclopedia Disney Geografica, general knowledge books for children.
After fellow Disney Legend Gentilini retired as editor-in-chief in 1980, Gaudenzio assumed his responsibilities and expanded the translation of Topolino stories for publication in other European markets, including Germany, France, and Scandinavia. He also displayed innovative leadership beyond publishing; among his contributions, he expanded the Italian Topolino Trophy youth ski competition to include additional youth competitions in tennis, golf, swimming, fencing, and more. The Topolino Trophy quickly spread from Italy to Germany and the Scandinavian countries.
As editor-in-chief of Topolino in 1982-83, Gaudenzio appeared on 34 episodes of the children’s ecology television series Vai col Verde to promote the magazine; at the time, the publication was recognized as a leader in the preservation of ecology and wildlife. When, in 1988, Topolino passed from Mondadori Publishing to Walt Disney Company Italia S.p.A., Gaudenzio became a full-fledged Disney employee. Under his continued leadership, Topolino reached an unprecedented milestone, selling more than one million copies a week in July 1992.
Gaudenzio also helped found the Disney Academy in Milan, which is dedicated to discovering and nurturing young artists and to helping develop new technologies for Disney magazines.
After developing another 40 Disney-themed magazines for children, including pre-school magazines Cip and Ciop (Chip and Dale) and Bambi, Gaudenzio Capelli retired from Walt Disney Company Italia S.p.A. on March 31, 1994.