Famous Mouse, Not Mickey

Do you recognize this little dude?

One of my first childhood objects of adoration was a puppet. His name was Topo Gigio, and he was a sweet, childlike Italian mouse who appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was all done in the pre-CGI era, but Topo seemed really alive.

This rather beaten-up facscimile of Topo used to be a key chain, until the chain broke off. We would sometimes eat at a family-style restaurant that had a treasure chest full of miscellaneous little toys for kids—the precursor of the Happy Meal toy, only you got the toy after your meal to ensure good behaviour. I was thrilled to bits when the waitress handed me this tiny Topo Gigio.

I used to think Ed Sullivan was imposing and cold, until he started interacting with Topo. Topo would appear near the end of each episode. Often he would be dressed in his nightclothes, about to go to bed. He’d indulge in a little banter with Ed and then climb up Ed’s arm and say, “Eddieeee, keeese me goodnight,” to which Ed would oblige. Even Ed Sullivan was entranced by Topo. Then Topo would climb into his little puppet bed and fall asleep, and the action would move into a dream sequence, which was often of a musical variety.

It took four puppeteers to make the 10″-tall Topo come to life, and the effects were remarkably realistic. (IMDB actually lists him as an “actor.”) For copyright reasons there aren’t many clips of Topo’s Ed Sullivan Show appearances, but they were something like the one below.

If you do not find Topo adorable, you are made of stone.

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