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4 Ways Disney and Italy IntersectDiscover how one of America's iconic businesses has tasted or shared the dolce vita
Trying to find information on Walt Disney's relationship with Italy isn't easy. Do a Google search of "Walt Disney and Italy," and you'll see. Mostly what turns up is a list of vacations in Italy that the Walt Disney Company offers tourists. But anyone who has carefully watched Disney films over the years or visited either Italy or Walt Disney World's Epcot theme park in Florida knows there's more to the relationship than that. Here are some ways Italy and Disney have connected:
In 1932, Mario Nerbini began a newspaper for children in Italy, which contained stories and illustrations featuring Topolino. Not surprisingly, there were copyright issues, according to Swide.com, but Nerbini bought full rights and included writing by Floyd Gottfriedson, who was a prominent Disney illustrator. True to Italian culture, Topolino featured versions of classic stories, such as the Count of Monte Cristo, Don Quixote, and the Three Musketeers.
Although, the comic book has changed hands over the years and went on hiatus when the United States and Italy were embroiled in World War II, Topolino is still published today. In fact, it is one of the longest running comic books in publishing history. You can read its entire history on the Swide site and see some of the recent covers on Comic Vine.
Part of the problem has been attributed to the dark storyline of the novel, which was Disneyfied for the film but still took some getting used to by American audiences. Still, the film is considered a masterpiece of animation and earned two Academy Awards for Best Score and Best Song for “When You Wish Upon a Star," which has become the theme song of the Disney company. More than 70 years after the film's release, whether you're visiting a Disney theme park or a charming village in Italy, you'll likely find Pinocchio souvenirs to take home. After all, the marionette, who wanted to be a real boy and whose nose grew with every lie, is still enchanting audiences all over the world in print and on screen.
3. Epcot's Italy Pavilion
While the actual city never materialized (although Celebration, Fla. was somewhat of an attempt) as Disney envisioned, the theme park does have a World Showcase in which different countries share a bit of their traditions through native staff, shops, attractions, entertainment, and food. Italy's pavilion in World Showcase features a bridge and non-functioning gondola and a replica of the original campanile in Saint Mark's Square of Venice. There is also a replica of the 14th century Doge's Palace and a fountain representing Bernini's Neptune fountain.
In addition to the popular wine bar and pizzeria, Via Napoli, there's a sit-down Italian restaurant and shops selling imported goods, including perfume, wines and liqueurs, edible treats, and jewelry and apparel. There's also a food cart, in which passers by can purchase gelato and espresso, which is close to the real deal and always comes with a side of conversation with the Italian baristas. Entertainment in the pavilion has included comedians, Tuscan flag throwers (Sbandieratori Di Sansepolcro), and even La Befana (during the holiday season).
4. Other Disney Characters
Cars 2 featured an Italian race car, Francesco Bernoulli, who was voiced by Italian American actor John Turturro. During the course of the film, Francesco and Lightning McQueen race in the fictitious town of Porto Corsa in Italy. McQueen's team stays with Luigi and Guido's uncle, whose name is Topolino, in a nod to the Mouse himself. See how things come full circle?
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