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Pirelli Toys in the 1950s: From Pigomma to Rempel

The sixth issue in 1952 of Pirelli. Rivista di informazione e di tecnica contained an article by Franco Vegliani under the heading “The Title of Philosopher to the Inventor of the Toys”. This epithet, attributed to Bruno Munari, is a quotation from Pablo Picasso, who was asked if he knew who had created the famous Meo Romeo toy that he had on a shelf in his studio. The artist was probably alluding to the subtle intellect and great seriousness required when designing toys for children. But then he considered all children to be natural-born artists and that the difficult thing was to stay that way as adults.

Bruno Munari was firmly convinced that children constitute the perfect public, because they know what they want and they have no preconceived ideas. He designed Meo Romeo the cat for Pigomma-Pirelli in 1949 and presented it in the pages of Pirelli magazine that year, in an article entitled “The Foam Rubber Cat Has Nylon Whiskers”. The prototype of the toy was black, but it was made in reinforced foam rubber in various colours – white, yellow, grey, brown, and green. The foam rubber was soft and smooth, pleasant to the touch, and the metal wire that acted as a skeleton meant that children could make this animal adopt all sorts of positions, as though it were a real live animal missing just its voice.

The 1952 article we mentioned by Vegliani introduced “the Happy Pigomma Family” which included not just Meo Romeo but also Disney’s Pluto, Pagot’s Pasqualina giraffe, Maggia’s Patrizia doll and Bruno Munari’s latest creation in reinforced foam rubber. This was Zizì the monkey, which in 1954 earned the great Italian designer the first Compasso d’Oro award, the longest-running prize for industrial design.

There was a great focus on safe materials for toys during Bruno Munari’s years as artistic director, and an article in 1957 introduced readers to the “silent toys” made by the Azienda Roma-Pirelli that were designed not just with technical and aesthetic criteria in mind, but also with educational and pedagogical objectives. The catalogue the following year included “Rempel patent” toys for young children: the patent dated from the early 1950s in Akron, where the toys were made by the Ukrainian sculptor Rempel – but Pirelli had already been making moulded and inflatable rubber toys, and playground balls, for over sixty years.

Taking inspiration from these great lessons by the masters of design, for some years now Pirelli Foundation Educational has been putting on educational courses for young people, encouraging them to use their imagination, for example, to design a new tyre tread or to create an advertising poster.

The sixth issue in 1952 of Pirelli. Rivista di informazione e di tecnica contained an article by Franco Vegliani under the heading “The Title of Philosopher to the Inventor of the Toys”. This epithet, attributed to Bruno Munari, is a quotation from Pablo Picasso, who was asked if he knew who had created the famous Meo Romeo toy that he had on a shelf in his studio. The artist was probably alluding to the subtle intellect and great seriousness required when designing toys for children. But then he considered all children to be natural-born artists and that the difficult thing was to stay that way as adults.

Bruno Munari was firmly convinced that children constitute the perfect public, because they know what they want and they have no preconceived ideas. He designed Meo Romeo the cat for Pigomma-Pirelli in 1949 and presented it in the pages of Pirelli magazine that year, in an article entitled “The Foam Rubber Cat Has Nylon Whiskers”. The prototype of the toy was black, but it was made in reinforced foam rubber in various colours – white, yellow, grey, brown, and green. The foam rubber was soft and smooth, pleasant to the touch, and the metal wire that acted as a skeleton meant that children could make this animal adopt all sorts of positions, as though it were a real live animal missing just its voice.

The 1952 article we mentioned by Vegliani introduced “the Happy Pigomma Family” which included not just Meo Romeo but also Disney’s Pluto, Pagot’s Pasqualina giraffe, Maggia’s Patrizia doll and Bruno Munari’s latest creation in reinforced foam rubber. This was Zizì the monkey, which in 1954 earned the great Italian designer the first Compasso d’Oro award, the longest-running prize for industrial design.

There was a great focus on safe materials for toys during Bruno Munari’s years as artistic director, and an article in 1957 introduced readers to the “silent toys” made by the Azienda Roma-Pirelli that were designed not just with technical and aesthetic criteria in mind, but also with educational and pedagogical objectives. The catalogue the following year included “Rempel patent” toys for young children: the patent dated from the early 1950s in Akron, where the toys were made by the Ukrainian sculptor Rempel – but Pirelli had already been making moulded and inflatable rubber toys, and playground balls, for over sixty years.

Taking inspiration from these great lessons by the masters of design, for some years now Pirelli Foundation Educational has been putting on educational courses for young people, encouraging them to use their imagination, for example, to design a new tyre tread or to create an advertising poster.

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