Cartoons honor Italian animation brothers


ROME -- With an eggshell cocked sideways on his head, freshly hatched Calimero, the lovable but hapless black chick growing up in a family of yellow siblings, has been an icon to generations of Italians.

The charming Calimero, who first appeared on the popular "Carosello" TV program in the 1960s, was created by the late brothers Nino and Toni Pagot, who became a major force within the country's animation sector after creating "Lalla, Piccola Lalla" (Lalla, Little Lalla) and the feature-length 1949 production "I Fratelli Dinamite" (The Dynamite Brothers, the first Italian film made in Technicolor) just after World War II.

Now, the internationally recognized family can add another feather to its cap: the Pulcinella Career Award for Italian animators, set to be presented during this year's Cartoons on the Bay festival. Nino's son Marco, now 50, will accept the award on behalf of the family business.

"For us, this is a great and wonderful honor because it recognizes the work and the creativity of our entire family," Marco Pagot says. "If my father and uncle were still alive, I think they would be very proud to be recognized like this."

The Milan-based Pagot family's first animation -- newspaper satires -- sprang from the imagination of young Nino in the 1920s. Since then, the family has been involved in virtually every facet of the Italian animation industry, including print, advertising, television, short films, feature-length productions and even video games. The family has collaborated with some of the biggest names in animation, including Joseph Barbera, Walt Disney and Japan's Hayao Miyazaki.

One interesting fact about family's early history is that Nino (who lived from 1908-72) and Toni (1921-2001) showed a flair as illustrators and storytellers as well as entrepreneurs, a rare but important combination of talents that contributed to the longevity of the enterprise they founded.

"In addition to making a high-quality product, I think part of the secret to the family's success has been the ability to consistently adapt and reinvent itself," says Marco, who began working in the family business at the age of 13 and was joined shortly thereafter by his sister Gi (they now run the company together). "What works in one period may not be appropriate in another, and so it's important to adapt to these kinds of changes."

According to Cartoons on the Bay director Alfio Bastiancich, that spirit is precisely why the festival chose its 2007 edition to honor the Pagot family.

"It was natural to present this award to the Pagot family because they have played such a key role in Italian animation for so long," Bastiancich says. "It is a great honor for us to honor such a talented family."