Swiss "Mickey Mouse" turns 75

Globi, the blue parrot with the big heart, is one of Switzerland's most famous cartoon characters. This year he celebrates his 75th birthday.

This content was published on July 23, 2007 - 15:29

The Swiss creation has moved with the times, becoming more politically correct and environmentally aware, but he has yet to fly across the country's borders.

Globi – with his blue feathers, yellow beak, distinctive red and black checked trousers and jauntily placed beret – shows no signs of slowing down, despite his advanced years.

The star of 75 books still accounts for annual sales of around 80,000 classic cartoon volumes and 40,000 educational books.

"Globi is almost as old as Mickey Mouse. Every child grows up with Globi because the grandparents or parents did," Gisela Klinkenberg, head of the Globi publishing house, told swissinfo.

"If they have children of their own, Globi comes out again, so it goes from generation to generation – and it's been doing that since 1932."

According to the very first Globi comic strip – in black and white and showing a somewhat rounder parrot minus the hat – Globi ended up in Switzerland by accident.

After hatching in the Sahara, he takes to the skies and spying a party he dives downwards – only to fall on his beak in the middle of rural Switzerland. The rest, as they say, is history...

Appeal to children

The reality is more mundane. Globi was created by Globus, a Swiss chain of department stores, for its 25th anniversary in 1932. The aim was to appeal to children – and it worked.

At first a human-sized Globi would appear at events and he had a comic strip in the Globus magazine. Then due to popular demand the first book appeared in 1935.

This led nine years later to the creation of the Globi publishing house. The millionth book was sold in 1948.

Globi's adventures, in German, although nine have also been translated into French, have seen the psittacine star travel the world, go into space and appear on the silver screen.

But he has not forgotten his adopted home: he has also met Swiss folk hero William Tell, worked as a farmer and done his military service.

Globi's appearance may have moved with the times – he is now taller and slimmer – but his character has remained the same, "He was always very helpful and curious and interested in a lot of things and he still is," said Klinkenberg.

Ruffled feathers

But Globi has not always been flying so high. In the 1970s some of the books came under fire for showing racist stereotypes – such as the black Africans in the first book, "Globi's journey around the world".

He was accused of being sexist and violent. All offending editions have since been withdrawn or changed.

"Globi had to change in the 1970s," Klinkenberg admitted. "He didn't have the same adventures or regard people and cultures in the same way as he did in the 1940s and 1950s."

These days Globi is more politically correct and has become very interested in environmental issues.

In his latest adventure, Globi helps a baby rhinoceros settle back into the wild in Africa. He has also made a foray into educational books, so children can study cooking or German with Globi – and presumably repeat what they learn parrot fashion.

Fans can also buy T-shirts, pyjamas and even Globi (non-alcoholic) champagne.

Patriotic parrot

However, despite all this domestic success the little blue parrot has not managed to spread his wings abroad.

Klinkenberg thinks this might be because Globi was born around the Second World War, when the borders were closed.

She explained a few attempts were made in the post-war period to crack the United States market, but Globi did not catch on.

The small publishing firm, which Globus recently sold to the Orell Füssli publishing house, has therefore decided to focus on the Swiss market.

"We have a lot of ideas for new adventures, also for the series where children can learn things like gardening and first aid," Klinkenberg said.

"We think that if this all goes well, then Globi can stay just the way as he is."

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson

Key facts

1932: Globi created for Globus's 25th anniversary.
1935: First book "Globi's journey around the world".
1944: Globi publishing house formed.
1946: First book in French.
1948: Millionth book sold.
1970s: Globi criticised for out-dated attitudes.
1997: 65th anniversary. "Globi at the post office" published, a bestseller. Globi stamp issued.
2000: Globi product line expanded.
2007: 75th anniversary. Globi publishing house sold to Orell Füssli. 75th book "Globi among the rhinos" issued.

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Creating Globi

The task of creating Globi in 1932 fell to the newly appointed head of Globus's publicity, Ignatius Karl Schiele, and illustrator Robert Lips.

At first they wanted to name their creation Kimbukku, but there were objections. As Globus was popularly known in Swiss-German as Gloobi, they decided to name the parrot Globi.

Globi is now written and illustrated by a team.

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