Kaatje et Klopje, by Jacques Eggermont

Jacques Eggermont was a Belgian animator, who was mostly active in the 1940s. During World War II, he worked for a small animation studio called C.B.A. in a steady collaboration with Eddy Paape. The studio would have remained unnoticed in history, if it had not launched the careers of four of the most important post-war European comic artists: besides Paape, also André Franquin, Morris and Peyo. As a result of several bad circumstances Eggermont was never able to realize his ambitions to its full potential. He made a few one-shot comics and was active as a caricaturist as well. 

Early life and career
Born in 1918, Jacques Eggermont got his education at the Institut Saint-Luc in Brussels. Together with Eddy Paape, he enrolled at the section Arts and Decoration, and focused on a career as a painter. Disappointed by the offers - the mostly religious art assignments didn't meet up with the artists' innovative ambitions - Eggermont and Paape switched their focus to animation. One of their teachers in this profession was Carlo Queeckers. Eggermont and Paape made a short animated film for their exams, called 'Peinture animée'. It showed the seasonal changes of a landscape on canvas. After their graduation, Eggermont and Paape offered their services to French animator Jean Image, but were turned down.

Title card for Paape and Eggermont's C.B.A. productions.

Animation career
Their film was however noted by Paul Nagant, who owned the Compagnie Belge d'Actualités (C.B.A.), a small animation studio in Liège. Nagant had started his firm in 1937 to make news films for the cinema, but had switched to animation after the German suppressor took control of all news media in 1940. When his partnership with Belgian animator Albert Fromenteau ended, Nagant hired Eggermont and Paape, who subsequently worked on various wartime projects under the anglicized and joint pen name Jackeddy. For Eggermont, animation was a true passion, while Paape just wanted to make money so he could further develop his painting skills. Therefore, Eggermont provided the artistic drive, while Paape operated as a steady workhorse. The studio produced the film 'Zazou chez les Nègres' (1943) and started working on a sequel, called 'Zazou gardien de phare', when a fire burned down the original studio. While Paape ended up in the hospital, Eggermont resumed his work, and animated the popular songs 'Un mètre vingt... une brute!', 'La Petite Brosse à Rimmel's' and 'Y'a des zazous dans le quartier' for the film 'Image par Image'. The film is interesting because it applied typical elements from comic strips, like thought balloons and exclamation marks above a character's head.

Near the end of the war, C.B.A. relocated to Brussels, where the team was accompanied by young artists like André Franquin, Morris and Georges Salmon. The started working on 'Il était une fois', another film based on popular songs ('Il était... un petit navire' and 'Le Chat d'la Mèr' Michel'). In addition, the young artists made picture stories for the magic lantern, to supplement their income. Eggermont left C.B.A. in the summer of 1945 to fulfill his military service, and was replaced by the young Pierre Culliford, who would become known as Peyo, the creator of the Smurfs.

Kaatje et Klopje, by Jacques Eggermont

Comics career
When C.B.A. folded, his colleagues moved on to become important comic authors for the publishing house Dupuis, but Eggermont didn't feel much for this medium. He nevertheless made a few comics to earn money, such as 'Bicky' and the duo 'Kaatje en Klopje', though it is unknown whether they were published?  He made a comic strip based on 'Tijl Uilenspiegel' (1947), which appeared in Franc Jeu from 28 September 1947 on.

Final attempts at animation
After the Liberation, he worked on some more advertising films for Nagant, before founding his own studios, L'Institut Photographique de Belgique in 1948. One of his studio apprentices was the future Belgian cinematographer Willy Kurant. Eggermont made some advertising films with his assistant Julien Bal, but had more ambition to create animated fiction films. He asked his old C.B.A. colleagues to join him, but they preferred to stick to their steady income at Dupuis. After two hard years, Eggermont's studios had to close its doors in 1950. Eventually he decided to write a letter to the Godfather of Animation, Walt Disney, adding a book with sketches inspired by Disney's 'Snow White'. This was his last hope and he crossed fingers that Disney might give him some professional advice or a chance to work for him? Instead, the Disney Company sent him an angry letter, in which they threatened to sue him if he continued with this plagiarism. This response devastated and embittered Eggermont for the rest of his life.

Final years and death
After his rejection Eggermont drew some caricatures for Pourquoi Pas? His luck improved when he inheritated a huge fortune from his father. Eggermont left Pourqoi Pas? and settled in the South of France, where he lived in a trailer in a nudist camp. He eventually returned to Belgium to work as a painter and piano tuner. Jacques Eggermont died in November 1998.

Jacques Eggermont
Jacques Eggermont working in his studio.

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