'Het Allerliefste Wil Ik Een Racefiets (Jippo #11, 1977-1978).

Harrie Geelen has had a long and versatile career in Dutch media. He has been active as an animator, scriptwriter, illustrator, director, cartoonist, voice actor, songwriter and translator. Geelen had a long-term affiliation with the Marten Toonder Studios, and has worked for both the comic strip and the animation department. He is best-known for creating some of the most legendary Dutch children's TV shows of the 1970s, such as 'Oebele' (1968-1972), 'Kunt U Mij De Weg Naar Hamelen Vertellen, Mijnheer?' (1972-1976) and 'Q & Q' (1974-1976). As an illustrator, Geelen has provided the illustrations for many children's books written by his wife Imme Dros, while he is also the author of a couple of his own books. Generations of Dutch children have grown up with Geelen's writings, which makes him one of the most important contributors to Dutch cultural legacy.

Cover illustration by Harrie Geelen.

Early life and career
Harrie Geelen was born in 1939 in Heerlen, in the Dutch southern province Limburg, where he was raised into an artistic Catholic family. His father was an avid storyteller, while his mother came from a famous family of chalcographers. His sister Roos Geelen is an artist, and introduced him to the painters and sculptors of the Maastricht Academy. When his sister settled in Amsterdam with her husband André van den Heuvel, Harrie Geelen joined them in 1958 to study Dutch Language and Literature. He joined the Amsterdam Student's Union and was co-initiator of the cabaret group Sing-Sing. Geelen was also the editor and illustrator of the student's almanac, and for the programs of the cabaret performances. Later in life he worked as a teacher in animation and scriptwriting at the Rietveld Art Academy in Amsterdam.

Children's books
Harrie Geelen met the future children's novelist Imme Dros in the late 1950s, whom he married in 1963. Geelen also became the official illustrator of her stories, which were published in magazines and books. Dros and Geelen's children's books have been translated in French, Danish, Swedish and Japanese.  

Tom Poes parody
In 1961 Geelen first went to the Marten Toonder Studios in Amsterdam to ask permission for a parody of Toonder's 'Tom Poes', written and illustrated by himself. The spoof, titled 'Heer Bommel en de Weerbaarheidsgedachte', was part of 'Weerbaar en Student', a commemorative book about student's fighting units during World War I and II. It was made entirely in the style of a typical 'Tom Poes' text comic, including Toonder's actual characters. He didn't meet Toonder in person, but was informed that he reluctantly, agreed with the publication. It took a while before the young writer/artist returned to the Toonder Studios. I

Early TV career
In late 1962 Geelen broke off his studies and went to work as a copywriter for the advertising agency Prad. He was then quickly hired as storyboard artist and gag man with Joop Geesink's production company Dollywood. Around the same time Geelen also had his first ventures as a TV scriptwriter, when the broadcasting company VARA hired him to write songs for a special TV show about the young singer Rob de Nijs (1964-1966). He also wrote scripts for the youth's TV show 'Fanclub' (1965-1968), and the scripts and songs for the award-winning children's musicals 'Bah September' (1966) and 'Leve juffrouw Cannebier' (1968).

Heer Bommel en de weerbaarheidsgedachte
'Heer Bommel en de Weerbaarheidsgedachte', Harrie Geelen's 1961 Tom Puss parody. 

Toonder Studios
In 1967 Geelen became an employee of the Toonder Studios, thanks to Andries Brandt. He would work there until the early 2000s, albeit with intervals. Toonder had already moved to Ireland by then, and his studio was relocated to a castle in Nederhorst den Berg, The Netherlands. Geelen's first assignment was writing scripts for the weekly 'Tom Poes' comic for Donald Duck magazine. While the newspaper version of 'Tom Poes' was a text comic, with text underneath the images, the 'Tom Poes' stories in Donald Duck were balloon comics. One of Geelen's stories was 'Tom Poes en de Paspoort' (1967), drawn by Wim Lensen. However, his main occupation throughout the decades were the studio's film productions. Geelen was eventually appointed as "creative director", and involved in the writing, directing, storyboards, special effects and sound for many of the animation, live action and puppet productions. Geelen was also the scriptwriter of 'Als Je Begrijpt Wat Ik Bedoel' (1983), the feature length movie starring Marten Toonder's creations Tom Poes (Tom Puss) and Olivier B. Bommel (Lord Bumble), produced by Rob Houwer. Geelen served as co-director along with Björn Frank Jensen and Bert Kroon, while he also wrote the songs and provided the voice for the character Wammes Waggel. Geelen's animated film, 'Getekende Mensen' (1984), about heroin users, received the Dutch film prize Gouden Kalf (1985) and Joop Geesink Prize for Applied Animation during the Holland Animation Filmfestival (1985).

De Sommels van de Sommelsberg
De Sommels van de Sommelsberg, by Imme Dros and Harrie Geelen (Jippo #18, 1977-1978)

Later TV career
Since the late 1960s Geelen had been working extensively for Dutch broadcasting company KRO. Most of these productions were children's TV series with a soundtrack by Joop Stokkermans. The first of his hit series was 'Oebele' (31 episodes, 1968-1972), about a group of children from the fictious county Oebele aan de Oe. The main actors were Wieteke van Dort and Willem Nijholt. The follow-up series was 'Kunt U Mij De Weg Naar Hamelen Vertellen, Mijnheer?' (45 episodes, 1972-1976), which was loosely based on the fairy tale 'The Pied Piper of Hameln'. It starred Rob de Nijs, Loeki Knol, Martin Brozius and others. The adventure series 'Q & Q' (26 episodes, 1974-1976) was known as one of the most-watched Dutch children's series of all time, with an average of 3.1 million viewers. Geelen's programs for KRO television were groundbreaking because children filled a large part of the cast; in the case of 'Q & Q' even the two main actors were children. He also wrote the songs for the children's comedy TV show 'Peppi en Kokki' (1972-1978). He was a translator and voice actor for the American sections of the Dutch 'Sesame Street' (based on Jim Henson's creations). Geelen additionally produced a partially animated and partially live action TV adaptation of 'De Avonturen van Meneer Prikkebeen' (1972), based on the early comic strip 'M. Cryptogame' (1845) by the Swiss artist Rodolphe Töpffer. Geelen's later TV work includes the children's TV movie 'Een Meester Minder' (1974) and a TV series about the popgroup Dolly Dots (1983).

Film and theatrical career
Geelen wrote and directed a feature film, 'Pinkeltje' (1978), based on the books by Dick Laan, illustrated by Rein van Looy. He also translated many new and re-released Disney films into Dutch, including 'The Aristocats', 'Basil from Baker Street', 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs', 'Robin Hood', 'Peter Pan' and '101 Dalmatians'. Geelen additionally became a productive scriptwriter for theater productions, most notably for Frank Groothof's solo shows based on famous operas. Songs by Harrie Geelen have been performed by Boudewijn de Groot, Liesbeth List, Leen Jongewaard, Lex Goudsmit, Adèle Bloemendaal, Herman van Veen and André van den Heuvel.

'Het Beertje Pippeloentje', illustrations by Harrie Geelen

Children's comics and illustrations
Harrie Geelen made several children's comics and stories, among them 'Gracchus' (published in KRO-gids, 1969) and 'Job en Juultje' (Krantje 3). He made a rare adult comic, 'Strib', for the Groningen University Paper. Since 1971 he is best known as the illustrator of most books by his wife Imme Dros. They collaborated on short stories and comics for the magazine Jippo, published by Malmberg. In 2004 Geelen produced a movie based on his wife's children's book 'Annetje Lie in het Holst van de Nacht' (1987) for VPRO television. The picture was partially live-action, partially animation. 

Geelen has also livened up the pages of children's books by Dolf Verroen ('Zo Sterk Als Een Leeuw', 1990), Toon Tellegen ('Juffrouw Kachel', 1991), Paul Biegel ('Een Huis Vol Beren', 1993), Annie M.G. Schmidt ('Het Beertje Pippeloentje' [1994] and 'Beestenboel' [1995]) and Hans Hagens ('Stilte A.u.b. Ik Denk Aan De Kip', 1995). He also wrote and illustrated his own children's books: 'Koning Boon' (1984), 'Toen Sjoerd Naar De Dierentuin Ging' (1992), 'Herman het kind en de Dingen' (1993) and 'Het Boek van Jan' (2000). 

'Pissebed Fred' by Imme Dros, with illustrations by Harrie Geelen.

Return to Toonder Studios
Geelen returned to comic strips in 1987 and 1988 when he succeeded Eiso Toonder as the scriptwriter of Toonder's newspaper comic 'Panda'. Since artist Piet Wijn had left the comic a couple of years earlier, the artwork during Geelen's period was handled by Toonder staff artists Frits Godhelp and Jaap Lamberton. He wrote up to five 'Panda' stories. Geelen's later work for Toonder includes the TV movie 'Carmen & Ik' (1991), starring Frank Groothof and Porgy Franssen, and the animation series 'De Sommeltjes' (2003). Geelen was subsequently forced to retire from the Toonder Studios, when they closed down his one-man division.

Harrie Geelen's film, 'Getekende Mensen' (1984) won the Gouden Kalf (1985) and Joop Geesink Prize for Applied Arts (1985). As a children's book illustrator he received the Gouden Potlood (Golden Pencil) twice, in 1991 and 1994, for respectively 'Juffrouw Kachel' and Het Beertje Pippeloentje'. On 9 November 2014 he was named Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion. In 2001 an overview of Geelen and Imme Dros' work was held in the Literary Museum in The Hague. 

Family connections
Harrie Geelen's son, Pieter Geelen, is co-founder of the TomTom NV navigation company. 

Harry Geelen
Harry Geelen, around 1983

Series and books by Harrie Geelen you can order today:


If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.