Avonturen van Prik en Prak, by Joop Geesink

Joop Geesink was a Dutch TV producer and puppet film animator, best known for creating 'Rick de Kikker' (1966-1968) and his signature character 'Loeki de Leeuw' (1972-2004), who livened up countless commercial TV breaks. He headed his own Dollywood studio, which was often in close association with the Marten Toonder Studios. However, he was also a comic artist.

Early life and career
Born in 1913 in The Hague, Geesink began his career as a painter of advertising billboards, mostly for cinemas. He then became a set designer for theaters, and worked in Paris for a while. He contributed illustrations and a comic strip called 'Prik en Prak' (1941) to the children's magazine Doe Mee in the 1930s and early 1940s. Together with Dutch novelist A.D. Hildebrand (famous for the children's book series 'Bolke de Beer') he drew the story 'De Reuzen Belfloor en Bonnevu in het land van Koning Kas Koes Kielewan' which was published as a novel in 1941.

Puzzle, by Joop Geesink 1939

Film career
In March 1942 Geesink started his film career, assembling a team of about fifteen co-workers and forming Joop Geesink Filmproducties. Among his earliest employees were Lou den Hartogh, Henk Kabos, Geertje Knoef, Frans van Lamsweerde, John van der Meulen, Mary Oosterdijk, Carol Voges and Henk Zwart. They initially worked in Geesink's house appartment in the Vijzelstraat in Amsterdam on a film in commission of the Dutch Railways: 'Pierus in de Contramine'. Geesink however lacked experience and professional material, and later in 1942 he joined forces with Marten Toonder and his business partner Jan Bouman to set up the animation studio "Geesink Toonder Teekenfilm-productie". Geesink's brother Wim Geesink was brought in as chief of staff and fincances. The studio expanded and attracted new employees like Henk Albers, Albert van Beek, Wim Bijmoer, Wim Bodewes, Wim Boost, Jan Dirk van Exter, Piet Gertenaar, Richard Klokkers, James Ringrose and Henk Sprenger, while moving into a larger building in the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal.

The firm was dissolved after only one year out of creative differences. Toonder wanted to make hand-drawn animated films, while Geesink was more interested in stop-motion and puppet films. In 1943 the Geesink brothers set up their own Dollywood Studios, which specialized in documentaries, advertising films and instruction films. Later, they also set up a live action division under the name Starfilm. Among the famous names who have worked for them throughout the years were Ton Beek, Piet de Groot, Harrie Geelen, Lo Hartog van Banda, Henk Kabos, Patty Klein, Frits Kloezeman, Georges Mazure, Mary Oosterdijk, Wil Raymakers, Koos Schadée, Han van Gelder, Jan van Haasteren, Carol Voges and Henk Zwart. In addition to commercial assignments, Geesink also produced personal projects, such as 'Het Wonderlijke Leven van Willem Parel' (1955), a film based on the popular comedy character Willem Parel, played by Dutch comedian Wim Sonneveld.

Okido, by Joop Geesink

The trademark of the Dollywood Studio's were puppet films. Among their creations were the 'Dutchy' films for the Dutch Dairy Company and many films for Philips.

Rick de Kikker
Between 1967 and 1968 the Geesink studios produced 'Rick de Kikker', a TV puppet series for broadcasting company TROS. Jan van Haasteren en Frits Kloezeman adapted the show into a newspaper comic strip for De Telegraaf in 1967 to 1968. The frog later became the mascot for amusement park Duinrell in Wassenaar. The studios also produced advertising comics like 'Pukkie Planta' (1953) by Henk Kabos and Johan Veeninga for Unilever and 'Piet Spriet en Ko de Koe' for the labels of Friesche Vlag milk in the 1950s. These weren't the only kind of comics the company created, though.

Other comics
Studio co-workers Henk de Wolf and Henk Zwart made the children's newspaper comic strip 'Fokkie Flink' (1946-1948) for newspaper Trouw. Geesink himself made two picture books with Henk de Wolf: 'In het rijk van Koning Leeuw' (1944) and 'Bolletje Dam' (1946). Together with Han Hoekstra, he also made four sticker collecting books sith the two dogs 'Flip en Flap' (1950-1951) for the coffee brand Douwe Egberts. The characters had previously appeared in a couple of similar books by Daan Hoeksema in 1930. Also for Douwe Egberts, Hoekstra and Geesink later cooperated on pop-up books based on the fairy tales 'Little Red Riding Hood' (1958) and 'Cinderella' (1959).

Flip en Flap by Joop Geesink
'Flip en Flap'

Loeki de Leeuw
But Geesink remains most fondly remembered for his signature character, 'Loeki de Leeuw' (1972-2004). Loeki was a stop-motion animated lion who appeared in hundreds of TV shorts used as bumpers during commercial breaks. Each five seconds-long short featured Loeki in an absurd situation, which usually left him befuddled. When something went above his head he simply uttered his catch phrase: "Asjemenou!" ("Well, I ever!"), which was a filler word studio member Han van Gelder often used. Occasionally Loeki was able to put a situation to his hand and triumphantically declared: "Voila!" ("There you go!"). While Loeki was the protagonist, there were also some less-famous side characters like his lioness girlfriend Roosje, Welpie the lion cub, Piep the mouse, Guusje the duck and Filiep the blue elephant. A small team of about ten animators worked on the shorts, including Henk Kabos and Cor Icke. First broadcast in 1972, 'Loeki de Leeuw' remained an iconic mainstay of Dutch television for 32 years. Over 7.000 shorts were created, some of which were also broadcast in France, the United Kingdom, Austria, Italy, Japan and the United States. In 1986 the character also received his own pantomime gag comic, created by Wil Raymakers for the children's magazine Okki. In 2004 the 'Loeki' shorts came to end because their distributor-producer STER (Stichting Ether Reclame) felt it became too costly. Loeki lives on as the Dutch TV award De Gouden Loeki ("The Golden Loeki") for "Best TV commercial", which was first awarded in 1995. The prize also has a Belgian counterpart named De Gouden Welp ("The Golden Lion Cub") and a pejorative counterpart for the "Worst TV commercial" named De Loden Leeuw ("The Lead Lion"). Loeki is also the mascot of the theme park Huis ten Bosch in Nagasaki, Japan.

Joop Geesink with Loeki and trademark cigar in 1981 (Leeuwarder Courant, 12 December 1981).

By 1977 Geesink launched 'Dusty', a kangaroo with a broom for his tale. The character originated in a series of animated TV shorts, produced by the Toonder Studios, aiming to create awareness for a clean environment. A promotional daily comic strip ran in De Telegraaf, sponsored by Sorbo, as well as a colored strip in Troskompas, the network magazine of Tros. 'Dusty' was sold to several foreign TV networks, including RAI Due in Italy, where it became a tremendous success. Among the many merchandising items was Dusty's own monthly comic magazine published by the Milanese publisher Epierre Edizioni, which ran for 24 issues between November 1978 and December 1979. The comics were produced by the Biereci Studios, which included such authors as Carlo Chendi, Luciano Bottaro, Giorgio Rebuffi, Enzo Marciante, Tiberio Colantuoni and Maria Luisa Uggetti. In the Netherlands the strips were drawn by artists associated by Geesink Artists, among them Frits Kloezeman.

Dusty, from De Telegraaf

Toonder Studios
When Dollywood went bankrupt, Geesink joined forces with the Toonder Studios once again. A trimmed version of the studios was relocated from Amsterdam to Castle Nederhorst in Nederhorst den Berg and a collaboration with Cinestone Studio's was started. Of the 150 puppetfilm co-workers only 15 remained. Geesink himself also left the studios, and continued to work from his home in Amsterdam. Joop Geesink continued to work until the very end of his life. His final designs were for the Carnaval Festival attraction in De Efteling, a theme park based on the illustrations of Anton Pieck

Death, legacy and influence
When Geesink passed away in Amsterdam in 1984, his daughter Louise took over the company. She began an association with artist Wil Raymakers to work on new character and mascot designs, as well new projects with 'Loeki de Leeuw', such as the 1986 comic page for children's magazine Okki. Joop Geesink's name lives on in the Joop Geesink Prize, an annual award distributed during the Holland Animation Filmfestival.

The looks of Bul Super, a shady businessman from Marten Toonder's 'Tom Poes' comic, were largely based on Joop Geesink. The character's first appearance was in the story 'De Superfilm-onderneming' (1944), in which Toonder reworked his disappointment over the failure of their joint studio. It must be said that the two men ended their business relationship on good terms, though.


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