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.

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

In 1942 Geesink and his brother Wim - who also his business partner - started their film career. They joined forces with Marten Toonder to set up the Toonder-Geesink Studios, intended as an animation studio. Among the people employed by them were Henk Albers, Piet Gertenaar, Richard Klokkers, Albert van Beek and Frans van Lamsweerde. 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. Among the famous names employed by 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. 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. 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

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)

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. 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.

www.GeesinkStudio.nl

Joop Geesink in De Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis

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