Tijl by Ray Goossens
'Tijl en De Lamme' (KZV #40, 1950).

Ray Goossens was a Belgian animation director, best-known for his long-running and popular children's TV series 'Musti' (1968-1991) and 'Plons De Gekke Kikker' ('Splash the Frog', 1983-1991), both characterized by their minimal yet effective animation style. In terms of global broadcasts, Goossens may very well be the most universally succesful Belgian animator. Particularly 'Musti' has aired in nearly every continent in the world. Goossens was also active in Raymond Leblanc's animation studio Belvision, where he directed the first Astérix film: 'Astérix Le Gaulois' ('Asterix the Gaul', 1967). In the 1940s and 1950s Goossens created comics for Flemish newspapers and magazines, such as 'Reynaert de Vos' (1943, 1947-1948), 'Ouwe Taaie' (1945-1954), 'Mr. Snor' (1946), 'Jeepke's Avonturen' (1946), 'Tijl Uilenspiegel' (1945), 'Pimmeke' (1945-1948) and 'Bouboule' (1948-1950). Among his longest-running comics were 'Snops en de Bende' (1946-1951) and its spin-off 'Tsjoem'.

Early life and animation career
Ray Goossens was born in 1924 in Merksem. From an early age he had an interest in animation, unavoidably the work of Walt Disney, but also the Fleischer brothers. At age 10 the boy drew characters on pieces of celluloid. He studied drawing at the Antwerp Academy of Fine Arts, where he met Jules Luyckx, who shared the same passion for animated cartoons, and the two young men began working on their own 16 mm animation film.

In 1939, Goossens and Jules Luyckx came into contact with Belgian animation pioneers Henri Winkeler and Edmond Roex, with whom they began their own animation studio, the Antwerpse Filmmaatschappij (AFIM). The quartet's first professional animated cartoon was 'Metamorfose' (1940). In the period 1940-1943, the company made animated shorts such as 'Rapi Roum', 'Smidje Smee' and 'Hoe Pimmeke ter Wereld Kwam' (sources differ on the exact release dates). They managed to attract several studio workers, many of whom would later become well-known comic artists, such as Bob de Moor, Mon Van Meulenbroeck and Jef Nys. But Nys only stayed for four days because his school principal felt animation was "low art" and forced him to return to the academy. Other artists involved in the AFIM productions were Marcel Colbrant, Gaston Lambert and Andrée Van de Velde.

Ouwe Taai (De Zweep, 1946) by Ray Goossens
'Ouwe Taai' (De Zweep, 1946).

Comics by Regolux
In the early 1940s Goossens drew some comic strips, initially under the signature "Rego", but later as simply "Ray". His first one, 'Reynaart de Vos' (1941) was based on the medieval fable of Reynaert the Fox and appeared in the Antwerp newspaper Het Vlaamsche Land (March-July 1941). Unfortunately World War II made the working conditions very difficult and anyone who didn't have a proper job was expected to do forced labour in Germany. By the spring of 1944 the studio closed down and Goossens and Luyckx went into hiding until Belgium was liberated in the fall. The two men found employment as cartoonists at the publisher Hoste. Under the joint pseudonym Regolux they created the comic strip 'Ouwe Taaie' (1945-1954), a gag comic about an old but feisty bearded man. The title was a reference to Eddy Christiani's popular song 'Ouwe Taaie'. The comic first appeared in De Zweep in February 1945. From September 1945 on Goossens continued the series on his own until 1954. The duo created 'Jantje Pap' (April-August 1945) in the scouts magazine Kampvuur and made cartoons for the newspaper De Zondagsvriend. Luyckx continued 'Jantje Pap' on his own until November 1946.

Heading for Kleine Zondagsvriend #13, 1950.

Tijl & Lamme
The newspaper De Zondagsvriend launched a children's supplement on 17 May 1945, named Kleine Zondagsvriend (KZV), which became an independent weekly after ten issues and lasted until 18 December 1963 (though it became a supplement of Gazet van Antwerpen from 1956 on). Goossens was one of the driving forces behind the publication, along with Bob De Moor, Marc Payot and Tom Payot. Goossens and Luyckx drew the gag comic 'Tijl Uilenspiegel' (1945) again under the name Regolux. The series was based on the Flemish folk hero made famous by the similarly titled novel by Charles De Coster. It would later be retitled 'Tijl en De Lamme' or 'De Lamme', referring to Tijl's friend Lamme Goedzak. The duo also drew 'Pimmeke' for the same magazine, which starred the little boy from their wartime animated short 'Hoe Pimmeke ter wereld kwam'. When the team broke up in the second half of 1945, Goossens continued 'Tijl en Lamme', while Luyckx did the same with 'Pimmeke' until 1948.

Snops en de Bende by Ray Goossens

Snops, Tsjoem and other comics
De Kleine Zondagsvriend also featured a humorous adventure comic named 'Snops en de Bende' (1946-1951). It was comparable to typical children's gang comics from that period like Martin Branner's 'Winnie Winkle', Marc Sleen's 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' or Willy Vandersteen's 'De Vrolijke Bengels'. The series stars a young black-haired boy, Snops, his pet parrot Tsjoem and their friends. Tsjoem provided much of the comedy. He is an arrogant know-it-all and strangely enough shares the same size as the children. The similarities with Jef Nys' later comic strip 'Jommeke' (1955) - which also features two young boys and an arrogant pet parrot - are striking. After some initial gag strips, Snops and his friends had six continuing adventures between 1948 and 1951. Tjoem the parrot later received his own gag comic, 'Tsjoem'.

Between 1947 and 1948 Goossens created another version of 'Reinaert de Vos' (1947-1948), again as a text comic. Goossens was additionally an important illustrator and header designer for De Kleine Zondagsvriend. As a production artist, he also edited Burne Hogarth's 'Tarzan' strips to KZV's more puritan standards.

'Tsjoem' (1951).

In Het Handelsblad, Goossens illustrated the weekly comic 'Jeepke's Avonturen', which was first published on 7 March 1946, and the irregular appearing pantomime comic 'Mr. Snor', which debuted on 11 July 1946. In the late 1940s, he also drew a children's adventure comic, 'De Avonturen van Wim, Maaike en Tom', for the Flemish-nationalist magazine De Rommelpot, signing with his first name. 

Goossens additionally created 'Bouboule' (1948-1950) for the women's magazine Vrouw en Huis. Goossens also illustrated pages for Volksweekblad and De Gazet van Antwerpen. In 1952, he drew one-panel cartoons depicting the daily tournaments of the cycling contest Tour de France, serialized in De Gazet van Antwerpen. The series was inspired by the success of  Marc Sleen's similar annual Tour de France cartoons in newspaper Het Volk. 

Tsjoem, by Ray Goossens

All of Goossens' comics from the 1940s and 1950s show a strong animation influence. The characters are drawn in typical 1940s Hollywood cartoon fashion, with big round heads, Disneyesque eyes and four-fingered hands. All animals have an anthropomorphic look. Even the title cards of his comics look like a title card from an animated cartoon, complete with the head of the character(s) floating against a shining background. His comic strip 'Pimmeke' was effectively based on a character from his own animated short, while he used his comic strip character Lamme Goedzak in a post-war animated short called 'De Lamme Maakt Een Ritje' (1947). In 1948, he opened his own studio in the Justitiestraat in Antwerp, and created various animated film commercials for Impérial, Liebig, Gevaert, etc... Few of his work from this early period has survived.

De Lamme, by Ray Goossens
'De Lamme'.

Return to animation
In 1949, Goossens signed a contract with the agency Van Dam K.H., which enabled him to start a new, more professional animated studio. The company specialized in animated advertisements, but also created a few humorous cartoons. In 1956 their animated short 'Wat 'n vader' (1956) won first prize at the Festival of the Belgian Film. The short 'Paviljoen Wetenschappen' (1958) was created for the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. Goossens managed to employ former colleagues like Mon van Meulenbroeck again. A new member of his studio was Edgard Gastmans, who colored the cartoons when he was only 12 years old! The studio became such a full-time occupation that Goossens dropped all of his comics activities in 1954. At the time, Goossens' company was the only Belgian animation studio. Even Raoul Servais once visited the location disguised as a journalist to secretly find out more about animation for his own studio.

De Lamme, by Ray Goossens
'De Lamme'.

In 1954, the animation studio Belvision was established by Karel van Milleghem and Raymond Leblanc, respectively the chief editor and publisher of the magazine Kuifje/Tintin. The studio was mostly a vehicle to make animated TV shorts based on popular comics in Tintin. Their first efforts, 'Suske en Wiske' and 'Tijl Uilenspiegel' were based on Willy Vandersteen's similarly titled comic series and broadcast during the children's TV show 'Kom Toch Eens Kijken' (1955), hosted by Bob Davidse, A.K.A. 'Nonkel Bob'. The term "animation" should be used loosely here, because the shorts were nothing more than images from the comics with only the mouths moving. Leblanc realized they needed to professionalize and therefore went to Goossens, at that moment the only animation studio in Flanders.

Tintin animated series
The first big project of Belvision was 'Les Aventures de Tintin, d'après Hergé' (1957-1964), based on Hergé's comic strip 'Tintin'. Eight stories were adapted for TV and broadcast in daily episodes of five minutes each. Leblanc managed to obtain foreign aid from Larry Harmon (Larry Harmon Pictures) and Charlie Shows (Hanna-Barbera). Goossens was director and two of the animators at Belvision during this period were Cruz Delgado and Hugo De Reymaeker, later famous as HureyGreg wrote the scripts, often deriving heavily from Hergé's original tales. Several narratives were altered to give characters like Captain Haddock and Thompson & Thomson bigger parts. Haddock does not drink alcohol in the series and professor Calculus isn't deaf. Compared with 'Suske en Wiske', the series at least featured more actual action. Though, like most animated TV series at the time, it had to use limited animation. Hergé and Bob de Moor were vocally dissatisfied with the final product. When an interviewer once asked De Moor if he felt the cartoons did Hergé's work any justice, De Moor replied by saying the word "No!" eleven times in a row! Still, at the time, the 'Tintin' cartoons popularized the comic books on a global scale. But since 1992 the far superior 'Tintin' animated series by Nelvana has eclipsed Belvision's version, both in popularity as well as critical acclaim. This series also stays truer to the spirit of Hergé's comics, down to the graphic style.

Advertisement for 'Pinocchio in Outer Space'.

Other adaptations of Franco-Belgian comics
Throughout the 1960s, Belvision created animated shorts based on comic series like Raymond Macherot's 'Chlorophylle', Dino Attanasio's 'Signor Spaghetti' and René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Oumpah-Pah' They were broadcast on Belgian and French television and therefore only gained notability there. Goossens also made two short films with one of his own creations, 'Coin Coin' (1961) and 'Boothill McGall, sheriff' (1961).

Pinocchio in Outer Space
In 1965, Belvision made its first animated feature film, 'Pinocchio In De Ruimte' ('Pinocchio in Outer Space', 1965), a commission of the US company Swallow Ltd. The picture was made with help from American animators, namely Norm Prescott and Fred Ladd who worked for Filmation. Despite its space exploration, much of its visual execution still reminded too much of Walt Disney's 'Pinocchio' (1940). Ray Goossens and Vivian Miessen were responsible for about one third of the film's animation, initially aimed at a TV audience. But halfway through the project the producers decided to turn it into a motion picture instead. The animators got more means to improve the overall quality, but were not allowed to redo the first segment. As a result, the film turned out rather unbalanced. It was a critical and commercial flop, but still proved that Belvision was capable of creating animated pictures. A comic strip adaptation of 'Pinocchio in Outer Space' ran in Tintin in December 1965, drawn by Willy Lateste, but never appeared in album format.

Still from: 'Asterix the Gaul'.

Astérix films
Belvision decided to create a new animated feature, this time picking out a more commercially interesting subject: René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's comic strip 'Astérix'. The first 'Astérix' story, 'Astérix le Gaulois' ('Astérix the Gaul') was adapted as 'Astérix le Gaulois' (1967). Goossens directed the picture, while people like Nic Broca, Louis-Michel CarpentierVivian Miessen, Eddy Lateste, Willy LatesteLuc MazelPloegJean Torton and Claude Viseur worked in the animation department. Publishing company Dargaud greenlighted the production, yet Goscinny and Uderzo weren't informed. By the time they heard from the project, it was too late to prevent its premier. While 'Astérix the Gaul' is notable for being the first 'Astérix' film, it adapts the original comic book too literally, leading to a very slow pace. Goscinny and Uderzo instantly took legal action which gave them more creative output over the next 'Astérix' picture: 'Astérix et Cléopâtre' ('Asterix and Cleopatra', 1968). This was a considerabe improvement, since Goscinny knew what would work in animation and what wouldn't. He even added a few extra scenes and gags. Part of the production of the film was contracted out to the ToonderStudios with the collaboration of Børge Ring, Björn Frank Jensen, Per Lygum and Ed Van Schuijlenburg. Two other well-known names who animated on the film were Jean-Marie Borbouse and Patrick van Lierde. Goossens was not involved with this picture, since around 1967 he went back to become a freelance animator. As Belvision continued its course in the next decades, new animators like Wim Haazen joined the studio.

In 1968, Goossens was hired by TVA Dupuis (later TV Dupuis), the audiovisual department of Lombard's rival Dupuis, where he eventually replaced Eddy Ryssack as head of animation. He created various animated children's TV series: 'Musti' (1968), 'Tip en Tap' (1971) and 'De Pili's' (1973). All featured anthropomorphic animals. 'Musti' starred a young kitten, 'Tip en Tap' two puppy dogs and 'De Pili's' two mice. Of all these series, 'Musti' has proven to be the most enduring. 'Musti' is a white kitten originally created in 1945, but his debut cartoon only aired in 1968. The little cat lives with his parents and many animal friends, which include a rabbit, tortoise, hedgehog and a dog. The stories are aimed at toddlers and every episode is five minutes long. A female narrator usually describes what happens on screen. Episodes aired on a regular basis until 1982. The early incarnation of 'Musti' was still pronounced 'Muhsti' in those days. A reboot was created between 1990 and 1991, where the character's name was now permanently changed to the pronunciation "Moosti". In 2007, 'Musti' was rebooted in a 3D CGI version.

Books produced by TVA Dupuis with comic strips/picture stories based on Goossens' creations.

The 'Musti' cartoons have often been repeated on Belgian public television, but also enjoyed popularity in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Croatia, the United States, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Venezuela, India, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Australia, Israel and the Middle East. Naturally they inspired various merchandising products, one of which were illustrated books and comics for young beginning readers. Raoul Cauvin, also a scriptwriter for the TV series, was involved in writing many of these related products. One of them was a comic strip for Dupuis' women's weekly Bonne Soirée and its Flemish equivalent Mimo. The 'Musti' comic (1970-1972) was drawn in alternation by 'Musti' animators Jacques Van Driessche and Robert Lebersorg and appeared in text comics format, with the dialogue written underneath the images. Cauvin was also the writer behind some children's picture books based on Goossens' characters, such as 'Tip et Tap' and 'Les Pilis'. Other illustrators of 'Musti' children's books have been Jeremiah Persyn and Jeff Broeckx.

Musti controversy
Oddly enough for such an innocent character, Musti has been subject of controversy for many years. Dick Bruna, creator of the white rabbit 'Nijntje' ('Miffy' in English) has often accused 'Musti' of being plagiarism of his own character. A similar claim has been made about the Japanese kitten and merchandising phenomenon 'Hello Kitty' by Yuko Shimizu. In fact: many audiences have often confused Musti, Miffy and Hello Kitty with one another and there is a common misconception among children that they are all part of the same franchise. Bruna's publisher Mercis sued Sanrio, the distributors of 'Hello Kitty' and won his copyright claim, which led to the makers actually acknowledging their debt to Bruna. Since Goossens didn't do the same, Bruna kept a lifelong grudge against him and 'Musti'. Officially 'Musti' was created in 1945, 'Miffy' in 1954 and 'Hello Kitty' in 1974. This would mean that 'Musti' was the original. However, 'Musti' only made his public debut in 1968, 14 years after the introduction of 'Miffy', which adds to the confusion. Goossens always dismissed Bruna's criticism, which largely focused on the cross-like nose of both Musti and Miffy. Goossens remarked that a little cat and a bunny were uncomparable by definition, and that "it was still Jesus Christ who owned the copyright to the cross".

Plons and his farm friends.

Further TVA Dupuis projects & Plons
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Goossens and TVA Dupuis also created many advertising cartoons, including animated adaptations of comics like Jean Roba's 'Boule et Bill' (1975) and Paul Deliège's 'Bobo', as well as a promotional comic to advertize the educational TV series 'Hier Spreekt Men Nederlands' (1962-1972), which advocated the use of proper Dutch language, rather than Flemish dialect. TV Dupuis was dissolved in 1976, and Goossens moved to his own studio in Deurne in 1976, taking 'Musti' along with him. There, he also developed a new animated TV series for broadcasting company BRT, called 'Plons de Gekke Kikker' ('Splash the Frog', 1983-1991). Much like 'Musti', Plons had many animal friends, but his stories were set on a farm. The cartoons, written by Guido Staes, were broadcast across the globe too.

Final years and death
Between 1976 until his retirement in 1989, Ray Goossens was an animation teacher at the Brussels film school R.I.T.C.S. He passed away in 1998 at age 74. His signature character Musti remains globally popular. Re-runs of both 'Musti' and 'Plons' are still broadcast on Belgian public television. 

Ray Goossens.

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