Nop by Bjorn Frank Jensen

Bjørn Frank Jensen was a Danish animator and cartoonist, who has worked on film projects in both Denmark and the Netherlands. Along with Børge Ring and Per Lygum, he was one of the three Danes working in the animation department of the Toonder Studio's in the 1950s and 1960s. Jensen also participated on a couple of comics productions, both in his home country and in the Netherlands. Most were based on existing franchises such as 'Pelle Svanslös' and Walt Disney's 'Li'l' Bad Wolf'. His longest-running original creation was the gag comic 'Nop' (1972-1973) about a jolly jester. 

Early life and education
Jensen was born in 1920 in Grenå, a seaport town on the east coast of Jutland. His father was a newspaper editor with an interest in painting, photography and ceramics. Young Bjørn showed an early talent for drawing, and developed a passion for film through Walt Disney's 'Mickey Mouse', Pat Sullivan's 'Felix the Cat' and the films of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. The family later moved to Copenhagen, where he eleven year-old kid won the first prize in a drawing contest organized by the Royal Theater. At age fifteen he found employment with the advertising agency Monte Rossi, where Henning Dahl Mikkelsen taught him the finer points of animation. It was during this period that he began his lifelong friendship with Børge Ring, with whom he would work on many animation projects in his later career.

Early comics work
But while Ring earned a living as a musician, Jensen's early career consisted of animation, comics and illustrations. For the children's magazine Højt Humør he drew the adventure serial 'De gæve Riddere' (1943-1944), loosely based on Mark Twain's 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court', and the gag strip 'Lille Mille' (1944). In 1942 he already participated in the production of 'Fyrtøjet', a feature length film by Allan Johnsen based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale 'The Tinderbox'. It was released in 1946. In the fall of 1946, Jensen and two colleagues spent a couple of months at the Moor Hall Studio in England, where they were trained by former Disney director David Hand.

Lille Mille by Bjorn Frank Jensen
'Lille Mille'.

Ring, Frank & Rønde
By 1948 Jensen got in touch with Ring again, and suggested they'd start their own animation studio. They were joined by producer Arne Rønde Christensen, with whom they founded Ring, Frank & Rønde in the Vesterbrogade in Copenhagen. They were later joined by Kaj Pindal, Kjeld Simonsen and Ib Steinaa, and by 1950 they transferred to the Vedbæk neighborhood. The team made animated shorts for advertising purposes. Among their notable clients were distiller De Danske Spritfabrikker, Lykkeberg canned fish and washing powder company Persil, for whom they animated the cinematic short 'Fest i Skoven' ("Party in the forest", 1950). Other assignments included animated segments for documentaries commissioned by the Ministries of Finance and Agriculture, dealing with Denmark's economical recovery after the war, such as Ove Sevel's 'Tallenes Tale' (1949) and Egon Møller-Nielsen's 'Grævlingen og harerne' (1950). They also animated segments for a UNICEF film about tuberculosis prevention for the Arabian countries.

The attempt to produce a second feature length film, based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale 'Blockhead Hans', turned out to be a financial and artistic disaster. Jensen had drawn the first storyboards in 1948, and attracted Nordisk Film to help produce the film. Jensen and Ring tried to recrute David Hand to direct the film, but Nordisk's mogul Holger Brøndum thought he was too expensive and shut the project down. The three animators had however invested in one of Hand's former animation camera. Nordisk offered to take over a majority share in their studio. Things went downhill from there, largely because of Nordisk's demands and cost-reducing interferences. The project was eventually a financial and artistic disappointment, and Jensen and Ring decided to try their luck elsewhere. During this period, Jensen also drew a comic strip about 'Odysseus', which was commissioned to Nordisk by Pommus.

Odysseus by Bjorn Frank Jensen

Toonder Studio's
Jensen and Ring headed for Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1952, where they found employment with the Marten Toonder Studios. The duo initially worked in the animation department under direction of Harold Mack and his wife Pamela. The team produced advertising spots for international clients like Guinness (London), Lotto (Cologne) and La Vache Qui Rit (Paris), but also educational films for Philips and Shell. For the State Department in Washington, they produced a series of cartoons related to post-war Europe and the Marshall Plan. Jensen and Ring were later joined by their compatriot Per Lygum, and when the Macks left the company in 1958, the three Danes formed the core of the animation department. Jensen stayed with the Toonder Studio's until his retirement in 1985, spending most of his time with the company when it was located in the castle of Nederhorst den Bergh. He served as an animator on sections of 'Asterix and Cleopatra' (1968), the first feature film based on Albert Uderzo and René Goscinny's comic series 'Astérix'. He also contributed to 'La Flûte à Six Schtroumpfs' ('The Smurfs and the Magic Flute', 1976), the movie adaptation of Peyo's 'Johan and Peewit' story of the same name, and was the animation director of 'Als Je Begrijpt Wat Ik Bedoel' (1983), the long anticipated feature film starring Marten Toonder's 'Tom Poes en Heer Bommel' (incidentally the first animated feature film produced in the Netherlands).

Li'l Bad Wolf by Bjorn Frank Jensen
'Li'l Bad Wolf' (Donald Duck #11, 1966).

Comics work
In addition to his animation work, Jensen had a couple of excursions into the comics medium. When the Toonder Studio's were commissioned to provide the Dutch Disney weekly with locally produced 'Big Bad Wolf' stories, Bjørn Frank Jensen was the first artist on duty. He drew about a dozen stories in 1965-1966, before Dick Matena and Jan Steeman became the feature's main illustrators. Jensen was also a sketch artist for the gag pages with the anthropomorphic cat 'Pelle Svanslös' (an original creation by Gösta Knutsson), which the Toonder Studio's produced for the Swedish publishing company Semic Press. The scripts were by Patty Klein. Jensen helped Andries Brandt with preliminary sketches for the newspaper comic 'Aafje Anders' (1971), but the eventual comic strip was drawn by Jan van Haasteren instead. For the comic magazine Pep, Jensen wrote and drew 'Nop' (1972-1973), a largely pantomime gag strip about a court jester. It either appeared on the magazine's mail page, or on the humor page 'Pep's Lonely Hearts Club', which also featured Jan van der Voo's 'Voortvluchtig'. Another comic by Jensen was a promo strip for Boni Records starring 'Tico Tac' for the synthpop single 'Woodpeckers from space' by Videokids in 1985. Jensen had also done the animation for the videoclip, while Frits Godhelp did the coloring. The 'Tico Tac' character was designed by Dutch artist Dirk Arend van Duijn.

In his spare time, Jensen wrote and drew two children's booklets, which remained unpublished. The first one was the fairy tale 'Nicolai's Wijsje', while the other one, 'Rood, geel en blauw', took a stance against racism. His short story 'De Slapende Draak' was however published in Donald Duck issue #6 of 1973.

Final years and death
After his retirement in 1985, Jensen contributed to the educational animated short 'Karate Kids' (1990) by Derek Lamb, which warned children in Third World countries against the dangers of AIDS and sexual abuse. Bjørn Frank Jensen passed away in Hilversum in September 2001 at the age of 81.

Woodpeckers from space by Bjorn Frank Jensen
'Woodpeckers from Space'.

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