De Ontbrekende Schakel, by Picha
'De Ontbrekende Schakel' (Spetters #1, April 1981), a comic book adaptation of 'Le Chaînon Manquant' ('The Missing Link'). 

Picha is one of the best known Belgian animators in the world. He is most famous for his Tarzan parody, 'Tarzoon: La Honte de la Jungle' ('Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle', 1975). His trademark style consists of sex parodies, mixed in with political-social satire. He personally adapted two of his later films, 'La Chaînon Manquant' ('The Missing Link', 1980) and 'Le Big Bang' ('The Big Bang', 1987), in comic book versions. During the 1960s and 1970s Picha was notable as an editorial cartoonist and enjoyed an international career. Although best known for his adult animated pictures, he also produced more child-friendly animated TV series, such as 'Zoo Olympics' (1990-1991), 'Zoo Cup' (1992-1993) and 'Les Jules... Chienne de Vie' (1996). 

Early life and cartooning career
Picha was born in 1942 in Brussels as Jean-Paul Walravens. He studied at the Saint-Luc Higher School of Arts in Brussels. His first cartoon was published in Pourquoi Pas? when the artist was only 15 years old. At age 18 he fell ill with tuberculosis, which left him nine months in a sanatorium, where he spent his time drawing provocative cartoons. Among Picha's graphic influences were Ronald Searle, Charles Addams and Siné. From 1960 on he worked as an editorial cartoonist for Belgian newspapers like La Libre Belgique and De Standaard and magazines such as Pan, Spécial and De Nieuwe. In France he could be read in Lui and Hara Kiri (nowadays Charlie Hebdo), in Germany in Pardon and in the Netherlands in Vrij Nederland and the Provo paper God, Nederland en Oranje. In the United States he appeared in Evergreen, National Lampoon and The New York Times.

Influenced by the free-spirited 1960s, Picha drew many cartoons poking fun at sex, religion and militarism. He also designed posters for public demonstrations. In issue #222 (2 July 1969) of Spécial, he drew a cartoon depicting Jesus on the cross, surrounded by worshipping nuns. The reason for their adoration only becomes clear on closer inspection: his large penis has also been nailed to the wood. A few days later, Belgian cardinal Jozef Suenens sent an official letter of complaint, warning the editors to never republish such offensive cartoons again. Picha later found out the Belgian Catholic Church had put him on a blacklist. According to him this is the reason why some of his later work, including his animated films and series, weren't as widespread in certain parts of Belgium, "particularly Flanders, where the Catholic Church is more influential than in Wallony".

Still, in later interviews Picha claimed he wasn't all that interested in politics. At the time, he merely worked as a political cartoonist because it was the only way a graphic artist could earn a living. Picha also believed that a political cartoon can't change the world, only demistify certain people and taboos in the eyes of readers. His work was collected in several books, including 'Paranoia' (1970), 'Picha au Club Méditerranée' (1971), 'Chastity' (1973), 'Au Secours' (1973), 'Persona non Grata' (1975) and 'Démocratie Belge' (with Pierre Bartier, 1976).

Persona Non Grata by Picha
From: 'Les Chefs d'Oeuvre du Dessin d'Humour' (Anthologie Planète, 1968). Translation: "Shush! The police!! Act like you never saw me..." 

TV, film and media appearances
Near the end of the 1960s, Picha worked for the Walloon public TV channel RTB (nowadays RTBF) for the pop music show 'Vibrato'. In 1972 he designed the film poster for Benoît Lamy's documentary 'Cartoon Circus', a Belgian documentary about cartoons and comics,  in which he also appeared alongside Siné, Roland Topor, Cabu, Jean-Marc Reiser, François Cavanna, Professeur Choron, Gal (Gerard Alsteens), Georges Wolinski, Willem, Joke and Jules Feiffer. Picha also designed the film posters for Benoît Lamy's 'Home Sweet Home' (1973) and Thierry Zéno's 'Des Morts' (1979). The cartoonist acted in the live-action short 'Fumeurs de charme' (1985) by Frédéric Sojcher, which also starred the French singers Serge Gainsbourg and Bernard Lavilliers.

Tarzoon: The Shame Of The Jungle
Inspired by the success of Ralph Bakshi's X-rated animated feature 'Fritz the Cat' (1972), Picha became an animator. His debut film, 'Tarzoon: La Honte de la Jungle' ('Tarzoon: The Shame of the Jungle', 1975) is a sex parody of 'Tarzan'. In Picha's version, the so-called "lord of the jungle" is a pathetic loser, whose loin cloth keeps falling down. After being unable to sexually satisfy Jane, she is kidnapped by man-size jumping testicles. The plot tackles every jungle stereotype in existence, including dangerous animals, oafish safari hunters and hungry cannibals.  Apart from 'Tarzan', Hergé's 'Tintin in the Congo' is briefly spoofed as well. In a vicious parody of the comic book's pro-colonial tone, Tintin is seen converting black boys to Christianity. When one boy doesn't pay attention, he hits him over the head with his crucifix.

Still, Picha didn't run into copyright troubles with Hergé, but instead with the estate of 'Tarzan' novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs. Picha was sued, but the judge ruled in his favour that the picture was obvious satire. Nevertheless, the animator took the precaution of changing the title and titular character from 'Tarzan' into 'Tarzoon'. Soms U.S. prints even completely retitled it as 'Jungle Burger'. They also censored five minutes' worth of material and rewrote some dialogue. Johnny Weissmuller, jr., son of the iconic Tarzan actor, took the film more in good fun. He even voiced Tarzoon in the American dub. Other celebrities featured in the U.S. dub version are comedians John Belushi, Bill Murray and Christopher Guest. Despite the controversy, 'Tarzoon' was an international cult hit. In 1977 Dutch comic artist Paul Schuurmans also drew a pornographic 'Tarzan' parody comic, titled 'Tarzoen - 1001 Sex Avonturen'. Despite a similar title and premise, it had nothing to do with Picha's film. 

Tarzoon by Picha
'Tarzoon' film poster.

The Missing Link 
During the 1980s Picha released two more animated features. 'Le Chaînon Manquant' ('The Missing Link', 1980) is set during the Stone Age, where a pink, hairless cavechild is rejected by his tribe and adopted by a Brontosaurus and a Pterodactyl. The picture had higher production values and followed much of the same elements which made 'Tarzoon' a success. The film spoofs both the evolution theory as well clichés about prehistory, including the idea that cavemen and dinosaurs lived during the same "era". Dirty sex jokes were, of course, back as well. Nevertheless, 'The Missing Link' wasn't as succesful as 'Tarzoon'. Picha also adapted 'Le Chaînon Manquant' into a comic strip, prepublished in Pilote issue #M78 (November 1980) and serialized in Jan Bucquoy's magazine Spetters under the Dutch title 'De Ontbrekende Schakel' (1981). Dargaud also released it as a comic book. 

The Big Bang
Seven years later, Picha brought out a new animated feature, 'Le Big Bang' ('The Big Bang', 1987). Contrary to his previous pictures, 'Le Big Bang' wasn't a parody, but an original script. The dystopian story is set after World War III, when most of the world's civilization has been destroyed. Russia and the United States have created a new state named the U.S.S.S.R.  Although it seems that the two superpowers are now at peace, they still declare war at another country, Vaginia, which is only inhabited by women. God feels a new war is lurking and therefore sends a garbage man to stop the Earthlings. 'Le Big Bang' featured political satire, though fans of sex comedy weren't forgotten. When the picture was translated in English and ran in British film theaters, censors edited a scene in which God swears and has sex with his wife on a cloud.  His foul language and the sex scene were both cut. Picha adapted 'Le Big Bang' into a comic book, published by Albin Michel. Unfortunately the film failed to make an impression at the box office, which put Picha's cinematic career on hold for the next 20 years. 

Snow White, the Sequel
In 2007, Picha returned to animated features by directing 'Blanche-Neige, La Suite' ('Snow White, The Sequel'), a self-declared "sequel" to Walt Disney's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs', made 70 years earlier. Following his trademark style, the picture was another sex parody. Though, contrary to what the picture's promotional campaign claimed, it was hardly the first new animated feature based on 'Snow White'. Picha couldn't claim that he was the first creator of a pornographic animated parody of 'Snow White' either. In 1973 David Grant and Marcus Parker-Rhodes made the 11-minute animated short, 'Snow White and the Seven Perverts' (also known under its German title 'Schneeflittchen unter den Sieben Bergen', 1973), which features orgies between Snow White, the Dwarfs and the Prince. This short was also included in Bruno Mattei's live-action film 'Sesso Perverso, Mondo Violento' (also known as 'Perversione del Sesso', 1982). 'Blanche Neige, La Suite' flopped at the box office, which put an end to Picha's animation career. 

One of the animators on 'The Missing Link' was Carine de Brab. Other noteworthy people who once worked in Picha's animation studio were Jean-Marie BorbouseTouïs, Borge Ring and Nicole Van Goethem, the latter most famous as the director of the Academy Award-winning short 'A Greek Tragedy' (1987).

TV animation
Apart from making cartoons aimed at adults, Picha has also made more child-friendly animated series for television, including 'Zoo Olympics' (1990-1991) and 'Zoo Cup' (1992-1993), which respectively spoofed the Olympic Games and the World Cup Association Football with anthropomorphic animals partaking in the events. The only recurring character is a snake journalist, Jean-Baptiste Le Pied, who comments on each game. 'Zoo Olympics' premiered on the pay channel Canal+ and was broadcast on La Cinquième, Le Télétoon and in Dutch on the Flemish public TV channel TV2 (nowadays Ketnet). The idea of animals playing a sports game wasn't entirely new, though. In 1971 the Walt Disney Company produced the live-action film 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks', which has an animated segment in which a group of animals play a football match. And in 1980 Steven Lisberger directed the animated TV film 'Animalympics' (1980) which features various animals partaking in the Olympic Games.

Another children's TV series by Picha, 'Les Jules... Chienne de Vie' (1996), starred two unfortunate dogs, both named Jules, and their canine friends. The series was broadcast on the pay channel Canal+ and rebroadcast on France 2, France 3 and Canal J. In Québec, Canada, it aired under the shortened title 'Les Jules'. In 1996 writer Jean Cheville and illustrator Nadine Forster adapted four episodes into a series of illustrated books for Lombard. Picha was also involved with an animated TV adaptation of Paul Cuvelier's comic strip 'Corentin', in cooperation with Média-Film, Saban International and produced by Raymond Leblanc's studio Belvision: 'Les Voyages de Corentin' (1993-1998). Jean van Hamme was screenwriter. 

From: 'Picha 1' (Éditions MEET, 1965).

In 1964 Picha won the International Prize at the first edition of the International Cartoon Festival of Knokke-Heist. Three years later, in 1967, he won 'Best Political Cartoon' at the first edition of the International Cartoon Festival of Montréal. 

Legacy and influence
Together with Raoul Servais, Picha is the best known Belgian animator worldwide. However, Picha's oeuvre is much smaller and his pictures never received an award. Out of all four releases, only 'Tarzoon' brought in a huge profit and remains his best remembered film. In general, critics have always dismissed Picha's animated films as random, low-brow and puerile pictures. His animated career also overshadowed his work as a comic artist and cartoonist. To this day there hasn't been a book republication or a DVD collection of his cartoons yet. Picha was an influence on Jean-Louis LejeuneMarec and Philippe Moins

Picha's daughter, Mona Walravens, is active as a film actress. 

Documentary about Picha
For those interested in Picha's life and career, the documentary, 'Mon Oncle d'Amérique est Belge' (2006), directed by Éric Figon and Picha's niece Françoise Walravens, is highly recommended. 

Cartoon by Picha
Translation: "This isn't a sleazy movie!" 

Series and books by Picha you can order today:


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