De Ontbrekende Schakel, by Picha
De Ontbrekende Schakel (Spetters #1, April 1981)

Picha is one of the most famous Belgian animators in the world, along with Raoul Servais. Contrary to Servais, though, he is not critically acclaimed and mostly known for low-brow sexual animated feature films such as his signature work, 'Tarzoon: La Honte de la Jungle' ('Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle', 1975). Despite his notoriety he also made more child-friendly animated TV series, such as Zoo Olympics' (1990-1991), 'Zoo Cup' (1992-1993) and 'Les Jules... Chienne de Vie' (1996). He was also a cartoonist in the underground press during the 1960s and 1970s and adapted many of his animated films into comic books.

Picha was born in Brussels in 1942 as Jean-Paul Walravens. He studied at the Saint-Luc's Institute of Fine Arts in Brussels. His first cartoon was published in Pourquoi Pas? when the artist was only 15 years old. From 1960 on he worked as a cartoonist for magazines like God, Nederland en Oranje, Pan, Hara-Kiri, National Lampoon, La Libre Belgique, Vrij Nederland, Spécial and The New York Times. He published several comic book albums, 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: Persona Non Grata

Near the end of the 1960s, he worked for the Belgian television network RTB for the pop music show 'Vibrato'. In 1972 Picha 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, Georges Wolinski, Willem, Joke and Jules Feiffer. He also designed the film posters for Benoît Lamy's 'Home Sweet Home' (1973) and Thierry Zéno's 'Des Morts' (1979). Picha acted in the live-action short 'Fumeurs de charme' (1985) by Frédéric Sojcher, which also starred the French singers Serge Gainsbourg and Bernard Lavilliers.

Inspired by the success of Ralph Bakshi's X-rated animated feature 'Fritz the Cat' (1972), Picha became an animator in the mid 1970s. His debut film, 'Tarzoon: La Honte de la Jungle' ('Tarzoon: The Shame of the Jungle', 1975) spoofed Tarzan and every jungle stereotype in existence, combined with pornographic jokes. For only four seconds the film also lampoons Hergé's 'Tintin in the Congo', with a scene where Tintin is seen converting little black boys to Christianity, banging one over the head with his crucifix because he isn't paying attention. Still, Picha didn't run in trouble with Hergé but with the estate of 'Tarzan' novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs, who sued him. While the judge ruled in Picha's favour that the picture was obviously satirical in nature Picha still took the precaution of changing the title from 'Tarzan' to 'Tarzoon'. Some U.S. versions felt even this was too dangerous and retitled the picture: 'Jungle Burger'. Johnny Weissmuller Jr., son of the iconic Tarzan actor, took the film more humourously and even voiced Tarzoon in the American dub. 'Tarzoon' became an international cult hit and similar provocative sex comedy animated features, such as the Stone Age parody ' Le Chainon Manquant' ('The Missing Link', 1980) and the futuristic war epic 'Le Big Bang' ('The Big Bang', 1987) followed. Both films were later adapted into comic book stories. 'Le Chainon Manquant' was pre-published as 'De Ontbrekende Schakel' in the Flemish magazine Spetters in 1981. One of the animators on 'Le Chainon Manquant' was Carine de Brab.

Tarzoon by Picha
Tarzoon film poster

Apart from making cartoons aiming 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 idea wasn't entirely new, though. In 1971 the Walt Disney Company already made the live-action film 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks', which had a famous animated segment in which a group of animals play a football match. And in 1980 Steven Lisberger had directed the animated TV film 'Animalympics' (1980) which featured various animals partaking in the Olympic Games. Another children's TV series by Picha, 'Les Jules... Chienne de Vie' (1996) featured the adventures of two unfortunate dogs named Jules and their canine friends.

In 2007, Picha returned to making 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. Picha's version, however, featured more sex jokes. Once again, though, this film was hardly the first new animated feature based on 'Snow White' since Disney's iconic 1937 version. Picha couldn't even claim he was the first to make a pornographic parody of it, 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).

He was the subject of a documentary, 'Mon oncle d'Amérique est Belge' (2006), directed by Éric Figon and Picha's niece Françoise Walravens. Among the noteworthy people who once worked in Picha's animation studio have been Carine de Brab, Touïs and Nicole Van Goethem, the latter most famous as the winner of the 1987 Academy Award for Best Animated Short, which she received for her film 'A Greek Tragedy'.

Cartoon by Picha

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