'Die Biene Maja' comic for Bastei Verlag.

André Roche is one of those artists who has spent his entire career in the service of commercial projects. A Frenchman living in Germany, he has produced artwork for comics and merchandising related to licensed properties such as 'Maya the Bee', 'Nils Holgersson', 'Taotao', 'Tom & Jerry', 'The Pink Panther' and many more since the 1970s. He is best-known for his many contributions to Ferrero's Kinder chocolate candy brand, most notably the designs of the 'Happy Hippos' characters in 1987.

Early life and career
Roche was born in 1952 in Southern France. He originally tried his luck in the catering industry, getting a bachelor's degree of Tourism, Hotel Administration and Culinary Arts (BTH) from the Lycée Hôtelier Alexandre Dumas in Strasbourg. Since the city was located near the border of Germany, he decided to finetune his knowledge of the German language while working in restaurants from the Bavarian region. One of these was the legendary Tantris in Munich, widely considered one of the country's finest culinary establishments. Settled in Munich permanently since 1971, Roche also delved into film animation, specializing in claymation and stop-motion while working for the Linda Film and Cineplast film studios. The experience pushed him towards a career in illustration.

comic art by Andre Roche
'Wickie der Wikinger' strip for Kleine Zeitung (1974).

Commercial artist
Since 1974 André Roche has been making artwork and character designs for a great many products, including magazines, children's and comic books, merchandising, toy lines, puzzles and advertisements. Among his many, mostly German, clients are Ferrero Germany GmbH, Daimler Benz, BMW, Philips, Texas Instruments, Bastei Verlag, ZDF, Haribo, Ravensburger and FX Schmid puzzles. Surrounding himself with a team of additional artists and writers, he has produced artwork with a great many licensed characters. One of his first assignments was creating a gag strip with 'Vicky the Viking' ('Wickie der Wikinger', 1974) from the animated TV show for the Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung Graz. It was followed by a series of one-page comics for the Kronen-Zeitung newspaper with 'The Pink Panther' (1975), based on the animated character created by Friz Freleng and David DePatie.

From Bastei's 'Nils Holgersson' #44.

Products based on anime TV series
Roche then worked extensively on 'Maya the Honey Bee' ('Die Biene Maja'), based on the originally Japanese anime TV series, based on Waldemar Bonsels' children's books. Broadcast on German television since 1976, the series was adapted into 33 rpm gramophones by Deutsche Grammophon, picture books by Pestalozzi Verlag and a comic book series by Bastei Verlag (1976-1987), all with prominent Roche artwork. Roche drew about 160 comic stories with the friendly bee. After Maya came products with a host of other characters from Japanese anime series with a great popularity in Europe. Throughout the second half of the 1970s and 1980s, Roche drew the anime versions of 'Vicky the Viking' ('Wickie der Wikinger'), 'Nils Holgersson', the panda 'Taotao', 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Heidi' for print publications, record covers and merchandising. He was a major contributor to the comic books starring these characters published by either Condor Verlag or Bastei Verlag.

'Knax' comic strip for the German savings banks.

Other licensed characters
The anime-related characters weren't the only ones that required André Roche's attention during the busy 1980s. Already in 1979 he contributed some comic stories with Rolf Kauka's 'Pauli' and 'Lupo' to Fix und Foxi magazine by Pabel Verlag. He illustrated comic stories and calendars with the 'Knax' characters for the German savings banks in 1983-1984. Early in the decade he also drew Walt Disney's 'Mickey Mouse' and 'Donald Duck' for a series of picture books by Pestalozzi Verlag. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, André Roche was the authorized artist in the German-speaking countries for products with 'Tom & Jerry' (created by Hanna-Barbera) and 'The Pink Panther'. He drew them for a variety of book publications, dice games and puzzles. During that same period, he drew Jim Henson's 'Muppet Babies' for a 1987 placemat line by Dorette, as well as radio play covers, puzzles and comic books based on the German radio play series with the alien 'Panki aus Pankanien' (1987-1989), created by Doris Schreier. For Ravensburger, he illustrated the jigsaw puzzle series 'Die kleinen Elefanten' (1992) and 'Fröhliche Dschungeltage' (1994).

Character designs
Besides skilfully reproducing already existing characters, André Roche also developed several characters himself. In 1978 he visually created the anti-hero 'Archibald', who appeared in comic stories written by Schlager singer Christian Anders in Freizeit-Magazin. Roche's little Native American 'Lachito' appeared in the benefit comic album 'Comics für Afrika' (Quasimodo-Verlag, 1986). Further character designs by Roche were for advertising or product line purposes. These included the musketeer 'Atrix' for personal-care products manufacturer Beiersdorf (1983), rabbit characters for the Donau Plastik school items line (1985), an entire wildlife for Texas Instruments (1985), the characters 'Tex, Bodewa & Friend' for the German Central Association of Interior Designers (1986), the children mascots Parfenacchio and Nystatinchen for the pharmaceutical products of Cyanamid's Lederle Laboratories, ostriches for Ariel advertisements by Procter & Gamble (1988) and the mascot 'Werdy' for a campaign of the German police union (1989). In later years followed characters for Ültje peanuts (2000), the German sausage manufacturer Noelke (2004) and Noelke (2005, 2007).

Comic strip with the Elephantos ('Funny Fanten' in German) for Kinder Surprise.

Ferrero's Kinder line
André Roche has done his best-known character designs for the small toys that came with Ferrero's Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs. He had been working for the company since 1983, making modelsheets for toys based on 'Taotao', 'Pumuckl', 'Maya the Bee' and Peyo's 'The Smurfs', as well as Walt Disney's 'Jungle Book', 'Donald Duck', 'The Aristocats' and 'Mickey Mouse'. He expanded Kinder's 'Happy Frogs' (1986) and 'Tapsy Turtles' (1987) series, before creating his own 'Happy Hippos' characters in 1987. The original series was expanded upon with many thematic releases, all with their own characters and costumes. These included 'The Fitness Hippos' (1990), 'The Happy Hippos' Dream Cruise' (1992), 'The Happy Hippo's Enterprise' (1994), 'The Happy Hippos Hollywood Stars' (1997), 'The Happy Hippos Get Married' (1999), 'The Happy Hippo Talent Show' (2002) and the 'Star Wars' spoof 'The Hipperium' (2002).

The Happy Hippos gained such popularity, especially through a series of animated commercials, that they received their own Kinder Happy Hippo biscuits line in 1993. These snacks were sold all over the world. In addition to the 'Happy Hippos', André Roche created the Kinder Surprise toy series, such  the 'Flowerpot Dwarfs' ('Die Blumentopfzwerge', 1988). They reappeared in new annual new lines until 1992. Then came  'The Tiny Turtles' (1991), 'The Funny Pingos' (1992), 'The Crazy Crocos' (1993), 'The Drolly Dinos' (1993), 'The Elephantos' (1995), 'The Bingo Birds' (1996), 'Eco Bunnies' (1996), 'Top Ten Teddies' (1999) and the 'Pinky Piggys' (2000). In the German language countries, each toyline came with animated TV spots made by André Roche. Some also came with mini comic books. In Italy 'Top Ten Teddies' comics were drawn by Sandro Dossi. While the toys were obviously aimed at children, they have gained a cult following among collectors in later years. For the 40th anniversary of Kinder Surprise, the most successful series were compiled under the 'FunnyVersary' banner in 2014-2015.

'Jungle Book' illustration featuring Mickey Mouse.

Magazine and book illustrations
Book publishers and magazines have also required André Roche's services. In the early 1980s he illustrated several songbooks compiled by Mike Eulner for Metropol Musik Verlag. He later made headers, cartoons and illustrations for specialized magazines such as Die Funkschau (1982-1985), about electronic communication, Industriemagazin (1983-1985), an industrial magazine, the law periodical Rechtsmagazin (1986-1988), and a host of computer magazines.

Importance & recognition
Even though most of his work has been done anonymous and for commercial purposes, André Roche has left a lasting mark on German comics. First of all, his talent did not go by unnoticed. Already in 1979 the German media magazine Medien Bulletin named him "the best licensed-characters-designer in Germany". In the late 1970s, he pioneered the use of air-brush coloring for characters and backgrounds, both in print and animation. His technique can be considered a precursor to the computer coloring and 3D modeling of later years. In 1981, Roche was also co-founder of the German Association for Comics, ICOM, and took part in the group's initial lobbies for a biennial Comic Salon in the city of Erlangen in 1984.


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