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Condensed Biography for Joop Geesink

Born Johan Louise Geesink, called: Joop
Born: April 28, 1913, Den Haag
Deceased: May 13 1984, Amsterdam

 

Pick your chapter to pick up where you left off: 

Ch. 1    Geesink Stekelenburg   Ch. 7 Jack of All Trades   Ch. 13 Growing Bigger
Ch. 2 Drawing Lessons, Cigars   Ch. 8 Travels, Arguments, Achievements   Ch. 14 Disneyworld
Ch. 3 Stage and Revue   Ch. 9 New Marriage and Losses   Ch. 15 Angel
Ch. 4  Marten Toonder   Ch. 10 Rising Star   Ch. 16 Gnomes
Ch. 5 Berlin and Philips   Ch. 11 Repeated Successes   Ch. 17 Theme Park Efteling
Ch. 6 Period up to 1950   Ch. 12  Exclusive Rights   Ch. 18  The End

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

The Geesink-Stekelenburg Family

Joop Geesink was the third son of six siblings.
His father Willem Jacobus Geesink had travelled from the East of Holland (Achterhoek) to the West (The Hague) where he found work as a trumpet player at the Royal Military Band. Joop's mother was named Neeltje Geesink Stekelenburg. The two got married in 1908. For some additional income Willem played the cello at the Princesse Theatre


Princesse-Schouwburg--1943-LoRes

Princesse Theatre

Their first son is born in 1909: Willem Albertus Geesink, called Wim. Wim would play an important rol later as business director of Joop's studio.

A second son, Evert Cornelis Jan. is born in 1912. He dies only seven years old.
Joop enters the scene in 1913; it's his story we'll follow.
Other siblings are sisters Elizabeth Anna Louise (Bep), born in 1916, and Anna Hildegonda (Anna) Geesink, born in 1925.

Learned Nothing

Joop enters MULO, a lower-level high school. His older brother Wim is about to graduate from HBS (mid-level high school). The head of the school strongly suggests Joop's parents remove their 'lazy' son from school. His biggest complaint is that Joop isn't using his paper and pencil for doing homework but for doodling. It is decided Joop will find a job somewhere in the hope he'll learn something.

Joop-Geesink-Jeugdfoto

Childhood picture of Joop Geesink

This creates another problem; for although Joop is a friendly and outgoing kid, he can can also be very stubborn. Working for someone else is not his thing. Especially not as a bell hop at a prestigious hotel (Hotel des Indes). Bell hops don't have anything to say. 

Joop floats from job to job. He even works as a galley boy at sea. But frankly, drawing is not considered the same as working, and if you don't work you don't make money.

 

Chapter 2

Drawing Lessons and Cigars

During the early '20s Joop takes drawing lessons at the Royal Academy of the Arts. It seems he has some talent after all, and he finds work as decorative painter in a department store. There he meets Rita Hessler, a pretty dancer at Rob Peters' National Revue. They get married in 1938.

His first successes as decorative painter encourage Joop to be more ambitious. When only 19 years old, he starts an advertising agency in The Hague. He soon finds someone who wants to learn the trade so badly, he even wants to pay just to work there. Joop also hires a sales rep, and soon assignments are coming in. Each new assignment is celebrated with a fancy cigar, an old Dutch status symbol. The cigar would become a regular fixture and one of Joop Geesink's trademarks.
His wife Rita proves less of a ficture and exchanges Joop for a German soldier, leaving Joop reeling from the emotional blow.

Crisis Years

The economic crisis of the '30s finishes Joop's advertising agency. His brother Wim has a hard time surviving at a grammophone company in The Hague, so Joop suggests they join forces in a small company producing outdoor advertising.
Joop lands a big assignment to produce the large scale outdoor advertising for a cinema at the Spui, downtown Amsterdam. As well, he gets to dress the entire facade of the Nögggerath Theatre, promoting the Dutch premiere of Disney's Snow White. His showman-like approach generates him a lot of publicity, and he is featured in Polygoon's national news reels.
Joop and Wim attract ever bigger assignments, not only from cinemas but also for the royal wedding of Dutch Crown Princess Juliana (1937). By now Joop and Wim employ a staff of eight.

Huwelijk-Prinses-Juliana-1937-LoRes

Street decorations for the Royal Wedding of Crown Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard (1937)

Joop meets Betty. He remarries in 1941; in 1942 his daughter Nelleke is born, and his son Rob in 1943.

Chapter 3

Theatre and Revue

In the years before before WWll the Nederlandsche Revue (Dutch Revue) premieres a vaudeville show called "That Feels good". At the very last moment an important set piece isn't finished. Joop's bride-to-be Rita is a dancer at the show and suggests her fiance can do the job. Bob Peters, the revue's manager, is impressed. Bob and Joop hit it off, the beginning of a long-lasting friendship and close collaboration. The friendship gets put to the test when Joop is diagnosed with open tuberculosis, and is forced to stay at a sanatorium for several months, together with his brother Wim. In the sanatorium Joop continues to design decors for the show.

SnipenSnap-1941-LoRes
Once released from the sanatorium, Joop goes to Paris to work on set pieces for the Moulin Rouge to update his skills. He loves the glitter and glamour, and how everything works to direct the audience's attention and emotions. He doesn't mind the chorus girls, either...

At the Movies

Back in Holland he builds many more set pieces for revues, and is invited by film producer Rudolf Meyer to design the sets for the Dutch feature film "The Ghost Train". The film is shot at the Cinetone Studio's on the Duivendrechtse Kade in Amsterdam, is directed by Karel Lamac, and features Fien de la Mar, Louis Borel and Jan Musch.

The Ghost Train 1939

Still from "The ghost Train"

It's 1939. "Working at the movies", a childhood dream of many, has become a reality for 26-year old Joop. Unfortunately the dream stops there, with war looming and Joop getting drafted. In the army he designs and paints large murals on the mess walls, again generating a lot of publicity.

Postkaart in het kader van mobilisering  Militaire Kaart-2 MilitaireKaart-3

Designs for a series of mobilization postcards by Joop Geesink in 1939.

Hoofdstuk 4

Joop Geesink and Marten Toonder

In 1941 joop Geesink lands a juicy assignment for the Dutch Railways. He designs a number of drawn publicity stills and posters as well as a flipbook.

Spoorwegen-Poster-1939

Railway promotion - 1939

The Railways request an animated version of the drawings for cinema release. This is made possible thanks to the animation skills of Paul Keizer and Lou den Hartog. Because of its success, a follow up is awarded.

1942-Pierus (Spoorwegen) 

Stiff-Necked Pierus - 1942 

Due to a lack of animation skills and equipment, Joop Geeesink advertises for experienced people. Jan C. Bouman, manager for cartoonist/animator Marten Toonder, notices the advertisement and suggests to meet with with Toonder. Within no time, the two agree to collaborate. The title for the new Railways film will be Stiff-Necked Pierus. Henk Kabos is hired in 1942, marking the official start of Geesink Toonder Teekenfilm-Produktie (Geesink Toonder Animation Production).
Joop Geesink is responsible for their first (and so far only) assignment, so he gets named first.

1942---Toonder-Geesink-Bouman-Geesink-2-LoRes 1942-Joop-Geesink bij Toonder

Left-to-right: Joop Geesink, Marten Toonder, Wim Geesink, Jan Bouwman - 1942
On the right: Joop Geesink -1942

The entire animation is produced in Geesink's living room and nursery on the Vijzel Street in Amsterdam. A minor snag is that no one knows exactly how animated films are made. A few illegal copies (because of German censorship) of American films are studied: Betty Boob, Felix the Cat. They even get their hands on a copy of Disney's Pinocchio, and analyze it frame-by-frame.

Fuzzy Developments

From this point on things get fuzzier, with different versions of what happens next, especially with egards to Marten Toonder's role which he conciously blurred himself afterward. Fact is, it wasn't possible to run a studio during the war without approval by the occupying German forces. This meant the two men worked for the vilified German Chamber of Culture. Many consider this collaborating with the enemy. However, Toonder has many illegals in hiding work for him, producing illegal materials for the underground resistance, forging countless documents, and more. Additionally, dozens of people are spared from labour camps for the German war industry - or worse...

Degeto, a German company, gets an important role to play. This is an independent producer of 16mm films for the rental market with their offices in Berlin. The management are idealists and anti-nazi. They order a series of animated Tom Puss shorts. In Holland the occupying forces orders that all film productions are to be made at Nederland Film, a which produce propaganda and anti-semitic films only. But with Toonder and Geesink working directly for a Berlin-based company this requirement doesn't apply to them, making it possible for our duo to pilfer a few good designers from Nederland Film.

A few puppet films are produced during the war years, Phi-Garo being one of them. Marten Toonder is considering a feature-length animated cartoon, but the technology for it isn't there yet. This explains the sometimes awkward production values of the animated shorts. There is still a long way to go. It will be until 1985 that Toonder's "If You Know What I mean" is released, an animated feature with Oliver B. Bumble.
The puppetfilm studio is located in the basement on the Beursstraat, and the offices of "Toonder-Geesink Teekenfilm-Production" on 530 Keizersgracht, both in Amsterdam.

Phi-Garo 1943

Production still from Phi-Garo (1943)

Over the course of 1943 an increasing lack of material puts a stop to all film production.

Little is known about the collaboration between Joop Geesink and Marten Toonder, but it is clear that they don't get along very well. Toonder is the artist, an idealist. Geesink is the businessman, a showman. Despite a mutual respect, the two irritate each other. Their collaboration lasts exactly one year.

Chapter 5

Berlin & Philips

In the mean time Geesink has produced some five advertising shorts. He travels to Berlin hoping to drum up some structural support for his company. There he meets Sies W. Numan, "Director of International Publicity" for Philips. In 1934 it was Numan who initiated to bring George Pal to Eindhoven and have him start his own puppetfilm studio. Now he is in Berlin to find job placements for a few former Pal people and thus to secure their knowledge and skills until the war is over. Jószef Misik, Jan Coolen, Frans Hendrix and Jan Bax are some of them. Jan Coolen and Frans Hendrix will ultimately move to London for a stint at at Signal Film, but return to Holland later.

In Berlin Joop Geesink aquires the assignment to produce four animated cartoons with Tom Puss in full colour (!), 20 minutes each. Also, Numan suggests to Geesink he start thinking about a puppetfilm studio of his own.
The challenging war conditions pose great economical and logistical problems for the four Tom Puss films. Other than a few surviving fragments, the only remaining film is “Geheimniss der Grotte" ("Secret of the Cave").

TomPoes-geheim-van-de-Grot

Trading cards from the Tom Puss film

 

Serenata-Nocturna

Serenade Nocturna

In Amsterdam Joop Geesink puts a crew together to work on a short film later known as Serenata Nocturna, a real puppetfilm. Among the crew are Jan Duyfvetter, John van der Meulen and Bertus Outmayer. The latter features in a February 2013 interview discussing his time working on Joop Geesink's Carnival (1984).

Charming as Serenata Nocturna may be, it was produced with very rudimentary techniques. Because of copyrights, the George Pal technique could not be used. As an alternative, puppet maker Dopey Scheffer uses modelling clay to sculpt a series of replacement faces in order to convey changing facial expressions. But the search is on for a technique that wil give them full control over a truly flexible puppet.

Near the end of the war the studio goes through some big changes. Marten Toonder and Joop Geesink decide to part ways, Toonder to focus on cartoon films and Geesink on puppet films. Based on their performance and skills, all staff is split up without them having a say in where they go. Henk Kabos is placed as cartoon animator and director at Toonder's.
Geesink's staff will grow to 60 and later to almost 100 people. The studio is located on the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, with brother Wim as business director.

By 1944 any business endeavours are made impossible by the war. To give the occupying German forces the impression that the studio needs all its staff, serveral "shoots" are in production without any film stock in the cameras. The Germans fall for it and leave the studio alone.

Deep Sea Adventure 1943

Chapter 6

Period until 1950

The war is over and a time of rebuilding begins. There's demand for everything, but no supply. Joop Geesink recognizes the potential for growth for advertising film when coupled to cinema audiences' yearning for entertainment and diversion.
As an entrepreneur, he has to start over again. His collaboration with Toonder has come to an end, and he has received an economic dressing down by the Purging Commission for for working with the German Chamber of Culture. What remains is a skeleton crew of very capable people, with Joszef Misik, Jan Coolen, Frans Hendrix, Koos Schadee, Theo Doreleyers and Wim Gomes forming the core of the studio.

Dollywood

1947 marks the first time the name name "Dollywood" appears on a title card. Because of his reputation, flair and unstoppable drive Joop Geesink quickly lands himself a number of new film orders.
Soon, the studio's staff on the Beurssstraat in Amsterdam grows to approx. 35, earning itself a write-up in the papers. Geesink is still in touch with Sies Numan from Philips, who brokers a transfer of several of George Pal's former employees. From now on they'll work for Geesink.
A series of successful shorts promoting Dutch companies secures the studio an international reputation. Some film titles of that era: "The Big Four", "Honig at Work", "The World's Quest for Peace", "The three Mascotteers".

1945-Joop-Geesink-met-pop

1945 - Joop Geesink posing with one of his very first pupppets.

In 1947 puppet maker Harry Tolsma joins the studio. Under his guidance the technique of designing puppets grows to a level never seen before.
Although Philips proves to be a generous provider of orders, times are still lean. During the Philips production of "The three Musketeers", the studio all but fails to meet payroll. A chance meeting with diamond broker Jacques Cardozo proves to be a life saver: Cardozo invests Dfl 10,000 in the company. A weekly wage in those days is Dfl 50.00. For many years following, Cardozo will be a strong supporter behind the scenes, both on a business and personal level.

Technical Innovations

As the '40s end, animation film techniques are developing faster than ever before. The puppets have been perfected, and almost any production of any significance is shot in glorious Technicolor. Several 35mm cameras are refitted for just this purpose. This is worth mentioning, as it won't be until the '60s that the first Dutch feature film is released in colour (and not even Technicolor).
Around 1949/1950 Joop Geesink and Sies Numan start discussing the ultimate production to showcase the studio's now formidable rersources. The film premieres in 1951: Kermesse Fantastique, released to celebrate 60 years of Philips.

 Kermesse-poster LoRes  1951-Geesink en Sies Numan-Kermesse Fantastique

Left: billboard promoting Kermesse Fantastique (1951)
Right: Joop Geesink and Sies Numann on the set of Kermesse Fantastique

By now, the studio has a staff of 150, its own (black-and-white) filmlab, and dozens of technical specialists. Dollywood is now located to the empty hangars behind the Cinetone Studios, bringing Geesink back to the old film location of the pre-war "The Ghost Train". As a result of its unprecedented growth, the studio is a quaint hotchpotch of hallways, workshops, storage spaces and offices cobbled together.

1948-Geesink-storyboarding

Joop Geesink storyboarding (1948)

Joop Geesink's brother is the studio's business director. He now stipulates that customers pay an advance on all productions. This wasn't required before, resulting in customers sometimes pulling out just before production was finished, leaving the studio empy-handed.
The studio's technical innovations are more the result of Joop's unbridled imagination rather than a clear vision. Joop is blissfully ignorant of film techniques and the technical issues his filmmakers are dealing with. Not hindered by any form of restraint, he is confident that any ideas he dreams up "my boys can handle". It sure keeps his "boys" busy.

JoopGeesink-Portret 1949

1949 - Joop Geesink and his cigar

In 1948 Joop gets an order to produce another film for Honig: "Honig's Ideal". Now with approx. 50 people expecting their weekly wages, orders like these are badly needed.
Studio staff is never sure what they get paid or if they get paid anything at all. Sometimes Joop orders his secretary to put on a nice short skirt to collect the customer's advance. Or he goes himself. When he gets back he calls in his employees, "Um, you're a batchelor, you get 50 guilders. And um, you're married, so 100 guilders for you. Okay?" An uncomplicated way of meeting payroll, but far from certain.
In 1949 things turn around. With a number of film awards under his belt, Joop Geesink embarks on a publicity campaign for his studio. Touring numerous cities he invites captains of industry to free screenings. The films being screened are his own, of course.

Chapter 7

Jack of All Trades

The arrival of Henk Kabos, who until 1949 worked for Toonder, is a creative windfall for Geesink. Besides him, Geert Knoef, Joop Bekker and Mary Oostendijk among others come along as well.
The day after their application at Dollywood, Joop Geesink has a business meeting with Persil in Belgium. If Henk Kabos is willing to quickly produce a successful storyboard, he and his cartoon crew will get hired.
The result is the charming SOS Snowman in Peril by Henk Kabos. So Geesink offers him the position.

Around 1950 Geesink has a cartoon department of 15 people. He soon notices that some of them are the better animators, including puppet animation. Additionally, Geesink starts up a live-action crew, too. Together with the puppet and cartoon departments, this enables him to offer a complete studio package.

1949-Advertentie-in-Revue-der-reclame-december 1949

Trade magazine ad. December 1949

More talent is drawn to Geesink around this time.
A few years before, in 1946, British Signal Film has started a puppetfilm studio. This means serious competition for Geesink. They persuade Jan Coolen, art director at the former George Pal studio, to sign up with them. He is joined by Koos Schadee en Frans Hendrix, and the trio sail for London, England. The studio is operational until 1951, after which they have to fold. At Philips, Sies Numan is relieved; hoping to keep the talent in Holland, he manages to convince the three men to transplant themselves to Geesink's. Dopey Scheffer decides to join the parade; Dopey brings the now defunct British studio's secret process of making flexible plastics, used for the puppets' limbs. Henk Kabos and Harry Tolsma integrate this revolutionary new element in their production designs for the ultimate animation puppet.
It's the early '50s, and the economy is on the increase. The above-mentioned Philips order for Kermesse Fantastique comes with a staggering budget of Dfl 400,000. Translated to 2013 funds, this equals approx. 1.5 million Euros or almost 2 million US$. This joint project between Geesink and Numan guarantees the studio work for a year-and-a-half. There is ample budget for both men to let their imagination run wild.

Chapter 8

Travels, Arguments and Achievements

Joop is the proverbial entrepreneur who will travel housands of miles to land an order. His brother Wim is business director. Even though this forms a foundation of trust, it's also Wim Wim who often has to apply the brakes. Because of the thin office walls, employees sometimes can't help but overhear heated arguments, not to mention all-out fights. Joop wants to impress his customers with only the best and tends to ignore budget restrictions. It's up to Wim to steer his brother away from unacceptable losses. Joops demands from his staff absolute perfection, both technically and creatively. On top of that he doesn't want to disappoint his clients, so the films have to be produced quickly and economically, too.

De drie mascotteers

The Three Mascotteers (1953) for Mascotte cigarette rolling paper

Joop can be very amicable, especially when he's happy about your work. But disappoint him, and you're in for it. A driven man himself, he drives his staff relentlessly. Don't complain about putting in extra hours, just get it done. Creativity and commerce don't always go well together.

Unsurprisingly, this atmosphere is not for everyone, so staff turn-over is high. But the ones who stay are real creative assets, committed to create something worthwhile. For them this is an opportunity to hone their skills. These artists seem oblivious of the fact they're working on a disposable product, called 'advertising'.

Henk-Kabos (Links)

Left: Henk Kabos in a production meeting for a Ballantine commercial

Joop recognizes their talents and pushes them to expand their skills. Their salaries don't always reflect this.

Chapter 9

New Marriage, Losses and the Earth Is Born

Joop's second marriage fails in the early '50s. His sister Bep proves to be an excellent confidante who, out of the limelight, absorbs many of her brother's woes.
Wedding bells chime for the third time when Joop marries Irene Mirchell from England, a widow with two children. Joop adds his own children Rob and Nelleke to the marriage, and in 1954 daughter Louise is born. Louise appears to have her dad's talent for drawing.
Dollywood produces a feature film. The Amazing Life of William Pearl is released in 1953, starring the much-loved singer/comedian Wim Sonneveld. The film's budget is Dfl 200,00 and is directed by Gerard Rutten with sets designed by Henk Kabos. Unfortunately the film bombs at the box office, with a net loss of Dfl 70,000.

1954-Joop-Geesink-en-Wim-Sonneveld-SetfotoWillemParel

Joop Geesink and Wim Sonneveld (1954)

The financial loss can be dealt with. Tougher to deal with is Joop's loss of confidence in Rutten as a director. Crew members say that assistant director Ronnie Erends had to finish the film, due to Rutten's lack of organizational abilities in larger productions. This marks the end of the collaboration with Rutten as feature film director. It also means the end of any further feature film plans films by Geesink. The film does launch a brief Hollywood career for Sonneveld, though.

1953-Joop-Geesink-en-Gerard-Rutte

Joop Geesink and Gerard Rutten (1953)

Then, a ginormous order from the United States rolls in: a prestigious and ambitious film series in co-production with publisher Time-Life, depicting the origins of earth. The first title will be The Earth Is Born. Four parts of 30 minutes each, filled with state-of-the-art special effects, will realistically depict how the earth came into existence. From Big Bang to big dinosaurs.

Earth Is Born -small

The exact budget is not known, but we do know that Geesink loses a whopping quarter million guilders on the first episode alone. The co-production gets cancelled, and the studio teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.

Philips guarantees a Dfl 300,000 line of credit, but the studio doesn't have to make use of it.

Chapter 10

Rising Star

Animation production is expensive, and puppetfilm even more so. Fortunately Geesink has started a live action department, Starfilm. Most orders are commercials for cinema, and on TV in countries with fledgling commercial television. 

The animation department produces animated sections for numerous live action films, often limited to title sequences or products unwrapping themselves. A fierce competition develops between the live action department and the puppetfilm studio. The live action people don't take the think puppetfilm very seriously, and similarly, the animation people don't consider live action much of an art form.
Fact is, live action is becoming an increasingly bigger part of the production pie, but it's animation that opens the doors to new clients for Geesink. If a client thinks puppetfilm is too expensive, Joop's quick wit will immediately come up with a more affordable alternative in live action, and the client stays.

Prices and Prizes

Even though clients have to pay steep prices for puppetfilm, the medium has the priceless advantage of distinguishing itself from everyone else in the field. Audiences just love Geesink's puppet characters and swallow the advertiser's message hook, line and sinker. 

The Dollywood puppetfilms are now international highly acclaimed. Among the big Dutch clients are Philips, for whom at least eight films of 10 minutes each are produced, and the Dutch Dairy Board with its series of Dutchy films.
Geesink receives some 80 international awards for his puppetfilms.

Award for Dutchy and  Prince Electron (1956)

Award for Dutchy and Prince Electron (1956)

 

Awards are nice as recognition and a great tool to pique the interest of potential new clients. Joop is in his element when he has to come up with new ideas. A client only needs to drop half a word and Joop will produce a stack of new concepts. He sometimes gets carried away by his own enthusiasm, forgetting the original commercial message that is to be communicated. It is said that, after returning with new orders, Joop sometimes forgets what was agreed upon.
His creativitynever stops flowing, especially after a few shots of Scotch. Occasionally customers are offended by the creative chaos when the results are entirely different from what was discussed. But again, Joop's quick creative wit would think of something.

Chapter 11

Repeated Successes

The vast majority of clients are very happy with Geesink's films. The proof is always in the pudding, and product sales increase when advertised in a Dollywood puppetfilm. Joop is not only film producer, but also advertising agency and concept developer. And he won't hesitate to take a successful concept and apply it elsewhere.

Mackeson-racing

Example of a Mackeson Beer commercial

Point in case is the popular series of Mackeson Beer commercials for England. Approx. 60 films of 30 or 60 seconds each feature beer bottles as characters playing sports. Among them is alway one slowpoke without label. But as soon as someone yells "Mackeson!", the slowpoke instantly develops awesome superpowers to save the day. These commercials were so popular, that at soccer matches the crowd would yell "Mackeson!" to help the losing team.
Commercials for Beechnut and Ballantines Beer in the United States are similar examples of repeated concepts. Advantages of an established successful series are the minimal costs for development, and customers who know what to expect.

Chapter 12

Exclusive Rights

Many clients appreciate the medium's exclusivity and increasingly demand a clause in their production contract stating that that Geesink refrain from accepting orders from the competition while working on their film. Never tell Joop Geesink what to do or not do. For him it's a challenge to promise the client exclusive rights, only to turn around and approach the competition with a similar concept.
Around 1954 Geesink lands a prestigious order for General Electric. The 10-minute puppetfilm The Story of Light takes us through humanity's exploration and development of articifial lighting, from simple torches of prehistoric times to modern-day's fluorescent tubes of the '50s. Again, the client demands the exclusive rights to this concept. But through Geesink's contact with Numan he has a direct line to Philips, leading producer of artificial light sources. So lo and behold, around that same time the equally prestigious film Light and Mankind is produced for Philips, with a suspiciously familiar storyline and design...
Geesink sees no problem; after all, one client is in America and the other in Europe, so everything is hunky dory.

Misik (m) & Bouman working on Story of Light

Then one day the American client announces a visit to see how production is progressing. Quickly, a nervous Joop has the sets of the competing Philips film boarded up. The American client seems impressed by the "Top Secret" signs and doesn't ask what's going on there. 

Joop narrowly avoids a serious lawsuit, but only by the skin of his teeth. Lesson learned: next time, plan things better. In that sense Geesink doesn't seem to have much respect for his clients - or for his staff, for that matter.

A Well-Oiled Machine

The release of The Traveling Tune (1961) proves a positive boost. This 10-minute film for Philips, directed by Max Keuris, utilizes the new "paperdoll" technique. Jacques van de Boom's dolls made out of paper and Günther Mandel's smooth animation receive rave reviews. Soon, orders for more films in this format follow.

TravelingTune production still  Geesink as paperdoll

Manufacturing the "paper dolls" for The Traveling Tune


Philips continue to be a loyal client with numerous ads and short films for American and European commercial TV. Then Philips announces their 75-year jubilee in the music recording industry, and the studio pulls out all the stops on the 10-minute landmark puppetfilm Philips Cavalcade – 75 Years of Music. It is released in 1966 with all the bells and whistles, a real showcase of Dollywood's know-how.

75 Years of Music - Philips Cavalcade

Chapter 13

Growing Bigger

Commercial television emerges in Europe of the early '60s. France, Italy, Germany are the first ones out the gate. Holland's first "TV pirate" is TV North Sea in 1964, broadcasting from a platform in the North Sea, supported by evenues from commercial breaks. The experiment doesn't last long; in 1967 commercial breaks become part of the official Dutch broadcast structure. It's first day includes 38 commercials, 12 of which are from Geesink's studios.

Dutch newspaper review these new commercials just like regular programming. Geesink's studios receive high marks, leading to more work.
This landmark in TV history inspires Joop to make new plans. The studio on the Duijvendrechtsekade has grown into a mishmash of loose buildings connected through a maze of hallways, corridors and make-shift extensions. It's time for a new studio.
The grand opening of the large, modern studio on the W.J. Wenkenbachweg, by none less than HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, takes place in 1966. The date is April 28, Joop's birthday.

.

1966-Joop en Wim Geesink en Prins Bernhard-opening studio  Dollywood-studios-exterieur  Dollywood-studios-interieur  

1966-Joop and Wim Geesink with HRH Prince Bernhard at the studio's grand opening

 

The studio is state-of-the-art. Big, bigger, biggest - as is the studio's overhead. To pay for this housing and a staff of 150, a non-stop stream of big orders is essential.

Personeelsadvertentie-Revue-der-Reclame-1967 Dollywood-studios-exterieur-1966

left: job opening ad (advertising trade magazine, 1966) Right: the studio front

Chapter 14

Disneyworld

New ideas keep perculating. One of Joop's most ambitious ideas has been perculating since 1962 and now finds shape. Geesink shifts his focus to Holland Promenade, a theme park near Amsterdam in which all typical Dutch elements can be experienced on a smaller scale.
The park's "cities" are to be sponsored by big companies, thus connecting education and commerce. More interesting than the culturally shallow Disneyworld.

Joop immerses himself in his dream. He realizes that the boom in puppet- and cartoon film is only temporary and is working on his empire's next economical pillar. With that in mind he starts two separate companies: Joop Geesink Special Projects and Geesink Artists, Inc. He also aims to attract business from other theme parks and projects, both at home and abroad. An impressive scale model is built in which everything can move and drive around. For the opening of the new studio, the Holland Promenade model gets its own presentation room, and the press corps flock in to see it. They give him a thumbs down, though. Narrow-minded as they are, they think amusement parks are childish and wasteful.

HollandPromenade 1966

Holland Promenade in the media (1966)


Rounds of consultation talks prevent the park from finding a place to build, and sponsors disappear. It's not going to happen. Foreign projects aren't happening, either, due to variety of reasons. Almost Dfl. 2 million down the drain. Meanwhile, the puppetfilm department has been operating without Joop's intensive and energizing guidance. The empire is beginning to show cracks.

Death Blow

The new studio has some serious cash flow problems, and cut-backs are needed everywhere. First, production costs. Films have to be produced cheaper, simpler and faster. Next, dozens of employees are let go. Joop has never beeen one to show anyone his gratitude, but this is very painful for him. Ominous dark clouds are building over Dollywood, Starfilm and Geesink Artists.
By 1971 the structural lack of financial continuity becomes Dollywood's death blow, and Geesink's bankruptcy makes the headlines.

Joop-Geesink-op-kantoor  1965-Joop-Geesink-op-kantoor

2x Joop Geesink in his old office. Construction of the new studio is visible through the window behind him. (1966)

 

Chapter 15

Angel

Despite all business woes, Philips remains a loyal client and again proves itself a guardian angel. Intensive talks are taking place behind the scenes. Joop Geesink is not the only one facing tough times. His colleague Marten Toonder now depends almost entirely on revenues from cartoon strips. A new consortium is created, co-financed by the Philips pension fund.
Only a small skeleton crew of Geesink filmproduction moves to the refurbished coach houses of Castle Nederhorst den Berg near the village of Weesp, together with Marten Toonder's cartoon studio. Geesink's once glorious new studio complex is abandoned in 1971 to make place for Philips offices.
A collaboration with Cinetone Studios makes a new start possible. Out of a staff of 150 puppetfilm specialists only 15 remain. In 1973 newspapers announce the start of Toonder-Geesink Productions. With Toonder's name first, this time.

Nederhorst-kasteel    nederhorst-koetshuis

Left: main building Castle Nederhorst den Berg with Toonder-Geesink offices and the cartoon strip department.
Right: refurbished coach houses with the adjacent puppetfilm studio 

One name stands out in the long list of laid-off staff: Joop Geesink. He is no longer part of this new formula. On paper he still owns Dollywood, Starfilm and Joop Geesink Special Projects, but these are now hollow companies.

dollywood-verhuizing-Kontekst-1973

Chapter 16

Gnomes

From now on Geesink will only be working from his home at the J.J. Viottastraat in Amsterdam. He is assisted by his son Rob, daughter Louise and two freelancers. His motto is "Never look back!". He is working on new plans and new designs.
We're in the period of 1971/1972. The new Toonder-Geesink Studios are pretty busy producing numerous commercials for Dutch television. The number of commercial breaks has steadily been growing since their start five years ago.
Geesink initiates and designs a number of commercials, some of them puppetfilms. Their production is now the exclusively in the hands of the new production company.

German TV also has commercial breaks, and one station has its commercials strung together by animated cartoon gnomes; these mild-mannered "Mainzelmännchen" have brief, gentle escapades.

Mainzelmännchen

Mainzelmännchen (Gnomes)

Based on this concept Geesink develops a typical Dutch counterpart. "Loekie the Lion" is introduced to Chris Smeekens, director of the state-owned TV commercial foundation "STER". Smeenkens likes the idea and orders the Loekie jokes. Loekie's first TV appearance is in 1972. They get produced in montly series of 30 jokes of 4 seconds each.

Loeki get a mate (1979)

Loekie is an instant hit with Dutch TV audiences. He appears between commercials, and also opens and closes all commercial breaks. For the Toonder-Geesink studio Loeki is like a gift from heaven. The trimmed-down staff now has a stable and valuable financial basis to work with. Loeki grows to a national phenomenon and TV star of a long-running series that will continue many years after the death of his creator Joop Geesink.

Chapter 17

Theme Park Efteling

The failure of Holland Promenade has taught Joop some hard lessons. Never again will he initiate new ideas for an amusement park. In the early '60s he was too far ahead of his time. But in 1983 a number of amusement parks are operating in Holland. In Wassenaar, Duinrell is pulling in people with a mascot that is popular to this day: Rik de Kikker (Rick the Frog).

Joop's skills and experience with amusement parks make him a person of interest for the Efteling, Holland's leading theme park. They are stuck. A new attraction is required, but previous atractions (the Haunted Castle and the Python Rollercoaster) went far over budget. In order to keep their top spot, an exciting yet affordable new ride is needed.

1984 Joop Geesink and Carnival doll

The idea for the Carnival Festival is presented, very much a typical Joop Geesink design. Artistic director Anton Pieck has some serious issues with the design. But Geesink's guarantee that the ride will be finished on time and within budget wins everyone over. Pieck consents.

Chapter 18

The End

Joop works hard at making the new plan happen, but notices that his health is no longer what it used to be. He just passed 70 but refuses to slow down, keeping a high pace of work. Construction progresses.
Then Geesink is hospitalized. He is physically worn out. In the hospital's cafeteria Joop finishes the final details for his ride, designs new series of Loekie jokes, and prepares to hand over his business and brainchild Loekie to his daughter Louise.

Joop Geesink passes away on May 13, 1984, at the UMC Hospital in Utrecht, just before the opening of his Carnival Festival. He was 71 years old. The official opening of his creation in the Efteling takes place in June, one month later.
His brother Wim stays on as chief commissioner of the Geesink companies until he retires in 1984. He has served his brother and his work for fifty years.

Joop Geesink 1913 - 1984

Joop Geesink 1913 - 1984

Joop's daughter Louise is now director of Dollywood, continuing the Loekie the Lion series for many more years. But in 2004 Loekie gets canceled. Not due to lack of popularity; it's just more profitable to sell the precious air time that Loeki had been taking up to the ever growing number of advertisers. Additionally, a cancellation would save STER all production costs. Loekie made TV advertising acceptable, but that same advertising also cost him his job. As Loeki would say, "Asjemenou!" ("Whaddayaknow!")

Loeki de Leeuw

Loeki the Lion

Arie den Draak
April 2013

Sources:

  • Tjitte de Vries en Ati Mul voor het boek “Joop Geesink – poppenfilmproducent” (1984)
  • J.W. de Vries “De Toonder Animatiefilms” (2012)

 

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