The Big Four in Conference


Still from The Big Four in Conference (1946)

Meeting of the superpowers

Commercial for Van Nelle's coffee and tea and Caran d'Ache pencils

The commercial film The Big Four in Conference (1946) shows the meeting of the superpowers France, the UK, the USA and the USSR in the United Nations' building. The press reports this tense meeting. Finally, an important message is leaked… ”They all agree!”


The Big Four in Conference (1946) instantly turned Joop Geesink into a national celebrity. The film's concept was iron clad. During WWll Geesink had published a series of political cartoons featuring the three superpowers, which brought him some success.
After the war, France was added as a fourth superpower. This was a hot topic both with politicians and the general public. Joop Geesink's film script took it to a whole new level. In The Netherlands he found a client in “De Erven” Van Nelle Coffee and Tea.
The catchphrase became famous: "They're all agreed that Van Nelle Coffee and Tea are in a class of their own". This film is one of the Geesink classics and also earned its permanent place in the national annals of (cinema) commercials.

Still from The Big Four in Conference (1946)


The film shown here ends with another catchphrase: “They're all agreed that you cannot do better than buying from Holland”. This refers to another catchphrase at the time of national rebuilding: "Buy Dutch for mutual support!". The English version was endorsed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and was used in the foreign markets.
So reading this article and watching the film you might wonder why it doesn't include a reference to coffee and/or tea.

Repeated succes

At a time when the commercial market was still being developed, the rights to a film script were fully owned by the developer/producer . As a result of its success, Joop Geesink offered this script to foreign markets. He not only sold it to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Van Nelle Coffee and Tea but also to Caran d’Ache pencils in Switzerland, as the EYE Movie institute pointed out.
The same film was used for each new client, the only difference being an ajusted catchphrase at the end of the film. About 20 years later the same script was remade in colour, now for Martini

All this offers a glimpse of the very different methods of script development before and immediately following WWll. Joop Geesink came up with a film concept and that script was sold. At that time there was no internet or other global communication technology, so advertisers did not know of the commercial films their competitors used. And even when they found out, it didn't seem to bother them as their local audience had no idea of how the same film was being used abroad. Nowadays an advertising agency will develop a campaign and match it to a studio to carry it out.

Technical anecdote

In 1946, resources to build the sets and props were scarce. Basically, everything was in short supply. Nevertheless, the set builders had to construct 4 limousines, each nearly a metre long. Clever as they were, the set builders created one single car with replaceable parts. The viewer sees the first car disappear just before the second one enters the scene.
The production crew of that time were partially former George Pál employees. The Pál-style "replacement puppet" technique can be recognized in the Russian puppet dancing on the car hood.  

Still from The Big Four in Conference (1946)

Left: first car disappear. Centre: dempty street. Right: the same car arrive with change in details.


This second car was the same one as the first one, only with a different hood. Because animation is shot one frame at a time, the animator has ample opportunity to take the first limo, exchange the hood to make it into limo number two, and have it enter the scene. Repeat for limos 3 and 4. A big cost saving! Similar movie smarts were also applied to later productions.

Still from The Big Four in Conference (1946)
Main Title The Big Four in Conference (1946)


Titel:The "Big Four" In Conference
Client(s):* De Erven van Van Nelle
* Ministry of Economic Affairs
* Caran d'Ache
Year of production: 
Duration:3,5 minute
Script:Joop Geesink
Art director: Unknown (Jan Coolen?)
                                       Music:Hugo de Groot 
Animation:Joszef Mizík
Harry Tolsma, Dopey Scheffer
35 mm, Zwart-witHagemeijer & Loek van Delden