I had the pleasure of meeting Harald Siepermann at Annecy earlier this year. He’s another one of those incredible animation talents whose work is instantly familiar though his name may not be. In recent years, he’s contributed character designs to many Disney features including BROTHER BEAR, MULAN, TREASURE PLANET and TARZAN. Here’s a few of his designs from the latter film:
He’s also one of the co-creators of a popular European comic/animation character named Alfred J. Kwak. The Kwak comics and animated series never made it into the US so I was rather unaware of what it was all about when I first met him. A British friend at Annecy however was duly impressed to meet Siepermann at the festival and tells me that the show is one of the most intelligent and well-produced children’s animated series he’s ever seen.
So when Harald emailed recently to tell me about the newly released Alfred J. Kwak illustrated book, I asked if he could send over a short bit about the character’s history that I could share with Brew readers like myself who may not be familiar with the character. I’ll let Harald tell you the story…
Alfred J. Kwak, the main character of the book, was born as a stage character for a UNICEF children’s musical that Herman van Veen, a popular Dutch entertainer/singer, was asked to create in the early-Eighties. He was not visualised; Herman was doing all the voices and characters by himself, very Danny Kaye-like. After making Herman’s acquaintance backstage one day , I started to do comic strips with the duck, funny enough in collaboration with Hans Bacher [production designer, MULAN].
We were approached by a producer to work on a concept for a 52-part TV-series. The series was produced in Japan, directed by Saito-San, who also was the director of the legendary KIMBA THE WHITE LION. It premiered worldwide (excluding the US) in 1990 and won numerous prizes, mostly because we kept the socio-critical theme of the stageshows. We had episodes about apartheid, whaling, greenhouse-effects and lots of other issues, even about the Third Reich (Hitler was a crow in our show).
This new book, ABGEMACHT IST ABGEMACHT, which in English might be called A DEAL IS A DEAL, deals with the rights for children, ratified by the United Nations fifteen years ago, and plays against the backdrop of a war over oil. Similarities to recent events are absolutely intentional, though we never mention words like Iraq, Bush or Islam. Even if this all sounds very educational, 99% of everything connected to Alfred is purely fun and entertainment. Only if you look a bit deeper, will you see the issues.
The book is not available in the US, but can be picked up from Amazon-Germany.