In 1993 Harald Siepermann worked on the movie Balto, the third animation feature from Steven Spielberg’s Amblimation studio. Balto was based on a true story about a husky dog named Balto who was the leader of a sledge dog team that, under difficult weather circumstances, had to transport medicine from Nenana, Alaska, to a little town called Nome, to save children from a deadly epidemic.
Once the production was launched the team was in need of additional storyboard artists. Hans Bacher, who was the Production Designer on Balto, recommended Harald Siepermann to the producers. While Siepermann is more known for his character designs, he also had a long resume as storyboard artist through his work for his Mad T Party company, his work on the duck Alfred J. Kwak, and on the Walt Disney/Steven Spielberg picture Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
In August 1993 Siepermann went to the Amblimation studio that was located in London, where he worked until the end of the year on the visualization of the script into a storyboard. Below are storyboard thumbnails of the scene were Balto meets the white wolf and is resurrected after he had fallen from a high cliff.
Throughout 1987 Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher worked on the development of the second comic book about the adventures of Alfred J. Kwak, called Vissen in Troebel Water [Fish and Chips]. Harald Siepermann designed the characters and wrote the comic book, based on a theater play called Onder Water [Under Water] by Herman van Veen, and Hans Bacher did the inking and color design.
In this adventure Alfred J. Kwak is concerned about the situation of the herring, who are threatened by the new modern fishing ship of Kapitein Stoppel, which will immensely reduce the herring population.
The images below show the process of the making of the comic book, with as example pages number 6 and 7 of the comic, based on what is in the Harald Siepermann Archive. In these pages Alfred J. Kwak and Henk de Mol are on the beach relaxing after their adventure in the first comic book. The sun makes way for the rain. In the distance they see a new ship being launched into the water and they decide to have a closer look.
Siepermann drew the page layout with in each panel a rough sketch of the drawing. On a new paper he drew for each panel a more detailed sketch.
Once the sketches were completed Hans Bacher did the inking of the entire page and provided it with color. Next to the (rough) sketch Siepermann often wrote the corresponding text of the characters. Once the text was clear and finalized, Siepermann wrote it in a script. The comic book publisher would added the text later in the text balloon of the finished color page.
Today is the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela, leader of the activities against the Apartheid regime that dominated South Africa for decades. The topic Apartheid also plays a part in Harald Siepermann’s television series Alfred J. Kwak.
In the series Alfred J. Kwak befriends the Wana family, four black ducks who escaped their homeland, where there is the Apartheid regime that is run by white geese. Father Kwa and mother Blanche fight against this regime and therefor the police wants to arrest them. Alfred arrange a permit for the Wana family so they can stay in his country, Great Waterland. Now the children Winnie and Tom are safe in Great Waterland, Kwa and Blanche decide to go back to their country to continue their activities against the Apartheid. Alfred accompanies Kwa and Blanche in their home journey and spent several days there. In these days Alfred learns about the discrimination and the oppression of the white geese against the black ducks.
The story arc runs over the three episodes, from episodes 27 to 29. When the episodes premièred in 1989 there was still the Apartheid regime in South Africa and Nelson Mandela was still in prison.
Below are several character designs by Harald Siepermann from these episodes…
…and the model sheets by Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher.
The summer has started. Here are a series of holiday/Hawaii themed illustrations for the Alfred J. Kwak merchandise. The ink of these illustrations was done by Hans Bacher, based on sketches by Harald Siepermann.
Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher had worked on the entire production design of the television series Alfred J. Kwak – characters, backgrounds, props, logo’s, etc. Once the series premiered in 1989, it became an immense success and a merchandise phenomenon, especially in the Netherlands and Germany. It generated tons of requests for exclusive merchandise designs. A work load that landed on the shoulders of Siepermann and Bacher.
Here are some German merchandise designs. These ink illustrations are made by Hans Bacher based on sketches by Harald Siepermann.
Today the new book of Hans Bacher is published, called Vision: Color and Composition for Film.
Hans Bacher played an important part in Harald Siepermann’s career and his development as an artists. In 1981 Siepermann started to study Graphic Design at the Folkwang University in Essen. There he came under the wing of Hans Bacher who was an Assistant Professor and teacher of the course Animation and Comic Illustration. Bacher saw the extraordinary talent of the young Siepermann and started to teach him outside school hours as well.
When Bacher noticed Siepermann’s enthusiasm for a duck called Alfred Jodocus Kwak, he helped him develop the comic book. Alfred J. Kwak became a big success and what started with a comic book, evolved into a television series of 52 episodes and a merchandise phenomenon.
Hans Bacher worked for many years for Steven Spielberg’s Amblimation and Walt Disney. He was Production Designer on Balto, Mulan and Brother Bear. On each of these projects he invited Harald Siepermann to work on storyboard or character design.
In the spring of 1987 Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher worked in London on character design of the weasels for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. When their work was finished, Animation Director Richard Williams asked if they wanted to go to Los Angeles and work on the storyboard for the ‘Escape from Toontown’ sequence. In this sequence Eddie Valiant, played by actor Bob Hoskins, finds himself in a cartoon world.
In June, Siepermann and Bacher flew to Los Angeles and worked for several weeks at the Amblin Studio, that was located at the Universal Studio lot. Nobody had worked on this sequence yet, therefore Siepermann and Bacher had to start from scratch. Director Robert Zemeckis gave them the task to draw and write down everything they could think of and to include a lot of Tex Avery jokes. Siepermann and Bacher drew the funniest storyboard that run up to 15 minutes. Eventually only 45 seconds was used in the final version of the film. Among these seconds was also the elevator scene with Droopy.
“What a great movie and what a great experience that was,” commented Harald Siepermann years later. “Remember, this was way before computers and we did it as we went along. Wonderful times… I may sound like a war veteran here, but those were great times. Think of it: just a few years ago, I had been a student of Graphic Design, now I was right in the heart of Hollywood, in Spielberg’s office.”
Below is a part of the storyboard by Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher.
Click here for a post with more information about the Escape from Toontown storyboard from the wonderful blog of Hans Bacher.
This month it’s been 30 years since the second comic book about the duck Alfred J. Kwak was released, called Vissen in Troebel Water [Fish and Chips]. In this adventure a school of herring are worried about the new fishers ship of Kapitein Stoppel that is about to leave the coast. This ship is very modern and able to capture a large amount of herring from the sea, which will immensely reduce the herring population. Alfred is concerned about the problems of the herring and wants to help them.
The comic book was designed by Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher, and based on a theater play called Onder Water [Under Water] by Herman van Veen.
Harald Siepermann designed all the characters. Henk de Mol returns again in this new adventure as Alfred’s friend. “When Herman handed me Onder Water, another play he had written about herrings, to rework it as Kwak’s 2nd adventure, Vissen in Troebel Water, I brought him back as Kwak’s permanent partner,” said Harald Siepermann. “I always found the size-difference of the two very rewarding visually.” It wasn’t until the television series that Henk de Mol became Alfred’s foster parent.
In addition to Henk de Mol, this comic book features many new characters that eventually would play a prominent role in the television series. There is the seaman Kapitein Stoppel and his wife Lisa, the capitalists mayor K. Rokodil and Professor Hannibal Nijlpaard, and the spy Lispel de Kwal.
In addition to the wide range of characters, the comic book also looks good for the colors and scenery, done by the great Hans Bacher.
The comic book was later be adapted for the television series in episode 14 Vissen in Troebel Water [Let’s Find The Sawfish] and 15 De Ontploffing [Alfred’s Perilous Voyage].
The first comic book about Alfred J. Kwak, that was published on February 18, 1987, became a success and a favorite among children. Not only was the comic book noticed by children, also television producer Dennis Livson saw that the comic book had enough charm and potential to create a cartoon television series of 52 episodes based on the character Alfred J. Kwak.
In March 1988 Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher started with the designs of the characters, based on stories by Dutch artists Herman van Veen. All the character designs were combined in a book called Character- and Color-Design for Alfred J. Kwak, which ultimately contained more than 250 unique characters. When the designs were completed in August 1988, the Japanese production team in Tokyo, where the actual animation was done, could start with the production of the series. The book served as an instruction guide for the Japanese team about the structure, colors, and costume design for each character. In addition, Harald Siepermann also went to Tokyo for several weeks to teach how the characters should be drawn and to explain the ideas behind certain stories.
Below are several character designs from episode 34 De Schat van Toet Kat Kammon [The Riddle of the Pyramid] and episode 35 De Slang [The Labyrinth] by Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher.
On February 18, 1987, the first comic book about the adventures of the duck Alfred J. Kwak was released. The creative trio Harald Siepermann, Hans Bacher and Herman van Veen already discussed ideas for the second issue. However, this had to be put on hold since Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher were asked to work in London on character design of the weasels for the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. After their work on the weasels they were asked to come to Los Angeles to work on the storyboard of the “Escape from Toontown”-sequence. For several weeks Siepermann and Bacher worked in the Amblin studio designing the storyboard.
Between Harald’s work on the storyboard he often drew sketches of his creation Alfred J. Kwak in various shapes and poses. Here are some of the sketches he made while working in Los Angeles on Who Frames Roger Rabbit.