His Life

Harald Siepermann had a passion for drawing since a young age. Here is an illustration of Scrooge Duck by Harald around the age of 10.

Harald Siepermann was born on June 10, 1962, in Hattingen, Germany. He grew up in the country side surrounded by trees and animals. Since there weren’t many other children to play with and the TV program offerings were little, Harald spent a lot of time reading and drawing. At the age of six he went to the cinema for the first time and saw the Walt Disney movie The Jungle Book. It made a big impression on him, and since then he developed a passion for drawing and creating stories. With his drawings he mainly focused on designing characters. “I seem to have a natural talent for character,” said Harald Siepermann. “I always did that, even when I was a kid. When I was like four or five years old, I used to copy things that I had seen on television. There wasn’t that much television back then, but there were some kind of children’s shows and I took the characters and invented new stories for them and stuff like that. Even when you look at my drawings as a kid, I never drew cars or houses or spaceships or whatever. It was always characters and people and animals and stuff like that.”

After receiving his diploma at the high school Gymnasium Waldstraße in Hattingen, he studied Art and Illustration at the renowned art school Folkwang University in Essen, Germany. At the University he met Hans Bacher, who was an Assistant Professor in Animation and Comic Illustration, a new course that in Germany was only available at this school. Hans Bacher immediately saw that his new student had a talent for character design. “He started studying animation,” recalled Hans Bacher. “I noticed that Harald was interested in character design. He did a lot of interesting caricatures and illustration that were way beyond what normally talented students showed. I immediately saw that he was another piece of gold and I couldn’t believe it.”

Various sketches by Harald Siepermann from the early 1980’s.

While Harald was still a student at the Folkwang University he met Dutch singer and entertainer Herman van Veen. “I visited a concert of Herman van Veen in Recklinghausen, Germany, and then recognized the same energy that I felt, the same way to look at things,” said Harald Siepermann. “A train of thought that felt very familiar to me. I knew that he had his own publishing house Harlekijn, and during the concert I played with the idea of ​​addressing him and possibly asking for advice. So I just went to the cloakroom and addressed him.” Van Veen was impressed with Siepermann artistic talents and it resulted in a lifelong collaboration. Their most famous creation was the duck Alfred J. Kwak.

In 1985 Harald Siepermann and fellow illustrators Hans Bacher, Uli Meyer and Jens Wiemer, started the advertisement company Mad T Party in Dusseldorf. The company played a prominent role in creating illustrations, commercials and storyboards for German television and special effects in movies. Whenever some of their designs had to be animated, they contacted Richard Williams who had his own animation studio in London. Through this connection Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher were asked to work on the Walt Disney / Steven Spielberg production Who Framed Roger Rabbit, for which Richard Williams was assigned as Animation Director. It was an ambitious movie that combined life action with animation. Siepermann and Bacher created the character design for the weasels. Once the designs were finished, they were asked to come to Los Angeles and work on the storyboard for the “Escape from Toontown”-sequence that appears towards the end of the movie. “For Harald it must have been pure paradise, because he was so young,” said Hans Bacher. “I think that experience shaped him. To be involved with this big world and to get this foot in the door to something major. That I think pushed him forward light years. He was going out of himself and his drawings became better and better. He was exploding with creativity. It was the most amazing time.”

Harald Siepermann working on an illustration of Alfred J. Kwak.

Meanwhile the character Alfred J. Kwak reached new heights. After Siepermann and Bacher created the first comic book about the duck, television producer Dennis Livson wanted to create a television series about the adventures of the duck. Herman van Veen wrote the synopsis of 52 episodes and Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher did the production design of the series. An ambitious task since the television series contained 250 unique characters. The series was broadcast worldwide and became an immense success and a merchandise phenomenon, with exclusive illustrations by Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher.

After the success of Alfred J. Kwak, Siepermann worked on various projects, among them the movie Balto from Steven Spielberg’s Amblimation studio in London. He stayed for several months in London to work as storyboard artist on various sequences for the movie. Another major opportunity arise in 1995 when Siepermann was asked to work on the character design of the little dragon Mushu for the Walt Disney classic Mulan. This was the start of a collaboration with Walt Disney on several production such as Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear and Enchanted. Besides his work for Walt Disney he also did character designs for other productions like Gnomeo & Juliet, Lissy und der wilde Kaiser, Space Chimps, and The Gruffallo.

In addition to character designs for big studios Harald Siepermann also gave lectures about character design and storytelling for animation at several renowned art schools in Germany, Denmark and Singapore.

His last project was the German computer animation movie Der 7bte Zwerg, which he directed and created the character and storyboard designs. Harald Siepermann died during the production of the movie on February 16, 2013, at the age of 50.


Character designs by Harald Siepermann for the German computer animation movie Der 7bte Zwerg.