Tekst (smal)

Erik Verkerk & Joost Van den Bosch about Tummy Tom and the Lost Teddy Bear

Interview by Geoffrey Macnab

SEE NL talks to the Dutch directors about their animated 4-film series based on the much-loved children’s books of Jet Boeke.

Still: Tummy Tom and the Lost Teddy Bear - Erik Verkerk & Joost van den Bosch

In the Netherlands, it’s estimated that every household has three or four books featuring Dikkie Dik, the endlessly curious and mischievous orange cat created by author Jet Boeke, whose stories used to be read on Sesame Street.

Now, the much-loved feline hero has his own movie franchise - and his name has been changed for the international audience. Tummy Tom and the Lost Teddy Bear, the first in an envisaged series of four films, is screening in the market at the Annecy International Film Festival, the Mecca of animation. The new film, produced by Phanta Animation with BosBrosand Eyeworks Film & TV, is sold by Incredible Film. The Dutch release is set for the 19th of June.

Joost van den Bosch and Erik Verkerk of Ka-Ching Cartoons are the Rotterdam-based animation wizards who have directed the movie from the script by the legendary children’s film supremo Burny Bos, who died last December.

“He’s basically the godfather of family film in the Netherlands,” van den Bosch enthuses of Bos.

“He [Bos] had wanted to make this film for years but couldn’t get the money,” Verkerk notes. 

Bos was often told that this was a movie that should be financed on the open market and that didn’t need public support. However, after his company BosBros merged with Phanta Vision in 2019, it finally became possible to make the movie when Petra Goedings, CEO of Phanta, threw her weight behind the project.

The cat has been around for over 45 years. There are now three generations of Dutch kids who’ve grown up with him. Dikkie Dik is also well-known in Belgium, where the books continue to sell briskly.

“Outside the country, the character is less well-known but we made the film without talking characters. Dikkie Dik and his best friend, Cat Mouse, they don’t talk…all the characters have real animal voices. That makes it quite easy to translate to other countries. We don’t have to lip synch a lot of characters,” suggests Verkerk.

There is, though, an English voice-over.

A typical story might involve Dikkie/Tummy sniffing on pepper and then sneezing, or following a line of ants, or trying to work out just why a snail has come through the door. His life consists of a series of small adventures. Nothing too seismic or life threatening ever happens to him - but he gets into plenty of scrapes. In this film, he is trying to find his lost teddy bear.

This is hand-drawn 2D animation but every effort has been made to make Dikkie/Tummy as authentic as possible. “The movements we use in the film are very much based on real cats. Also, the voices we recorded are real cats,” says Verkerk.

“We try to quote from the book as often as we can,” chimes in van den Bosch. “It’s not as if we have moulded the stories together but more like we are quoting the book wherever possible.”

There was early talk of making the film in 3D but the directors decided to stay as true to the original as possible. “Tummy Tom has been around for 45 years and we think that the charm is the artisan hand-drawn style,” Verkerk observes. “We really wanted to go for a nostalgic, warm feeling with the audience.”

The pair are promising a “sing along, clap along” experience for young viewers.

Author Boeke, now in her mid 70s, has been kept involved with the production every step of the way. “She sees everything we do and she gets to comment on everything.”

A tie-in book will be published to coincide with the Dutch release. “That’s funny because we’ve made a movie based on her books but then there is a book based on the movie about the books!”

The second film in the series, A New Friend For Tummy Tom, is well under way and is due to be released in December. 

 Here you will find the complete overview of Dutch (co-)productions at Annecy and the screening schedule.