Alfred J. Kwak

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Alfred J. Kwak
Alfredjodocuskwak logo.jpg
Logo of Alfred J. Kwak
Format Cartoon
Created by Herman van Veen[1]
Country of origin Netherlands
Germany
Japan
No. of episodes 52[1]
Production
Producer(s) Telecable Benelux B.V.
Running time 25 minutes approx.
Broadcast
Original channel VARA (Netherlands)
TV Tokyo (Japan)
ZDF (Germany)
Original run 1989 – 1991

Alfred J. Kwak (小さなアヒルの大きな愛の物語 あひるのクワック Chiisana Ahiru no Ōkina Ai no Monogatari: Ahiru no Kuwakku/Quack?) is a cartoon television series based on a Dutch theatre show by Herman van Veen and was co-produced by VARA, Telecable Benelux B.V. and TV Tokyo and first shown in 1989.[2] It consists of 52 episodes. The series characters were designed by Harald Siepermann.[3] There are also toys and a comic based on the animated series.

The series has been broadcast in many countries and has been dubbed and subtitled in Dutch, French, Japanese, Greek, English, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, Hungarian, Finnish, Serbian, Polish, German, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, Chinese, Czech, Korean and Norwegian.

In 1991, Herman van Veen won the Goldene Kamera award for the cartoon.

Origins[edit]

When our children were still young, I wrote the first story on Alfred Jodocus Kwak. Mainly, this was caused by two things. One night I was on my way home and drove my car through the countryside, and accidentally ran over a duck. I regretted it a lot. A few days later I was at home on the telephone and saw a mother duck and seven little ducklings wobbling through our garden. The man I was talking to on the phone was the leader of a symphonic orchestra. He asked if I could write a fairytale and if I could come over and tell and sing about it, while the orchestra would provide musical accompaniment. While I was talking to the man I thought: "Could that mother duck be looking for her husband, and how do you explain to a duck that you ran over another duck?". "Hello?" the voice on the phone said."What do you think?" I said: "I'm thinking of a duck?" and the man said "Excellent, so you'll write us a fairytale about a duck". That's how Alfred was born. By accident.

Plot[edit]

Alfred J. Kwak was born as the son of Johan Sebastian and Anna Kwak. Some time after his birth, Alfred loses his parents and his brothers and sisters after a car hits them. Henk the mole, a good friend of the Kwak family, raises the little orphan duck. Alfred experiences a lot of adventures.

Unlike many other cartoons targeted for children, Alfred J. Kwak features exceptionally mature and often sad themes. Amongst others it deals with different social and political issues, such as abuse of power, but also raises important values such as friendship and solidarity.

The cartoon is also notable for the political themes on which it touches. In the cartoon, Alfred fights against a fascist dictator, takes in refugees fleeing from a country under Apartheid (with white geese and black ducks), saves whales against hunters, and oversees the changeover of his country from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected president. Such themes are far from typical in a children's cartoon, and form a big part of Alfred J. Kwak's appeal. Other episodes have satirised the Japanese love of golf, and criticised countries which have sharp north/south economic divides.

The cartoon is also unusual for the subtlety of its long-term narrative. In most children's cartoons, the characters do not age. In Alfred J. Kwak, we see the progress of the main characters from very young children to adulthood as the series advances. This is particularly striking in the character of Dolf, who is initially a mere schoolboy, but who, as time passes, becomes a criminal and a dictator.

Setting[edit]

The time setting of the cartoon is somewhat surreal. On the whole the technology and dress of most characters seems appropriate to the late 20th century, and yet Alfred and Paljas/Boffin often travel in a spaceship with a technology far more advanced than that, while many characters such as the King's staff, Scratchpaws the cat, and Dolf in his Napoleonic incarnation wear clothes more appropriate to previous ages. Other surreal elements to the cartoon include such strange characters as the evil genie of the bottle, living chess pieces from Alfred's chess game, Pied Piper style Clown On The Moon, and aliens who appear like ducks except for their human-style feet, and a "dream" style Wild West episode during which Dolf seems to become aware that he is a character in a cartoon.

Characters[edit]

Main characters[edit]

Alfred[edit]

Alfred Jodocus Kwak is a duck. As a child he lives in a giant clog with his family, later on he lives with his adoptive father Henk. He is very concerned with other people and values many virtues, like human rights and good manners. Friends, family and the environment, are also close to his heart and he in some episodes even risks his own safety when it comes to do the right thing. Although he has gone through a lot of sad things, his favourite song is 'Ik ben vandaag zo vrolijk' (I'm so happy today).

Dolf[edit]

Dolf is Alfred's Archenemy and first appears in episode 4. In the first episode Dolf's parents, a crow and a blackbird, can be seen making disparaging comments on the eggs of Alfred's mother. Both are dressed in traditional German garment. The father wears Lederhosen, a feathered hat and, in the Dutch original, speaks with a heavy German accent, while Dolf's mother is seen in a dirndl outfit.

Oh, they look repulsive. Waterfowl aren't real birds, like us. So in a way I can understand why they are so vile and disgusting.

— Dolf's father, episode 1

Dolf gradually develops from a mere naughty schoolboy, to a merciless dictator, an arms dealer, a reckless politician, and overall criminal. Though the show clearly portrays Dolf's acts as inherently negative and wrong, it also provides the background on how Dolf became who he is. For example, when a child, Dolf is prone to blame others for problems in which he too played a role. Dolf mentions that his mother died very early and that his father neglects him due to alcoholism. Dolf can also be seen to express a sense of self hate and poor self image; as he is disgusted by the fact that he is only part crow, and paints his orange beak black to disguise his true identity. When Alfred accidentally finds out about this, he cannot understand why Dolf is so ashamed and urges him to drop the secret and tell others about it. Dolf however is petrified and convinced that his friends will make fun of him, and makes Alfred swear he will never tell anyone about it.

Don't you dare forget this evening, because neither will I. Goodnight gentlemen. [clicks his heels] DOLF IS RIGHTEOUS!

— Dolf, episode 22

Episode 22 through 25 are essentially an allegory of the rise and fall of Fascism/Nazism, with Dolf himself, though wearing a Napoleonic uniform, as a clear caricature of Adolf Hitler. It begins with Dolf returning from abroad, in a train with Austrian markings, and meeting up with his friends. He then discusses the current political climate in Great Waterland, and expresses disgust of it. Dolf then decides to found a political party, the later National Crows Party, for which he goes to Alfred to lend money. He explains his ideas, but Alfred refuses and Dolf barges out of Alfred's house in a fit of rage. Alfred and Henk express their fear of Dolf, but Henk reassures Alfred that Dolf will never gather enough money to fund his intended party. Not much later however, Dolf inherits a huge fortune. He founds his party, which through promising employment and change, quickly becomes a major and powerful political movement. Dolf eventually stages a coup d'etat and takes over the country. Political opponents, including Alfred, are imprisoned on the charge of high treason. Alfred and his friends barely escape and flee abroad to the neighboring country of Great Reedland. Not much later the King of Great Waterland himself flees as well, and Dolf proclaims himself Emperor Dolf I. Alfred and the other political dissidents however devised a plan to dispose of Dolf and steal Dolf's inheritances from the vaults of his palace. Without his money, Dolf's power quickly dwindles and he is forced to flee.

Dolf eventually makes an appearance as an illegal arms dealer and general criminal in further episodes. In the 43rd and 44th episodes, the King has decided to abdicate and for the first time democratic elections are held. Dolf once again attempts to rule Great Waterland as one of the three official candidates. In order to get ahead of other two candidates (Ollie being the first candidate) He hires some foreigners to sabotage the dam, which protects the waterland from being flooded by the seawater. After the dam has broken Dolf cunningly withdraws his entry because he wants to *help* people and can not waste time to elections. Dolf then publicly funds the repairs of the dam, skyrocketing his popularity and prompting his reentry in the presidential race. He then, in an attempt to get rid of any compromising evidence, tries to kill Lispel, who saw the criminal act, but manages to escape and though heavily wounded, tells Alfred the truth on the flood.

Dolf manages to escape and continues his life of crime. In the final two episodes, Dolf becomes the henchman of an oil magnate who is attempting to get his hands on the blueprints of an environmentally friendly fuel, invented by Professor Buffon. After a fight, in which Dolf attempts to kill Alfred by pushing his car off the road, Dolf is again captured and is sentenced to be imprisoned for 26 years. This time however, he escapes, aided by a former member of his Crows Party, and takes Winnie, Alfred's girlfriend, hostage. In the series finale, and after a manic hunt, Alfred finds and tells Dolf of where Winnie is. After telling Alfred the whereabouts of her, it gave Dolf enough time to escape, only for him to be caught by the police and put into prison.

Henk[edit]

Henk is a mole. He raised Alfred after his family died. In the Israeli version he is called Hafi, a diminutive for "Hafarperet" - the Hebrew word for "mole".

Winnie[edit]

Winnie is a black duck and Alfred's girlfriend. In the Dutch version she speaks Afrikaans accented Dutch. Afrikaans being a language closely related to Dutch and spoken in South Africa. Alfred meets her and her family, in episode 27, on a train leaving for Great Waterland after his holidays. Her family are refugees who escaped from their home country after it has been taken over by white geese. After Alfred helps her parents to sort out the problems in her country, she joins Alfred on many of his adventures and holidays. She works in the local university as a secretary (as first seen in episode 34) and lives with her brother Tom in a little house near the forest.

Secondary characters[edit]

  • Professor Paljas is an interdisciplinary academic. He is a polar bear, talking with a German accent. In the UK, Hungarian, Serbian and Israeli versions he is called Professor Buffon. He makes his first appearance in episode 18, in which he attempts to communicate with the whales in the South Pole using his new invention "Jonus". He returns in episode 26, in which he asks Alfred to join him on his expedition to the Himalayas. He also travels (with Alfred of course), to Egypt to find the only medicine which can cure his ill colleague, and the jungle to investigate a volcano which keeps erupting. He cares a lot about the environment and develops a petrol for vehicles that don't expose any carbon monoxide and prevent acid rain.
  • Ollie is Alfred's close school-friend, a stork who grows up to be a lawyer, and later, after the defeat of Dolf, the first democratically elected president of Great Waterland. In the Israeli version, Ollie is called Lolly and is a female.
  • Pikkie is another friend of Alfred's from his schooldays. A magpie, Pikkie is prone to stealing shiny objects, a trait which often lands his friends in trouble. Pikkie is called Stibitzi in the German version, Ruby in the Israeli version, Grabbie in the UK version and Grabljivko in Serbian version. He makes his first appearance in episode 2, in which he attends Alfred's first birthday party. He steals the king's ruby during a visit in the king's castle and Alfred gets blamed for it. He is often seen in the early episodes when Alfred was still at school. After episode 12 he isn't seen or spoken of for 19 episodes. We are not told what he did or where he was during Dolf's activism and other events. Alfred and Henk meet him again coincidentally on an oil rig, sporting a stubbly beard, where he worked as a diamond expert. In episode 49 he falls from the sky in front of Alfred's house after trying to fly to the rainbow. He joins Alfred, Prof. Paljas and Henk on an expedition to the rainforest in which the legendary Pot of Gold is kept. His weakness for shining objects persuades him to steal it but Dolf takes it from him at the airport.
  • Franz Ferdinand is a lion and the king of Great Waterland, the country in which Alfred lives. He is a well-meaning, yet lazy and incompetent monarch, with no interest in politics. He is named after the real historical figure Franz Ferdinand. He makes his first appearance in episode 20 when Alfred wonders what kind of a king he is. He is shown lying down his lemonade bath and enjoying life, when a servant comes in and tells him that the messenger from Great Sparrowland has arrived and wants to speak him. The king claims that he just got into the bath, but the servant reassures him that he's been in it for over two hours. The king asks the servant to speak with the messenger for him but since his signature is needed he reluctantly gets out of the bath. In episode 21 the king goes bankrupt and is forced to take loan from Alfred, which he doesn't pay back. After the rise of Dolf, the exiled king realises how careless and reluctant he has been, and begins to take interest in politics. After Dolf's fall, in the planning of which Franz Ferdinand was involved, he becomes a just and beloved king. In episode 43 however, he decides to surrender all his executive power and remain only as a ceremonial head of state, with a democratically elected president as the actual head of government.
  • Lispel is a sinister jellyfish and a spy working for the mayor of the city. As his name suggests, he talks with a lisp. He makes his first appearance in episode 7 as a contact to another agent. In episodes 14, 16 & 19 he informs the mayor of Alfred's plans of preventing him from making ships that catch all fish of the world. In episode 23, during Dolf's activism Lispel informs Dolf where Alfred and his friends are hiding after they escaped imprisonment. In episode 27 he sees Alfred taking in the refugees and threatens to tell the authorities unless he gets three gold coins. Alfred gives him the money but doesn't listen to Lispel's information (Which he must tell him, because he got his money). After several attempts of getting Alfred to listen to him, Lispel does go to the police and betrays them. Lispel makes some minor appearances in later episodes, but in episode 44, before the presidential elections, he sees Dolf and some hired foreigners damaging the dam which causes a huge flood. Dolf pays for repairs and equipment to become more popular, but Lispel threatens to tell unless he gets his gold. Dolf refuses because he thinks that Lispel will keep returning for more gold. By the docks (Their meeting point), Dolf pulls out a revolver and shoots Lispel several times. Lispel falls into the sea. Later in the episode he stands, badly injured, in Alfred's front garden and tells him everything. His last appearance is in episode 51 in which he informs the mayor of Prof. Paljas's plans on making a petrol which doesn't expose any gases or fumes. He receives his payment, leaves the mayor's house and is never seen again. He is not present at Alfred's birthday in the last episode.

Setting[edit]

Great Waterland[edit]

Great Waterland (Groot-Waterland in Dutch) is arguably the most important setting within the series. It is Alfred's birthplace as well the home, or future home, of many of the shows characters. It is, partly, a caricature of the Netherlands. The land consists of polders, the town Alfred lives in is built in a typical Dutch style, while he himself lives in a house made from a clog. In addition; many of its inhabitants wear traditional Dutch clothing, perhaps most notably Alfred's parents. For most of the series Great Waterland is an absolute monarchy, led by Franz Ferdinand: a lion. Near the shows conclusion Dolf assumes command, and Waterland briefly becomes an authoritarian fascist state, before reverting to a monarchy and eventually becoming a constitutional monarchy with an elected president.

Episode list[edit]

Theme songs and voice actors[edit]

Dutch version[edit]

Spetter Pieter Pater

Ik ben vandaag zo vrolijk

Alfred J. Kwak is one of the first cartoon series in the Netherlands to feature an (almost) all-star cast. Actress Ryan van den Akker is Alfred and Herman van Veen is Professor Paljas (an alternate phrase for fool, clown).

German version[edit]

Plätscher, Plitscher, Feder

Warum bin ich so fröhlich

Japanese version[edit]

Yakusoku da yo (約束だよ)

Happy Happy (ハッピー・ハッピー Happī Happī)

English version[edit]

Never keep a good Duck down

Alfred Song

  • Performed by Alan Carr (ED)

Danish version[edit]

Sprøjte, pjatte, plaske

I dag er jeg så lyk'lig

Hebrew version[edit]

בין טיפות המים

אני כל-כך שמח

Credits[edit]

English Version[edit]

Danish Version[edit]

Alternative titles[edit]

  • Alfred J. Quack
  • Little Duck's Big Love Story
  • The Adventures of Alfred J. Quack
  • Alfred Jodocus Kwak (Dutch)
  • Alfred Jonatan Kwak (Polish)
  • Приключения Альфреда Квака (Priklyuchenia Alfreda Kwaka; Russian)
  • Niente paura, c'è Alfred! (Italian)
  • Rasmus Rap (Danish)
  • آلفرد كواك ("Alferd Quack", Arabic)
  • שאלתיאל קוואק (She'al'ti'el Quack; Hebrew)
  • Alfred Andreas Kvakk (Norwegian)
  • Alfred Jeremias Kvack (Swedish)
  • Alfred J. Kwak (Finnish)
  • Alfréd a kacsa (Hungarian)
  • Alfred Džonatan Kvak (Serbian)
  • 鴨鴨歷險記(Yia1 Yia1 Li4 Tian3 Gi4, The Adventures of Ducky) (Chinese)
  • Alfreð Æringi Önd (Icelandic)
  • Ο Άλφρεντ το παπί (O Álfred to papí) (Greek)

International broadcasters[edit]

Country TV Network
Netherlands VARA
Japan TV Tokyo
Germany ZDF
Israel IETV
Spain TVE
United Kingdom Channel 4
Italy Italia 1, ReteItalia
Greece ERT
Poland TVP
Hungary Magyar Televízió
Iceland Sjónvarpið
Sweden SVT, SR, TV4
Belgium BRT, RTBF
Norway NRK
Denmark TV2
Finland YLE
Serbia BK
France FR3, Canal+, Canal Famille

Allusions[edit]

  • That Alfred's girlfriend fleeing Apartheid is called Winnie is probably a reference to the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela.
  • One episode features a womanising pop star duck who nearly steals Winnie off Alfred. He appears to be loosely based on Prince and Michael Jackson.
  • In the episode of Desert Dream, Alfred is introduced by a singer named Leifeet, to the problems of drought in a poor country. This clearly refers to the charity actions taken for Ethiopia by Bob Geldof through his live aid-project in the mid-1980s.
  • In the Danish version the main character is Rasmus Rap, a name earlier used for Donald Duck in that country.
  • Alfred J. Kwak was named after Alfred Biolek, a friend of Van Veen's. He has said this in a program on Dutch television.

Releases[edit]

The show has had some PAL VHS releases in the United Kingdom and Germany (as spotted on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de), but does not appear to have an NTSC release in the United States and Canada.[citation needed]

A DVD Region 2 box set of the whole series has been produced and is sold in the Netherlands and Finland. An English DVD release was made late 2007 with only 12 episodes, and is now available to buy on Amazon.com.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Wolf, Matt (1990-11-11). "Herman Van Who?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  2. ^ "Alfred J. Kwak". IMDB.com. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Amidi, Amid (2013-02-16). "Harald Siepermann (1962-2013)". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved 2013-03-02. 
  4. ^ As translated from the official website. (www.alfredjodocuskwak.nl)
  5. ^ Herman van Veen Studios - Characters - Alfred Jodocus Kwak - Nieuws

External links[edit]