This fairy tale begins on a winter’s day in the early fifties of the last century. A man sees out his guest at 107 Prins Maurits Lane in the Dutch town of Overveen and closes his front door. He turns around and takes a deep breath. Peace has returned to the house. But in his head something seems to have been ignited. Something unique. Something big. Something which, at that moment, he can’t possibly surmise the consequences of for him, for his work and for the way his country experiences fairytales.
The year is 1952. The man is Dutch illustrator Anton Pieck. He just said goodbye to an over-enthusiastic Peter Reijnders. This filmmaker from the city of Eindhoven had to persuade Pieck to design the new to be opened Fairytale Forest in theme park The Efteling. Pieck didn’t warm to the idea at first, but now seems to have succumbed to the persuasiveness of Reijnders. An exceptional collaboration is born. In the subsequent months Anton Pieck, 57 years old, designs the first ten fairytales.
These fairytales sowed the seeds for one of Europe’s largest amusement parks. But moreover, they proved to be a huge influence on the image the Dutch had of ‘the fairytale’. Where people were used to telling the stories or reading them from a book, Pieck took them off of the pages and made them into three-dimensional pictures. Letters became lines. Readers became visitors. What these visitors saw was not an extravagantly developed and colourful scene. The hand of Pieck chose a whole other world. He chose his own world, a nostalgic world in subdued colours, made from solid materials. Romanticism through pureness. Finesse through simplicity.
For decades, countless little children’s shoes shuffled along his designs. The children-of-then are the parents-of-now and Pieck created the atmosphere in which they continue to pass on their fairytales. For many, his interpretations of Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and the Sleeping Beauty became the standard. They are nestled in our collective memory and thus make a significant contribution to this part of the cultural heritage.
In the night of Tuesday, November 24th 1987, the Netherlands lost her beloved illustrator. Pieck’s pencil kept silent for good. But his heritage blossoms up to the present day in a fairylike forest in the province of Brabant. By his hand, millions of visitors are led into a unique world every year. Pieck’s successor Ton van de Ven and the current team of Efteling designers prove that that hand can be borrowed successfully.
In 1995 Pieck obtained a place in the illustrious Hall of Fame of the IAAPA, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. He would have become 100 years old that year. A posthumous honour for a man who features prominently in our national history in many ways. His work will remain to evoke an unparalleled atmosphere until far in the future. On paper, certainly, but also at that special place to which he didn’t want to commit at first but where he swiftly turned out to be the indispensable father of its success: The Fairytale Forrest.
In an interview with website ‘De Vijf Zintuigen’ (The Five Senses), former assistant director of the Efteling Reinoud van Assendelft de Coningh described the Fairytale Forrest effectively: ‘It is the place where a lot of Dutch people made their most precious childhood memories. A wonderful, magical place where you may still believe in fairytales’.
A magical place full of memories. It was the wish of Anton Pieck when he designed the Fairytale Forrest. That wish came true. And how. Since the opening in 1952 countless childhood memories have been made there. And every day, countless more are waiting to be found.