Director: Harold Mack
Release Date: August 1, 1952
Rating: ★★★★★

De gouden vis © Toonder Studio'sBy 1952 the Dutch Toonder studios had been producing animation films for ten years, and now they were ready to produce a ‘free film’, not commissioned, but out of their own ideas.

The first of these free films was ‘De gouden vis’ (The Golden Fish). It was Marten Toonder’s old wish to produce a free film, and the result is clearly a work of love. ‘De gouden vis’ is an astonishing achievement for the Dutch studio: all elements of animation film have matured in this film: its storytelling is original, its designs are gorgeous, the animation is excellent, the effects are convincing and its atmosphere is unique. The result is arguably one of the most beautiful films ever made in The Netherlands.

Based on a story by Marten Toonder’s brother, Jan Gerhard Toonder, the film tells about the Chinese prince Li Pai, who repeatedly asks an old wise fish how to live. The fish tells the prince that his eyes know the answer, but Li Pai misinterprets what he sees, and only in old age he discovers the truth…

The film has a genuinely Chinese atmosphere, thanks to designs by Pamela & Harold Mack and backgrounds by Cees van de Weert and Ling Nan Lung. The film hasn’t aged a bit, except for Nell Knoop’s Dutch narration, which has an unmistakable 1950s diction.

Unfortunately, ‘De gouden vis’, in spite of praise on several film festivals around the world, only returned a mere thousand guilders, while its production had costed about 40,000 guilders. So, during the rest of its existence, the Toonder studios produced only a handful of other ‘free films’, most notably ‘Moonglow’ (1955).

‘De gouden vis’ is available on the DVD inside the Dutch book ‘De Toonder Animatiefilms’