Miffy the cartoon rabbit
Who would have thought that such a simple design would prove to be so popular for so long?
Miffy is a rabbit – that is clear from immediately looking at her. But you might not realise that she is the world’s most successful rabbit, at the head of a US$250 million empire. And that fortune has come about despite (or, perhaps, because of) a sterile simplicity. Dick Bruna created her with just a few shapes and one colour. There’s no intricate detail or deep expression in her face but Miffy has managed to capture the hearts of children across the world.
The cartoon character was created by Dutch artist Dick Bruna, who has made about 30 books based on Miffy’s adventures. (If you can call going to school or going to the doctor an ‘adventure’.) Together they have been translated into 40 different languages and have sold more than 85 million copies. The books have bred even faster than a real rabbit could!
Even though the result looks simple, there’s a very precise and special technique used to make the images in the books. Dick Bruna spends about a day on each full page picture and will try different colours and shapes until he is completely happy. Sometimes he will revisit the result and make small changes – taking away a single tear from a crying Miffy, for instance. Each book has only sixteen pages, so making each one perfect is important.
Dick Bruna House, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Dick Bruna is from Utrecht and the people of the Dutch city are proud of their son. The city’s main museum, Centraal Museum, has turned a whole building opposite the main exhibitions into what they’ve named ‘the Dick Bruna House’. It’s a collection of his work that tells the story of Miffy’s birth and life – along with some of the other characters he’s created.
At the age of 85, he still works at his studio in Utrecht, albeit much slower than he once did. There hasn’t been a new Miffy book since 2008. But the routine he’s kept for decades hasn’t changed too much. He still wakes up early – by six o’clock – and cycles to his favourite café for a coffee and then on to the studio. He works on his drawings before cycling home for lunch and then back to the office for administrative work.
It’s a simple life for a man who has created a global multimillion dollar publishing company… but it’s fitting for the drawings and the characters that have helped him to this point. But it also probably reflects, in some part, this city he has called home for his whole life. Utrecht is a beautiful city based around canals and small friendly streets. It has a lot more visual noise to it than a Miffy book but it shares a humble and unassuming attitude.
The city’s son now seems more like its grandfather and the people are rightly proud of Dick Bruna and the rabbit that has made them known around the world.
Time Travel Turtle was a guest of Visit Utrecht but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.