UTRECHT: Dick Bruna, who created the globally successful children’s character Miffy, died yesterday at the age of 89 in his hometown of Utrecht, the Netherlands.
Throughout his 60-year career, Bruna penned and illustrated 124 picture books, including 32 about a little bunny named Miffy. First published in 1955, the Miffy stories are now available in 50-plus languages and have sold more than 85 million copies worldwide. Miffy went on to star in her own TV series, including a new CGI show that premiered in 2015 on Tiny Pop in the U.K. Mercis owns the rights for the Miffy brand, which has an extensive L&M presence across five continents. Miffy the Movie, the property’s first feature film, debuted in the Netherlands in 2013 and was later released in such countries as Japan, Australia, the U.S. and the U.K.
Bruna was born in 1927 to a family of publishers. He started working as a graphic designer in the 1950s, freelancing for his father’s publishing house, A.W. Bruna & Zoon. He first created Miffy (Nijntje in Dutch) in 1955 to amuse his young son, eventually publishing a number of picture books in the European market and later around the globe. Also throughout his career, Bruna worked for international organizations, designing posters and logos for such charities as UNICEF, World Aids Day and Amnesty International. He retired in summer 2012.
When previously asked to explain the success of Miffy, Bruna had replied: “I think it is because I spend a long time making my drawings as simple as possible, throwing lots away, before I reach that moment of recognition. What matters is reducing everything to its essence. Every shape captures the imagination, and I leave plenty of space for children’s imagination. But why Miffy, instead of another of my characters? I don’t know, perhaps because children feel very close to her—she is like their friend. In my mind, she is just a little girl, living through everyday experiences.”
Even towards the end of his career, Bruna had said that he was still spending a lot of time perfecting his drawings of Miffy. “Sometimes it takes me hundreds of sketches to get Miffy just right. With two dots and a little cross I have to make Miffy happy, or maybe a little bit sad—and I do it over and over again. There is a moment when I think, Yes, now she is really sad. I must keep her like that. At the end I have one big tear, and that is the saddest tear you can have.”
Bruna is survived by his wife, three children and six grandchildren.