Loeki de Leeuw is back!

The lovable stop-motion character from the 1970s and 80s is back! Who is Loeki de Leeuw? Loeki the Lion is the mascot created by STER, the advertising production service for the national broadcast company NOS. Dutch television ads on the three NOS channels are shown together in blocks between TV programs, rather than during the actual program (like they are in the US). Back in the day, to make the NOS commercial breaks more entertaining, STER created the lion character and named him after a famous Dutch football player, Louis ‘Loek’ Biesbrouck. Loeki was featured in very short skits of around 5-8 seconds that normally involved him getting into silly situations or doing something clumsy. These skits would ‘bookend’ the block of commercials, signalling to the viewers the start and end of the advertisement blocks.

Loeki and his skits, which also featured supporting characters, were wildly popular back in the day, but the production costs became too much and NOS retired Loeki in the early 2000s, opting to sell those 5-8 seconds to advertisers to generate more revenue. It seemed that Loeki had become a figure of nostalgia, until the advent of YouTube where vintage reels of his televised antics were once again available to entertain Dutch YouTube viewers, complete with fuzzy resolution and crackling audio from their humble analog beginnings.

Anyone who lived in Germany in the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s remember a similar campaign with the ‘Mainzelmännchen’ who served a similar purpose of signalling the start of a commercial block. These were a group of 6-8 cartoon people who did similar goofy things and got into similar silly situations. I remember watching these when I lived in Germany back in 19…[cough, cough]. First, the notion of a block of commercials was very strange to me, since I came from the US where we see commercials before, after and most definitely during any TV program. But also because these animated figures were so goofy and did such silly things; I couldn’t understand the purpose of them. I just chalked it up to another endearingly funny thing about Europe.

While Loeki has made several cameos on Dutch TV over the years and even has rides featuring his likeness at Dutch amusement parks, it wasn’t until 2021 that Loeki has made his long-awaited comeback. The summer of 2021 has been one of the most jam-packed summers of sports here in the Netherlands and for that reason Loeki was brought back to once again entertain viewers. Interestingly enough, despite all the advances in CGI and computerized animation, Loeki remains a stop-motion character, although most of the skits are computerized. Apparently this was a condition of the copyright holder. Stop-motion or not, Loeki looks great and the skits are really funny!

Keeping up with the times, Loeki’s new skits include a despondent Loeki standing on a soccer field playing a video game on his mobile phone with his earbuds in. A ball approaches but he can’t be bothered to look away from the game and simply stops the ball with his foot while continuing to play his video game. Then there’s Loeki baking a cake in a setting that looks like any baking competition reality show. There’s also Loeki taking a selfie with a selfie stick. Then there’s Loeki sitting at a conference table on a set that looks like most talk shows you find on Dutch TV (if you haven’t noticed or don’t watch much Dutch TV, the Dutch absolutely love talk shows!). And then there’s Loeki playing with a drone that’s carrying the STER logo … and he accidentally drops it! Classic Loeki! And while the Dutch national football team was still in contention for the Euro Cup finals, Loeki showed up in several skits that demonstrated the pride the Dutch have in their football. If only the team had been as successful at the Euro Cup as Loeki has been with his comeback!

If you have no idea what I’m talking about or you just don’t get it, I highly recommend going to YouTube and checking out Loeki de Leeuw videos. Watch the vintage ones to see how it all began and check out the newer ones to see how the whole Loeki campaign has evolved.

Written by Marla Thomson