Jacques Mattheij

Technology, Coding and Business

The Golden Egg Circus

In 1989 I got a call from a friend to come along to visit a studio in Landsmeer, near Amsterdam, where something quite amazing was being constructed, a circus with nothing but eggs, both as the performers and as the audience. I was - and still am - a huge Jim Henson fan and immediately felt an interest to see what was going on.

We were received by Jacques Meijer and his wife in their house in Landsmeer, attached to which was a large workshop. After the obligatory tea and smalltalk we entered the workshop/studio and the lights came on. This is one of those ‘you had to have been there’ things, it is hard to describe how incredible the sight was. More than life-size, the Golden Egg Circus model towered over us, high up a trapeze, on the ground a circus ring where the strongest egg was breaking bricks and brave eggs tamed tomatoes jumping through flaming hoops. Eggs, eggs, eggs and more eggs wherever you looked. The attention to detail was nothing short of unbelievable, everything built to exacting scale. It was clear immediately that many years of work had gone into this project, as well as a small fortune.

The whole thing was constructed as the location for an animated feature film to be shot in 35 mm, with special gantries to move the cameras around. The problem: the circus orchestra had to be animated in time with the music. The eggs didn’t actually have any instruments but they were supposed to rotate and bob up and down to match the music in realtime and the owner had no idea on how to go about this, his specialty was photography and film, not the actual animation. After a long evening talking it all over I decided to let the offer go, for one I didn’t really feel comfortable taking this man’s money because it was clear that he was already way over budget and had no idea what it would take to make his vision become a reality in terms of computers, servos and mechanics to make a fair sized orchestra come to life (as I wrote above, I was/am a huge Jim Henson fan and had seen some of what it took to animate the muppets), and another reason is that I felt that in spite of all the work and effort that went into it that it wasn’t really going anywhere. It was beautiful, absolutely gorgeous but I just could not find much enthusiasm for the whole concept of an egg circus. Great idea, though!

So, we left and for many years I didn’t even think about it, until last night when I suddenly remembered about it and decided to search online to see if anything ever came of it. I found a website with some photographs, a (paywalled) newspaper article that referred to the circus from 1995, when apparently the funding was still missing. I don’t think it ever happened, and according to his CV Jacques Meijer was still active in 2021.

In an alternative universe, Jim Henson has a barn behind his house where a model of a 1930’s variety theater has been built, covered in layer upon layer of dust. With a weird little frog as the master of ceremonies and a pig with an attitude as his love interest. Monsters lie discarded in heaps and a detuned piano with a couple of broken strings sits in a dark corner. In that universe Jacques Meijer’s egg circus is a hit, children have egg dolls, everybody has their favorite egg and artists line up to be allowed on the next episode, still going strong after more than 30 years of week-by-week productions, as well as a couple of feature films. The Golden Egg Circus coming to your hometown is the event and people will talk about it for years.

In this universe, I feel privileged to have spent an evening with its creator, who relentlessly kept on pushing his idea, year after year, and even if hardly anybody has seen the egg circus in all its glory I hope that one day it will see the spotlight.