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The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout was a children's animated television programme created in France in 1963, and shown in the UK with an English narration from October 1965 to January 1977. One of the animators was the British Ivor Wood[?], who went on to animate Paddington Bear and Postman Pat. Additional episodes, not previously translated, were shown in the UK during the 1990s.

The English version was especially distinct from the French version in that the narration was entirely new, created by Eric Thompson[?] from just the visuals and not based on the original stories by Serge Danot[?]. Many years after Thompson died, Channel 4 acquired a number of previously unseen episodes. These were adapted in a pastiche of Thompson's style by Nigel Planer.

Both the French and the English versions had distinctive theme tunes. The French tune was organ and child-adult vocals. The English version, by Alain Legrand[?], removed the vocals and increased the tempo of the tune while making it sound as if it was played on a fairground organ.

The set was a brightly coloured and stylized park containing the eponymous roundabout (a fairground carousel, not a road junction).

The French version, Le Manège Enchanté[?], featured Pere Pivoine (the roundabout owner), Pollux (dog), Flappy (rabbit), Margote (young girl), Zebulan (spring thing) and Ambroise (snail). Around 500 episodes were made and broadcast from 1963 until 1971 on ORTF[?].

The English characters included:

  • Dougal (a grumpy long-haired dog, based on Tony Hancock)
  • Ermintrude (a pink cow)
  • Dylan (a hippy-like rabbit)
  • Florence (a young girl)
  • Zebedee (an almost human creature in a soldier's uniform with a spring instead of feet; he frequently went "Boing!" and regularly closed the show with the phrase "Time for bed." In the original French pilot he was seen emerging from a jack-in-the-box, which explains the spring.)
  • Brian (a snail)
  • Mr Rusty
  • Mr MacHenry
and others?

Part of the show's attraction was that it appealed to adults, who enjoyed the world-weary comments made by Dougal, as well as to children.

Danot made a longer film, Pollux Et Le Chat Bleu[?], in 1972 which was also adapted by Thompson and shown in Britain as Dougal and the Blue Cat.

There is speculation about possible interpretations of the show. One theory is that the characters represented French politicans of the time. Another is that each character was addicted to a different type of psychotropic drug. Neither theory is likely to be true. The second theory was denied by Eric Thompson's widow.

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