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The Magic Roundabout is a 1960s French-British TV series created by Serge Danot in 1964 with the help of Ivor Wood and his french wife Josiane Wood which aired from 1964 to 1971 on ORTF. An english version of the show was made by BBC which had very little resemblance to the original

English Version Edit

ORTF saw that the show could be sold to different countries so they approached the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) about making an english dub of the show, they originally rejected the series saying "Charming... but difficult to dub into english", they later produced a new version of the show.

This version was different from the original French version, according to a BBC employee, he stated that they didn't use the french scripts, this version was narrated by Eric Thompson, this show aired on BBC One before the 5:40 PM, the show was originally black & white in Season 1, but Season 2 was colorized, the BBC still aired the show in black and white, in addition, the first colorized episode of the show aired on October 5th, 1970.

389 episodes of the show were dubbed in english, while the rest of the series later got dubbed in the early 1990s, which were shown on Channel 4, since Thompson passed away, the episodes were narrated in the style of Thompson by Nigel Planer

This version of Dougal was generally disparaging and had similarites to actor and comedian Tony Hancock, Ermintrude was rather matronly and fond of singing, Dylan was a hippy-like, guitar playing rabbit, but was rather dopey. Florence was courteous and level headed, and had a similar personality to Christopher Robin from Winnie the Pooh. Brian was unsophisticated but well meaning. And Zebedee's catchphrase was Time for bed.

Sometimes in this version, the show broke the 4th wall, in one episode, Zebedee said his catchphrase, then Florence asked "Already?", and he then said "It is nearly time for the news, and there has been enough magic for one day.", since the news followed the show.

Part of the show's attraction was that it appealed to adults, who enjoyed the world-weary Hancock-style comments made by Dougal, as well as to children. The audience measured eight million at its peak. There are speculations about possible interpretations of the show. One is that the characters represented French politicians of the time, and that Dougal represented Charles de Gaulle. In fact, when Serge Danot was interviewed by Joan Bakewell on Late Night Line-Up in 1968 his associate (perhaps Jean Biard) said that in France it was thought at first that the UK version of Pollux had been renamed "De Gaulle", mishearing the name Dougal (as seen in the Channel 4 documentary The Return of the Magic Roundabout, and in the BBC4 documentary The Magic Roundabout Story. In the UK, the series gained cult status among some adults during the mid-to-late 1960s because it was seen as having psychedelic connotations (e.g. Dylan was believed to be high on cannabis and Dougal was thought to be on LSD because of his fondness for sugar lumps, while Zebedee - who was so jumpy - was thought to be on amphetamines (aka 'speed').

In the foreword to the recent re-release of the books, Thompson's daughter Emma explains that her father had felt that he was most like Brian of all the characters and that Ermintrude was in some respects based upon his wife, Phyllida Law.

In 1998, Thompson's stories were published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc as a series of four paperbacks, The Adventures of DougalThe Adventures of BrianThe Adventures of Dylan and The Adventures of Ermintrude with forewords by his daughter Emma Thompson.

For several years, Cartoon Network and Boomerang showed reruns of the show, these airings had almost all the episodes renarrated by Nigel Planer, though some of them were narrated by Jimmy Hibbert

International Versions Edit

The show has happened to have aired in international territories

Contrary to popular belief, the show aired in the United States of America, it was part of a 1979 Nickelodeon TV series entitled "Pinwheel", which ran from 1979 to 1991 and was renamed The Magic Carousel. This version used American voice actors and was based on the original french version of the show, such as the dialouge being word to word translations and having some diffrences to the British version

  • Dylan is renamed Flappy, Mr. McHenry is renamed Mr. Yong, allowing them to give his name to Mr. Rusty.
  • Zebedee often says "Teleka-" after his sentences.
  • Sugar Lumps are renamed Treats possibly to avoid controversy.
  • The Magic Garden is instead called Beautywood.

Though unlike the original and british dubs, the show hasn't been released on home video in the United States, as for the show it was part of, it was released on a VHS called The Pinwheel Songbook, which didn't have an episode of The Magic Roundabout

In Italy, part of the series was broadcast in the late 1970s by the RAI state television network. In this version Pollux-Dougal was renamed Bobo and the show stuck with the idea of giving each character its own voice. Bobo was still referred to as English but did not have an accent. The Italian theme for the series became something of a minor hit in children's music.

In Germany and in Austria it was translated to Das Zauberkarussell. In Austria there was in 1974/75 a special version in "Betthupferl" (the same as the German "Mr Sandman") called Cookie and his friends, as Cookie and his friend Apollonius always went through a hole in a tree to join the garden. The name of the magician "Zebedee" in German is "Zebulon".

In The Netherlands, a Dutch version was aired by the NTS (Dutch Television Foundation, one of the national broadcasters at the time) in black and white as 'De Minimolen' ('The Mini Carousel'). Starting on June the 5th till September 30th 1967 the series aired on a six day per week basis. The script in Dutch was written by Wim Meuldijk, at the time very successful in writing (and co-producing) the 'Pipo' children's series A brief second run of 'De Minimolen' went on air, late summer of 1980. The theme tune was the same as the British version. Whether Wim Meuldijk used the French or the British dialogue scripts or a self composed storyline is unknown. According to the 'Beeld en geluid' database, the second run of 'De Minimolen' started on August 17th 1976 and ended on September the first that year, being on air irregularly for unknown reasons. The website ('What Did You Watch At The Time?') reports reruns from June 1st till August 30th 1980. This website should be regarded to as more accurate and better researched than the 'Beeld en geluid' database.

When the movie version of the series appeared, the Dutch distribution firm 'A Film' released it on DVD, post-synchronised in Dutch but also with the original English voices and subtitles by choice.

Film Adaptations Edit

Dougal and the Blue Cat Edit

In 1970, Danot made a film based on the show, entitled Dougal and the Blue Cat or Pollux et le chat bleu which was also adapted by Thompson and shown in Britain as Dougal and the Blue Cat. The cat, named Buxton, was working for the Blue Voice who wanted to take over the garden. The Blue Voice was voiced by Fenella Fielding and was the only time that Eric Thompson called in another person to voice a character. The Blue Cat heard of Dougal's plan and made him face his ultimate weakness by locking him in a room full of sugar.

2005 Film Edit

In 2005, a film adaptation (also called The Magic Roundabout) was released. The movie was about Dougal, Ermintrude, Brian and Dylan going on a quest to stop Zebadee's evil twin, who intends on creating an eternal winter. It was made using modern computer animation, and adopted the approach of the original creator, Serge Danot, of giving each character its own voice rather than using a narrator. The voices included Tom Baker, Joanna Lumley, Ian McKellen, Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams, Bill Nighy and Lee Evans. The film received mixed reviews, with a 60% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes,[2] while Total Film ranked it as the 45th worst children's movie ever made.[3] The two-disc special edition of the UK DVD of the film features five of the original Magic Roundabout episodes on the second disc. They are all presented in the original black and white with the option of viewing them in English or in the original French.

In 2006, the film was released in the USA as Doogal. This version featured a narration from Judi Dench, rewritten dialogue and a new storyline made to accommodate pop culture references and flatulence jokes (neither of which were present in the original release). The majority of original British voices were replaced by celebrities more familiar to the American public, such as Whoopi Goldberg and Chevy Chase. Only two original voices remained: those of Kylie Minogue and Ian McKellen. The North American version was panned. It currently has an 8% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes,[4] a score of 23 out of 100 ("generally unfavorable") on Metacritic, and an F rating from Entertainment Weekly magazine. It was also a financial failure, grossing a total of 7.2 million dollars in the United States, which is considered low by CGI animated film standards. It has become the second-lowest grossing CGI film (second only to Delgo).

In Popular Culture Edit

  • Giant versions of Dougal and Zebedee, both the size of a small house, are featured in The Goodies episode "The Goodies Rule – O.K.?" Dougal also makes a brief appearance in another Goodies episode, "It Might as Well Be String".
  • A slightly inaccurate competitor based on Dougal, named Ruf Ruf Dougal, appeared in Seasons 5–6 of the British game show Robot Wars.
  • An ad for Slater Hogg & Howison featured the characters from the show, in this ad, Brian is upset since he can't sell his shell so Dougal recommends Slater Hogg & Howison, which he does happen to sell his shell and replaces it with a clam.
  • In the episode Dough from Series 3 of the TV comedy Bottom, one of Eddie's forged banknotes depicts "Sylvester Stallone fisting nice Mr. McHenry from The Magic Roundabout".
  • The title and characters appeared as a regular weekly feature in the "Jack and Jill" children's comic.
  • No. 8 Squadron RAF nicknamed their Avro Shackleton early warning aircraft after characters from the show and also characters from The Herbs

Road Namesake Edit

In the United Kingdom, the "Magic Roundabout" name has been given to the ring junction – a large road traffic circulation system with unconventional layouts – in Swindon and in Hemel Hempstead for example. The popularity of the TV show coincided with the introduction of such schemes and soon became associated with any complex traffic roundabout. Although the Swindon roundabout's original name was not the Magic Roundabout, it was almost always referred to as such by Swindon residents and in the late eighties, it was officially renamed. The Hemel Hempstead roundabout, with its large central roundabout surrounded by six smaller ones, is officially named the Plough Roundabout.

In 1992, the Cardiff Bay Public Art Strategy selected Pierre Vivant to create artwork for a roundabout in Splott, a district of Cardiff. He created a series of geometrical sculptures featuring everyday road signs and, although its official name is "The Landmark", it is affectionately known by locals as the "Magic Roundabout".[5]

In 2006, the Go North East Bus Company branded one of their routes "The Magic Roundabout", the buses running on it all featuring the characters from the series.[6]

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