The Magic Roundabout
Long, long ago, in a country far, far away, I and other otherwise-fairly-bright undergraduates, would rush our evening meals to get a good place in front of the campus Commons TV, and ready ourselves to watch "The Magic Roundabout" - which would immedialy be followed by the 6:00pm BBC evening news.
Based on a French original "(Le ManÃ¨ge EnchantÃ©"), part of the magic was that the people who made the English version were almost entirely able to ignore the plot of the French version and put meaningful words into the mouths of MR's stars.
The program started in 1963 and I probably saw every broadcast between 1965 and 1968. Amongst its attractions to us comparatively adutl viewers were the "double entendres" added by the English scriptwriters, and the treble entendres added by the student audience assembled in the Commons
It worked at several levels and was entertaining for children too. When the BBC moved it to a slot in the child-designated viewing time, many adults protested. The show, in Britain at least, achieved cult status.
Some of my favourite characters in the show were based on real peoplle. Dougal, my favourite, a floppy-eared dog,, was based in the English version on the dry wit of comedian Tony Hancock. I had long been a fan of "Hancock's Half Hour" so Dougal hit the mark for me, There were assertions that Dougal's name deliberately echoed "De Gaulle" and one could see a certain resemblance...
Dylan, a very floppy eared rabbit was indeed a rendition of Bob, even down to playing the guitar. And then there was Florence, a human girl who often reminded one of Charlie Brown;s nemesis, Lucy - escept she would never deliberately take away the football, Florence was somewhat accident prone If somehow she had ever got her hands on an American foiotball (unlkely with French made visuals) and if one of the few characters in the cartoon with actual feet had tried to kick it, Florence would probably have accidentally tripped over it and it rolled away at the last minute., And Dougal or Dylan would certainly have remarked that the world was going downhill...
Given that the technique used in making the program was stop motion animation, one was grateful for the 5 minute running time. Stop motion is definitely the most effort-intensive way to make cartoons, but, in the hands of the French animateurs, provided an esxcellect combination of groundedness and whimsy.
The CD has an excellend selection to please the younger child viewer. I suspect the adult contemporary viewer might find it a little flat in contrast to the Family Guy and Simpson cartoons, pushing the limits as they do of "acceptable" television. But try it on a game night with a properly prepared adult audience (Beer is recommmended as appropriate preparation), and one might indeed retrieve the fun of those halcyon days, as Mr.Zebedee (a Jack-in-the-Box) attempts to pursue Brian (a snail) in a vain and oft-repeated attempt to retrieve his floppy hat.
Whilst audio versions, books, and films are in themselves enjoyable, the real experience is the quick 5-minute TV view, immediately before the evening news. Of course, any resemblance to the behavior of the US Congress is entirely coincidental, although it may be quite instructive for your Congressman. (Buy him a CD for Christmas?)
Last updated on December 10, 2013
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