Magic Roundabout, The

1 9 6 5 – 1 9 7 5 (UK/France)

magicroundabout_024The five-minute slot just before the early evening BBC1 news on Monday (at 5:50 pm) guaranteed Magic Roundabout a viewing audience of over eight million.

While parents waited for the news, kids got to see the antics of Florence, Ermintrude, Zebedee and friends – including the dog that inspired a million birthday cakes, Dougal.

This seemingly innocent children’s animation series included witty commentary for the adults, allowing two generations to enjoy it.

Flavoured with a laid-back and surreal view of life, the programme reflected a heavy sixties feel. It soon achieved a cult status.

Filmed using frame-by-frame stop motion photography in a superbly colourful setting, the programme featured a rather off-the-wall cast: Dougal, the shaggy dog who lived on a strict diet of sugar; an eccentric bouncing character called Zebedee, who would announce his arrival with a boing; a rabbit named Dylan, who could have been accused of growing something considerably stronger than carrots in his vegetable patch; Ermintrude the pink cow, Florence, Brian the snail and their friends in the Garden.

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Thus The Magic Roundabout staked its place in television history.

The most famous sentence of the series was Zebedee’s standard declaration “Time for Bed” sending millions of children to sleep every evening.

Meanwhile he got to stay up and take drugs with Dylan, the rabbit. (And is it just coincidence that the Zeb-meister looked like Frank Zappa?).

magicroundabout_022Concept and animation was by Frenchman Serge Danot and the English version was written and told by Eric Thompson (the late father of actress Emma Thompson).

A feature film, Dougal and the Blue Cat, was released in Britain in 1972. It originally screened in France in 1970 as Pollux et le Chat Bleu. A set of previously undiscovered French episodes were voiced by Nigel Planer and shown on Channel 4 from 1992.

Yet another batch was later voiced by a different actor for AB Productions.

Narrator 
Eric Thompson

Zebedee
Dougal
Ermintrude
Dylan
Florence
Brian
Basil
Mr Rusty
Paul
Mr MacLenry