FEATURE THE MAGIC ROUNDABOUT
n British homes, for more than a
decade, The Magic Roundabout’s
jaunty. barrel-organ theme tune came
like an eagerly-awaited. weekday
clarion call. ‘Da di di dee dee. da di di
dee dee . . . ‘ it went. Almost six, and the dinner was nearly ready. The news was on after it. to keep the ‘serious’ citizens happy but. to the rest of us. for five blissful minutes, the world seemed somehow all right. The Magic Roundabout allowed parent and child alike (in the manner of all good ‘children’s‘ entertainment) an extraordinary. dream-like interlude. a welcome escape from workaday existence into Mr Rusty‘s magic garden. a quasi-surrealist Eden of Daliesque puppets and blue twinkling ﬂowers. It was Alice In Wonderland for the New Generation. For infants. the show had bright colours and talking toys; for teenagers, it had a stoned rabbit radical (Dylan, named after an acceptable beat-icon) and psychedelic shrubbery; for grown-ups. it had a sharp humour. cut with bathos and reassurineg homely gags. While other puppet
There are a lot at theories about the show, but no definite answers. There are eternal questions in every
GThe List 20 December 1991— lblat.
programmes of the epoch (Hector’s House, The Herbs, Rupert The Bear) merely remoulded folklore tradition around stolid animation. with speaking animals acting out moralistic fables. The Magic Roundabout offered an original (to the medium). modernist but humorous puppet-theatre of the absurd, more in keeping with the artistically experimental period — the mid 60s — of the show’s genesis.
The Roundabout was created by a Frenchman. Serge Danot, who died in 1990 whilst filming the new series. Entitled Le Manege Enchanté, the original concept was reputedly of a part-satirical burlesque upon Gallic society. The programmes — though popular — were never as successful on their home turf as they were in Britain. Here. the French episodes were each re-scripted and lugubriously narrated by Eric Thompson (father of actress Emma), who died in 1982. The first episode, ‘Mr Rusty Meets Zebedee‘, was shown on BBC] on Monday 18 October 1965, replacing Tintin and curtly described by the Radio Times as: ‘A film series from France‘. Replete with spin-offs
ranging from books. to soaps-on-a-rope. and ice lollies, the series of 302 programmes ran through to 1977. When the BBC stopped screening The Magic Roundabout. they received ‘thousands‘ of letters of complaint. but to no avail. Mr Rusty's children were eventually superseded. so far as the pre-Six ()‘Clock News fantasy slot went. by the more ecologically sound Wombles who went on to hold the pop-charts to ransom for two long years.
Fourteen years on. the new series of 52 five-minute episodes. again from French prototypes. has been written and voiced-over by Comic Strip actor. Nigel Planer. An irony resides here; though he
: disclaims the inheritance bashfully. Planer‘sE
infamous Young Ones alter-ego. Neil the i Hippie. acutely resembled Danot‘s l out-to-luneh Dylan rabbit. (But. then again. all hippies are identical.) Planer has also made a semi-spoof documentary. The : Return Of The Magic Roundabout. which ' examines the allure. myths and ; interpretations which have grown around i the show. With a three—year-old son of his