own (‘I get Magic Roundabout videos every bloody morning anyway. so the job’s a natural progression‘). Planer is acutely aware of the show‘s appeal across the age spectrum.
‘Eric Thompson constructed a brilliant sitcom format when he reinvented Danot‘s characters.‘ he enthuses. ‘For adults. it‘s like Dad ’3 Army — you’ve got a set group of characters who are very funny together. I think the humour generated the show’s mass appeal. Very often. children‘s shows patronise: The Magic Roundabout didn‘t patronise children or adults because Thompson manufactured classic comic situations involving beautifully balanced characters. In terms of dramatic resonance, 1 think it’s up there with Steptoe and Son and Till Death Us [)0 Part. It just happens to be a five-minute children‘s puppet show. The surreal quality was important too. Remember. at the time. Monty Python was out and that bizarre. whimsical quality in the Roundabout humour was definitely related.‘
The actual mechanics of re-dubbing the animation helped foster the British
Dougal The central character. a cantankerous. temperamental pooch. Supposedly a Scottish Terrier 5 but looks more like a Swiss Roll with ; a face at one end. (‘raves sugar and i gets things muddled. Bossed around by Ermintrude. humoured by ‘ Florence. Big headed. opinionated and selfish.
Florence Sensible. but a bit vacant. A perennial do-gooder. possibly i, named after Florence Nightingale. l lndistinguishable physically from Paul. though she wears orange I minis. frilly knickers and a bow in her hair and Paul doesn’t. Well. not
l for bed.
on screen anyway. !
Brian A kind of snail ‘everyman’. Working-class accent. pork-pie hat ! and muffler. plus a red shell into which. being of a timid disposition. l he frequently retires. A kind of l Benny Hill/Fred Scuttle on castors. l
Zebedee A curious Jack-in-the-box
with a magic moustache who ‘boings‘ around generally being a spoilsport. ' Possibly represents the voice of reason. though the fact that he looks ' like Salvador Dali with a bedspring up his backside is rather at odds with 5 this function. Catchphrase: ‘Time
Ermintrude Matronly and ‘posh‘.
Roundabout’s sometimes avant-garde shadings. ‘lt‘s weird,‘ Planer admits. ‘You get a complete French film with its own story and characters. then you turn the sound down and put new words and emotions into their mouths. The French and English stories often aren’t at all related. That encourages the surreal aspect because you can‘t always make it make sense because the French storyline may have been crap and invariably was. Also, some of the new ones were speculatively edited together by Danot’s wife after he died. so they’re already in a way fragmented and incoherent.‘
Planer didn't alter Thompson’s character-voices too much “because I think he got it right‘. but the overall tone of the show has necessarily shifted with the times. In a post-Wombling concession to the environmentally friendly society in which we are now supposed to live, the new Roundabout adventures will address topical issues. Though we won’t be finding Mr Rusty at the centre of a child-abuse inquiry, Channel 4‘s Early Morning TV Editor,
bizarre and whimsical as before.
' Mr Rusty Proprietor of the Magic Garden and driver of the Magic Train. he‘s a smartly dressed OAP in a green hat (which hides his bald
: spot) and smock blazer. Sports a Mary Quant side-bob and
Florence, Zebedee and the others will soon be back on our screens after a fifteen-year absence. NIGEL PLANER who has scripted and narrated the new series assures Paul Hullah that it will be as surreal,
she‘s a maiden-aunt type. A rather distracted. naive pink cow.
lirmintrudc and her ﬂoppy blue hat' live on the edge of the Garden in the
permanently ‘gone‘ hippie rabbit. A . denim-waistcoated Bugs Bunny on valium. he wanders around with a
Lucinda Whitely observes that. ‘Dougal’s now worried about global warming. his cholesterol level and how much sugar he eats.‘ Planer agrees. ‘The characters know what’s going on. For me, the best escapism is when you manage to escape into a world that is actually very relevant to us. That‘s why Disney is brilliant — there’s such emotional resonance. If you just escape into a fantasy realm that has no significance to yourself whatsoever, then I get bored and think there’s no point being there.”
So, finally, the truth. ls The Magic Roundabout a political lampoon? A Freudian dreamscape? An LSD trip? All of these? Or none?
‘You’ll have to watch the documentary. There are a lot of theories about the show, but no definite answers. There are eternal questions in every episode. Like who is the riderless horse on the roundabout waiting for at the beginning of each adventure?‘
Easy. It’s waiting for me, and you. and all of us, forever.
guitar looking dazed or sits under trees looking dazed. (‘atchphrasez ‘I.ike. er. man.‘
Mr MacHenry Grandpa Walton lookalike. grey-bearded inventor . who rides a tricycle whilst modelling . red clogs. overalls and straw hat. and 3 munching a ﬂower. Solves problems ' with his magical powers. Will have ‘more of a Scots accent' in the new 3 series.
' Paul, Basil, and Rosalie The ones whose names no one remembers. Minor characters remarkable for their lack of distinguishing features. Basil probably goes out with Rosalie;