The Magic Roundabout (Le Manège enchanté) is a a French children's television series created in 1963 by Serge Danot, with the help of English animator Ivor Wood and his wife Josiane. The series was originally broadcast from 1964 to 1971 on ORTF (Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française).
An English adaptation was produced by the BBC, first airing from 1965 to 1977. A further 52 episodes were adapted in 1991.
When the series was first offered to the BBC, it was rejected as "charming... but difficult to dub into English". Subsequently, for whatever reason, the BBC's Head of Children's Programming gave the project a second look. It was passed on to Joy Whitby, producer of Play School. British actor Eric Thompson, who was at the time working as a presenter of Play School, was asked to do the adapt the scripts. Rather than adapt the original scripts, Thompson wrote the scripts based solely on the visuals, injecting much irony, wit, humor, social commentary and melancholy into his scripts. As a result, the English adaptation bore little relation to the original.
It is often stated that this was Thompson's decision alone, but a former BBC employee, interviewed on BBC Radio in 2008, maintained that the original contract with the French owners did not include the scripts that accompanied the original animations (contrary to BBC assumptions). The BBC, instead of making a further payment to acquire the scripts, which would have required translation, decided to commission its own version – without access to the original French, and the English-language version therefore bears no resemblance to it.
While the original French version used a separate voice cast to voice the characters, the English version used a single narrator who voiced all the characters, as done in many British Children's series. The Magic Roundabout, broadcast in 389 five-minute-long episodes from 18 October 1965 to 25 January 1977, was a great success and attained cult status. Part of the show's attraction was that it appealed to adults, who enjoyed the world-weary Tony Hancock-style comments made by Dougal, as well as to children. The audience measured eight million at its peak, and when in 1967 it was moved from the slot just before the evening news to an earlier children's viewing time, adult viewers complained to the BBC.
52 additional episodes, not previously broadcast, were shown in the United Kingdom during 1991 on Channel 4's News Daily. Eric Thompson had died by this time, and the job of adapting and narrating them in a pastiche of Thompson's style went to actor Nigel Planer. However, there were also some episodes that were previously adapted by Thompson, which were re-narrated by Planer.
Then, for reasons unknown the episodes had a third redubbing several years later, this time by Jimmy Hibbert, who added a great sense of energy and zaniness to the series. Hibbert's narration would air on Cartoon Network.
|Image||Character||Original Voice||English Voice|
|Narrator||Eric Thompson||Nigel Planer||Jimmy Hibbert|
- When the British version was first shown to the French film-makers, they thought that the British name Dougal for their character Pollux was intended to poke fun at French president Charles de Gaulle, mishearing Douglas as "De Gaulle".
|1991||Channel 4||United Kingdom|
|BBC Enterprises||1989-1999||Various Episodes||PAL||United Kingdom|