The Magic Roundabout

Starring: Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue, Joanna Lumley and Jim Broadbent
Pathé Distribution Ltd
RRP: £15.99 (Single disc) / £22.99 (Double disc)
Certificate: U
Available 18 July 2005

The Magic Roundabout lies in ruins. The evil ice sorcerer Zeebad is on the loose and the fate of the Enchanted Land hangs in the balance. As a frosty mist sweeps across the earth, four unlikely heroes - Brian, Ermintrude, Dylan and Dougal, step forward to challenge the chill...

The children's animation show Le Manège Enchanté (The Magic Roundabout) was first aired on French TV in 1964. It took the staid BBC rather by surprise with its strikingly imagined sets, pastel colours and whimsical themes. The BEEB Kid's department gave it to Eric Thompson to knock into shape and ended up with one of the biggest and most fondly remembered kids series (watched equally avidly by adults) of all time, rating 28th of the top 100 TV shows in a recent BPIF poll.

Ignoring completely the Gallic storylines, Thompson re-imagined both plot and character, creating the dry, laconic Dougal, 'floating around the garden with a Hancock-like turn of phrase and a put-down for all occasions' in one early reviewer's unforgettable phrase; the hippy-dippy rabbit Dylan (originally a lazy Spanish waiter!), ever-cheery Brian, enthusiastic flower-chewing Ermintrude and the rest of the garden gang. Rediscovered episodes voiced by Nigel Planer were broadcast as late as 1977.

The movie version stays close in nature to Thompson's very 'English' take. By turns witty, melancholic and ironic, it uses a fine range of British comedic voice talent. Ian McKellern voices the mysterious Deus ex Machina Zebedee in a hilarious Lord of the Rings spoof; Robbie Williams is a less world-weary Dougal (rather a lost opportunity - perhaps Jack Dee would have been a more inspired choice); Jim Broadbent simply IS Brian; Bill Nighy voices Dylan to witty perfection, and Joanna Lumley hams it up beautifully as Ermintrude. Lee Evans voices a hectic Train, and Kylie Minogue a sympathetic Florence, mixing a childlike love for the dog with the gentle mocking humour so characteristic of Thompson's original. Honourable mentions too for Tom Baker as the evil Zeebad and Ray Winstone's Soldier Sam (citing the Geneva Convention against torturing dogs!).

Pathé are to be congratulated also on the visual aspects of the CGI animation, which uses the same vivid colour palette as the original and the same sense of dreamlike (un) reality in the Roundabout and its setting.

Extras include games, competitions and relaxed interviews with the voice artists. The 2-disc release also includes The Sound of Magic; trailers and TV spots; Re-imagining the Magic; storyboard gallery; cast and crew biographies; Music of the Magic; Classic black and white TV episodes; and Origins of the Magic. Forget the silly nonsense of the story and enjoy this sophisticated trip down nostalgia avenue.

Andy Thomas

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