Ah, that famous theme tune. It brings childhood memories rushing back, doesn’t it? Or, for those who can’t understand my excellent musical transcription, I’m talking about The Magic Roundabout.
The Magic Roundabout was a curious and brilliant children’s TV show that ran from 1965-1977 with relentless repeats throughout the following decades (I was sporting a particularly trendy Ermintrude jumper well into the 90s). The Magic Roundabout, as the English-speaking world knows it, was chopped together with footage from the French stop-motion show ‘Le Manège enchanté’, but using completely different scripts, storylines and characters.
The original French series was created by Serge Danot, with the additional assistance of Ivor Wood (of The Herbs, The Wombles and Paddington) and Wood’s French wife Josiane. Initially, the series was rejected by the BBC as it was deemed too difficult to dub into English, but they would later commission the series when it was re-shown with fresh, unrelated storylines.
The Magic Roundabout would gain immense cult status for children and adults alike throughout its original run, with images of the characters adorning clothing, homewares and trinkets for years after its last broadcast.
For the uninitiated, the main characters were Dougal (the unfortunate-sounding Pollux in French), a Skye Terrier, Zebedee (Zébulon) a jack-in-the-box with a substantial moustache, Brian (Ambroise) a snail, Ermintrude (Azalée) a cow in a floppy hat and Dylan (Flappy) a hippy (or stoned, however you look at it) rabbit. The Magic Roundabout world included two humans, being Florence (Margote) and Mr Rusty (le Père Pivoine), the roundabout operator. All of the characters lived in a place called The Magic Garden and would visit the roundabout by teleportation; a skill that was never explained, but is so beautifully twee to watch today.
Visually, the Magic Roundabout was a stunning, riot of colour with a distinctive, simple animation style, aided by the simplicity of the puppets. Dougal, for example, was made without legs to make him far easier to animate. The bright, gentle tone and psychedelic undertones make the Magic Roundabout a true joy to watch, and it’s no wonder that generations of viewers continue to hold it in such high, and warm, esteem.
When creator Serge Danot died in 1990, he was buried in a simple cemetery plot, surrounded by basic granite headstones. However, in October 2012, the Magic Roundabout was brought back to Serge with subtlety thrown to the wind. In place of an everyday memorial, Danot’s grave was replaced with an ‘iron grave’ (‘fer tombal’ in French).
This was a printed steel memorial by the French company Funeralconcept, which operates on the possibilities of grave personalisation. With an affectionate Dougal looking back at his creator, Serge’s grave is a beloved local landmark, known for not only its bright designs, but the small installation at the back of the headstone.
Behind the steel tree sits a small Perspex box, paper and pens, allowing visitors to leave Serge a drawing or message when they visit him, as many seem to. Serge’s grave attests to the enduring love of his bright, magic world, and reiterates that none of us ever truly leave our infant selves behind.
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https://twitter.com/reversediorama/status/1201486169168588800?lang=en – 2/12/2019 @reversediorama
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