The Magic Roundabout

18 October 1965

The Magic Roundabout first aired on 18 October 1965, just before the teatime news. Eric Thompson's brilliant and witty reinvention of the French original - Le Manège Enchanté - combined with the timing of the programme to create an instant children's classic.

The first programme featured Zebedee, who came to restore the magic that Mr Rusty's barrel organ and the roundabout had lost, and bring the children back. Subsequent episodes introduced Florence, and the other inhabitants of the garden: Dougal the dog, Brian the snail, Ermintrude the cow, Dylan the rabbit, and Mr McHenry the gardener.

In Thompson's version of the story, Dougal - Pollux in the original - was loosely based on comedian Tony Hancock. Accusations that the character Dylan was inspired by drug culture were always denied by Thompson; he also had to deny that the name Dougal was a dig at the French leader de Gaulle.

The Magic Roundabout ran on the BBC until 1977, but in 1972 outgrew its origins to become a feature film - Dougal and the Blue Cat. After Thompson's untimely death, Channel 4 made some new episodes in 1992, with Nigel Planer pastiching his style. However, it is Eric Thompson's version that is looked on with most fondness today, by viewers who remember the start of the 6 O'clock News as "time for bed".

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