The Magic Roundabout Behind the Scenes

The Magic Roundabout studio - September 1964

The Magic Roundabout studio – September 1964

I’ve been meaning to show some of these amazing photos for a long time. A huge thanks to Tony Clark who is a follower of the blog for these incredible finds. After scouring ebay he managed to gain some negatives of the sets and production of the original Magic Roundabout series shot in Paris! Over the next few posts I’ll be sharing some of my favourites with you and we can witness Ivor, Serge and the team all hard at work bringing the magic to life.

To start things off I’ve include two photos. The first one, above, is how the set looked as the crew animated the show, which obviously would have included Ivor. What is amazing to see is the vivid, striking colours that are presented, bearing in mind the original airings were all in black and white. The attention to detail to make sure that each character and prop stood out when translated into black and white would have been a real technical achievement. Notice how a lot of the characters are in high contrast, for example the difference in tone on Ermintrude between her pink and red body.

It’s also interesting to note the shallow depth that it was filmed at as the sky background is very close to the front edge of the set. To achieve an increased depth the camera would have had to have been given a large aperture in order to blur out more of the background thus creating an illusion of a larger world.

Ivor Wood and Serge Danot checking The Magic Roundabout props - 4th June 1965

Ivor Wood and Serge Danot checking The Magic Roundabout props – 4th June 1965

This idea of forced perspective can again be seen in the photo above showing Ivor Wood and Serge Danot checking through The Magic Roundabout props. If you look closely you’ll notice that there are two roundabouts. One larger and one smaller. The larger one would have been used for close and medium shots as in the first image, whilst the smaller one would have been used in long distance or to have far away in the background. As Tony has also pointed out to us it would have been likely used to take press shots with all the characters in, allowing the roundabout to be in the background and fully seen. Obviously this is perfect for forced perspective giving an increased depth to the whole production.

Also if you look closely on the shelves you’ll see an array of different props including some umbrellas (top right), a theatre set (middle left), some benches and coat stand (middle right) and possibly some really small trees next to Ivor’s left leg.

Well I hope you enjoyed those photos as much as I did. There are some more to show you all so keep those peepers peeled for the next post!

Pat and Parsley make Radio Times Top 50

Happy New Year to one and all and what a start to the year. This week The Radio Times announced the Top 50 Greatest Children’s TV Shows of all time and you guessed it Ivor’s work makes not 1 but 3 appearances!

RadioTimes Front Cover - 13-19 January 2018

After all these years Postman Pat is still grabbing the headlines and holding the front page! Firstly it’s so great to see a couple of early publicity shots both on the cover and inside from Series 2. The latter being a great picture from the “Postman Pat Follows a Trail” episode. As you’ll find out below Postman Pat comes 26 out of 50 in the poll so just under halfway. A true testament to Ivor’s endearing work. Also following close behind is The Adventures of Parsley at no. 27. If I’m being honest an odd choice compared to that of the original Herbs or perhaps even The Wombles or Magic Roundabout but nonetheless Ivor’s work once more takes centre stage.

Radio Times - Top 50 Greatest Children's TV Shows - 13-19 January 2018

Radio Times – Top 50 Greatest Children’s TV Shows – 13-19 January 2018

Radio Times - Top 50 Greatest Children's TV Shows - 13-19 January 2018

Radio Times – Top 50 Greatest Children’s TV Shows – 13-19 January 2018

As if this wasn’t enough The Magic Roundabout even gets a little mention from Radio Times Editor Alison Graham. Placing it no. 2 in her Top 5 speaking about how it was “adored by all the family…thanks to Eric Thompson’s charming funny, knowing, surreal narration”.  Not only is Ivor represented through his shows but it is worth pointing out that it’s his whole career that is celebrated from start to finish. The Magic Roundabout being his first creation and Postman Pat Series 2 being the last thing he ever did. Just goes to show that Ivor’s talent and dedication never wavered throughout his 30+ year career, still enabling him to deliver timeless shows time and time again.

With a panel of experts from all fields of Children’s TV including Noel Edmonds, Peter Purves, Joe Godwin and David Walliams it’s so great to see Ivor’s work being celebrated once more. It’s also a lovely segway into what I hope will be a good few months celebrating everyones favourite postman. I’ve finally got all the permissions I need to write up the next few articles so I look forward to sharing lot’s of new things with you in the coming weeks.

 

In Pictures – The Magic Roundabout

We’re off on a surreal journey today. One, due to the fact we’re talking The Magic Roundabout and two, a wonderfully weird piece of animation I discovered.

le-manege-enchante-2

We haven’t hear much from The Magic Roundabout as yet and that is partly due me wanting to shine the light on other shows before this one. The other is it’s harder to gain interviews with people that created work nearly 50 years ago! That is about to change though, as I’m going to try my damnedest to curate some great content for you folks. In the meantime here are some wonderful promotional photographs taken of the puppets and sets for what was to become Ivor Wood’s most iconic creation.

le-manege-enchante

Also on my quest I stumbled across this little gem. It’s a film from a French documentary and portrays the life story of Serge Danot, the initial concept creator of The Magic Roundabout. It illustrates how he went from humble beginnings, painting the great Eiffel Tower as part of renovations, to injuring himself on site. It was in convalescence that he thought more on the ideas of film production and found himself a cleaning job at La Comete in Paris. It was here after some rung climbing and determination that he went on to meet Ivor. As you’ll see near the end of the film it was a meeting of great minds.

Let’s go round again – The story of The Magic Roundabout | BBC Radio 4 documentary 12th October

It’s really been 50 years since The Magic Roundabout first appeared on British televisions. Adapted for Britain with the help of narrator Eric Thompson it was a huge success and to celebrate BBC Radio 4 have a special documentary airing today [12th October 2015] that charts this fantastical programme. To join them in conversation will be Ivor’s widow Josiane Wood, so make sure you tune in today at 4pm.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06gqh8m

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

Here’s what Radio 4 have to say:

In October 1965, a new version of the French children’s television programme Le Manège Enchanté was shown on the BBC. Scripted and voiced by the Playschool presenter Eric Thompson, and broadcast with its English title – The Magic Roundabout, it soon became a firm favourite with viewers of all ages. So much so, that when the transmission time was changed to an earlier timeslot, there were so many complaints to the BBC from outraged adults, that it was moved back to its place just before the six o’clock news.

To celebrate the programme’s 50th anniversary, Sophie Thompson, Eric’s daughter, and his wife Phyllida Law tell us the story behind the much-loved series. We’ll hear tales of Zebedee, Florence and Ermintrude, and how Dougal the dog nearly caused international relations with France to break down.

With contributions from Fenella Fielding, Nigel Planer and Mark Kermode, climb aboard for one more spin on the Magic Roundabout.

Producer: Elizabeth Foster
Presenter: Sophie Thompson & Phyllida Law.

Let’s go round again – The story of The Magic Roundabout will be broadcast on 12th October 2015 and available to catch up on the BBC iPlayer.

The Magic Roundabout Story – Timeshift Documentary

After discovering this nearly a year ago I thought it would be a great opportunity to share this with you all. First aired on the BBC on 16th March 2003, programme Timeshift tells the story of The Magic Roundabout right from the early days and includes interviews with historians and both Ivor and Josiane Wood. Ivor speaks candidly about the show and remembers it as an ‘influential starting block’ to what was to be an incredible career

For all those Ivor Wood fans there is a great section starting at approx. 39 minutes that serves as a retrospective of Ivor’s work post The Magic Roundabout. This visual delight is introduced by film historian Brian Sibley, as ‘being created with a far higher degree of artistry’ than that of it’s predecessor. Highly commendable and very just words for Ivor’s pioneering and truly inspiring animations.

Rare glimpse on the set of The Magic Roundabout

Serge Danot and Ivor Wood on set of the Magic Roundabout

Serge Danot and Ivor Wood on set of the Magic Roundabout
Photographed by Jacques Crausaz
Image courtesy of Josiane Wood

Thanks to Ivor’s wife Josiane we are privileged to share with you this rare photo from the set of The Magic Roundabout.

The shot was taken in Paris and features The Magic Roundabout creator Serge Danot and Ivor Wood directing an episode right from the helm of some aptly named chairs. It’s still under debate but the photograph was probably shot in Danot’s flat where most of the The Magic Roundabout,  or La Manege Enchante as it was known in France, was created and filmed.

Josiane remembers writing some of the scripts for the show in it’s early days and not knowing the full capabilities of what the animators and puppets could do. She would be forever popping onto the set to ask if she could make the puppets  jump etc and be surprised and pleased with the response that anything was possible.

The Magic Roundabout Overview

Year first aired: 1964  |  Producer: Serge Danot  |  Ivor Wood’s Role: Animator

The Magic Roundabout, or La Manege Enchante as it was known in France, was Ivor Wood’s first real successful endeavour into the world of stop-motion. After meeting the shows creator whilst working at Parisian advertising agency La Comete he went onto animate the pilot and following series. The series rights then got sold across the Channel to the BBC giving Ivor his first taste of British children’s television.