Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Magic Roundabout - Children As Consumers...

A Corgi Magic Roundabout train with Mr Rusty on board arrives. But not for me. I also remember a wonderful Corgi Magic Garden, complete with the Roundabout, Florence, Dougal, Brian, Dylan, Ermintrude etc in our local newsagent's, staring at me from a glass display cabinet every time I went in. Lord knows how much that cost!

If I remember rightly, the Corgi Magic Roundabout train cost 50p, and that was a lot of money to my parents. I used to have intense dreams about owning a Magic Roundabout train toy, and wake up feeling terribly disappointed.

I loved the Magic Roundabout with a passion, right from my tiny tot days in the late '60s, but there was a huge array of merchandising which, heart-rendingly, I couldn't have. On sale were Dougal house slippers, Magic Roundabout lampshades, Magic Roundabout biscuits, Magic Roundabout wallpaper, Magic Roundabout plastic figurines, Magic Roundabout clocks, Magic Roundabout tea towels, Magic Roundabout curtains, Magic Roundabout mattresses, Magic Roundabout cuddly toys, Magic Roundabout annuals, Magic Roundabout storybooks, Magic Roundabout colouring books, Magic Roundabout key rings, Magic Roundabout dot-to-dots, Magic Roundabout crockery, Magic Roundabout tablecloths, Magic Roundabout soap, Magic Roundabout bubble bath, Magic Roundabout umbrellas. And the aforementioned Corgi miniature Magic Garden. Have I missed anything? Loads, I imagine.


The concept of children as consumers was certainly not invented in the 1980s.

I used to be bought a packet of Magic Roundabout biscuits each week (they tasted like malted milk) - and was thrilled by the free plastic Magic Roundabout figures that came with them, one to a packet. Mum saved up the tokens and sent for the whole set. I was so chuffed on the morning I received them that I decided to take them to school, and was so engrossed examining each plastic figure as I walked along that I was nearly run over by a car!

Boy, did the driver swear at me! Fortunately, even as a seven-year-old, I'd heard it all before!

My mum took me to see the film, Dougal and the Blue Cat, and the scene with the Magic Garden folk imprisoned by Buxton the Cat nearly had me in tears. Especially the sight of poor Florence, in chains, crying her little heart out. I had a crush on Florence. I remember opening my eyes very wide and telling myself I musn't cry. Boys didn't cry back then.

The Magic Roundabout was, of course, famous for being 1960s psychedelic style colourful, but we couldn't afford a colour telly.

I never really grew out of the Magic Roundabout, but my parents did not believe that boys over the age of eight-years-old should be interested in puppet series - they thought it was "cissie". The (for me) brilliant wit of the Roundabout did not seem to appeal to them, so I watched whenever I could, whilst pretending to read a book or whatever when my parents were in the room.

The show ended in January 1977 but was sometimes shown as repeats on school holiday mornings for years afterwards.

Eric Thompson died in 1982.

In the Nostalgic 90s, the Magic Roundabout came back in vogue and I discovered that I shared my birthday with it. Eric Thompson's English version (he had placed his own spin on the original French animation by Serge Danot) was first broadcast on 18/10/1965 - about an hour after I was born!

When I discovered our shared debut date, I thought it was a weird coincidence. The show meant a lot to me as a child and saw me through some harsh times. On the way back from a birthday night out, c. 1992, belly full of Stella Artois, feeling heavily sentimental, I stopped in a darkened subway, lifted my eyes to the heavens and thanked Eric Thompson for Ermintrude and co.

Sometimes we do things when we are drunk that seem absolutely ridiculous when viewed through the evil realities of next day's hangover. But my thank you to Mr Thompson seemed then, and still seems today, entirely justified.

"Soppy thing!" as Dougal might say...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

i was a 7 year old who collected the biscuit toys and googled them the other day and now forty one years later i am to be reunited with them having found them on ebay ahhh my child hood spirit is free again

Anonymous said...

i was a 7 year old who collected the biscuit toys and googled them the other day and now forty one years later i am to be reunited with them having found them on ebay ahhh my child hood spirit is free again

Anonymous said...

i was a 7 year old who collected the biscuit toys and googled them the other day and now forty one years later i am to be reunited with them having found them on ebay ahhh my child hood spirit is free again

Andrew said...

Aw, that's brilliant!