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Series / Die Sendung mit der Maus

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Die Sendung mit der Maus ("The Programme with the Mouse") is an educational TV series for children, by the German public broadcasting station ARD. An international version with English dubbing has been created in Australia and airs as Mouse TV.

While the German public broadcasters often have to take flak for shallow programming in spite of their "culture and education mandate", this show is often cited as a counter-example. And with reason, for Die Maus is very popular amongst young and old, owing its continuous existence since 1971 to a high quality mix of education and entertainment.

The basic concept is relatively simple: For half an hour, cute animated stories alternate with documentary-style educational segments, wherein a wide range of real-world topics - often involving the industrial production of everyday objects - are explained in a child-friendly way. Meanwhile the confident and clever Maus, along with her more excitable friends Elefant (Little Elephant) and Ente (Duck), opens each show and appears throughout in short interstitial animations, called Mausspots.

By now, the show is an established part of German cultural life, recognizable and referenced very much as Sesame Street is in the US. Creator/host Armin Maiwald's voice-over style—simple, calm and down-to-earth without patronizing—has become outright iconic, hence you can see hear it often being parodied in German Media, complete with a Suspiciously Similar Song version of the title theme.

In the late 1980s or early 1990s a selection of episodes aired on Australian television, as Mouse TV or The Show with the Mousenote . The voice-over explanations were dubbed into English; the story segments were selected from the ones, such as the Little Mole stories, that were not primarily verbal. The Australian dub has since been exported worldwide.

Today with...

  • Alertness Blink: The elephant, who like the other mascots doesn't speak intelligibly, does this when surprised or excited.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: The mascots of the show are the titular orange mouse, a tiny blue elephant, and a yellow duck.
  • Androids Are People, Too: The mouse evidently has lots of cyborg parts. Her whiskers and tail are detachable (and appear to function as USB connectors), her legs have springs and can lengthen on command, her nose can be turned into a propeller or digging machine, she has a built-in alarm clock, etc. etc. And then there's the distinctive 'clack-clack' noise heard when she blinks...
    • Seemingly confirmed by a Mausspot in which the mouse steps in for an injured Easter Bunny by opening a panel on her chest and using various switches and levers therein to adjust her colour, lengthen her ears and bunch up her tail.
  • Animals Not to Scale: The mouse is twice as big as the elephant! Still, the elephant is far stronger and heavier, as many spots show.
    • Deliberately played with in one segment, in which the mouse uses perspective trickery to put the duo back in correct relation to one another.
    • For a 2016 April Fool's gag, the show's Facebook page posted a note suggesting that thanks to numerous complaints they were finally going to fix the issue once and for all, complete with convincing drawing of a teeny-tiny mouse at the feet of a massive elephant. Maus-Fans who missed the joke were not happy.
    • From the inside stories, Nulli the Hare and Priesemut the Frog (by Matthias Sodtke), who are almost the same size.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: The mouse seems to consider the elephant as a cross between this and an over-enthusiastic puppy.
  • Anthology: A children's version.
  • Art Evolution:
    • The mouse's design was originally even simpler, lighter in colour and less anthropomorphic—she was often seen walking on all fours and coping with props much bigger than herself.
    • The elephant, introduced four years after the mouse, is noticeably more detailed and realistic (aside from being tiny and blue, of course). The duck, introduced about a decade past that, is more so again—it's even roughly the right colour.
  • Art Shift: Due to the nature of the show's concept, all different kinds of media can be seen in a single episode (live action, animation, claymation...). Specifically worth mentioning are the Käpt'n Blaubär-segments: The framing story features live-action puppets including the Captain, whose cock-and-bull stories are then shown as cartoon animations.
  • Ascended Extra: The mouse was initially designed only for a single animated short, in which she explored a grocery store. The short proved so popular that the producers asked for a series of her further adventures... and the rest is history.
  • Aside Glance: In place of an Idea Bulb, the mouse gives one of these to the camera, with a knowing grin.
  • Audience Participation: Sometimes the idea for one of the educational short films comes from a kid's letter asking an interesting question.
  • Bag of Holding: Not exactly a bag, and not visible to the viewer, but the mouse evidently has some sort of front pocket that contains whatever she needs in any given situation, from a coin or pencil to spray paint can or drill auger.
  • Balloonacy: Turns up frequently in the MausSpots, courtesy the elephant. In one he blows a bubblegum bubble to float across a chasm, in another he ties a balloon to the duck to help her fly, and in a third he (very sweetly) ties one to the mouse's leg cast to help her along. He's also very nearly floated himself and others away while blowing soap bubbles.
  • Balloon-Bursting Bird: In a Mausspot. He tried, but mouse and elephant shot a straw into his posterior.
  • Breakout Character: The eponymous mouse, to the extent that she got the show renamed after her (the original name, Lach- und SachgeschichtenStories for laughing and learning – is up until today the first line in the opening credits). In the beginning, she wasn't even present at all!
    • Also Käpt'n Blaubär, thanks to Die Maus probably Walter Moers' most famous creation.
    • The blue elephant has his own show since 2007 - yes, The Show With the Elephant - aimed at very young kids.
  • Butt-Monkey: All the presenters are remarkably unafraid to look silly by way of illustrating a story, but honours must go to Christoph Biemann, whose memorable moments include getting his pullover sleeve covered in bicycle grease in order to demonstrate soap's cleaning power and nearly killing himself attempting to get across a river to demonstrate how efficient bridges are by comparison.
    • In the Mausspots the duck gets shades of this, usually through her own naughtiness.
  • Calling a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Two examples! One is Käptn Blaubär trying to make his spaghetti with meatballs more interesting to his nephews by declaring them to be alien "Zorx mit Mürschlampf", tall story included. The other, in the same picky-eater vein, turns up in an episode of "Charlie and Lola", where tomatoes also get an alien spin.
  • Catchphrase: The show has spawned several:
    • ...und natürlich mit der Maus und dem Elefanten! (...and of course with the mouse and the elephant!): While the voice-over in the title segment is always different (listing the content of this week's episode), the mouse and the elephant are always included. Of course.
    • Das war [language]. (This was [language].): The title segment is always shown twice: The first time in German, the second time translated into a foreign language, often that of a people with many immigrants in Germany, like Turkish, or various eastern European languages. (In one memorable instance, it was Klingon.) Which language it was is then announced in German.
      • On the Carnival weekend, it's usually in Kölsch, the Cologne German dialect; until this day, the show is produced in Cologne, Germany, as it is producer WDR's (and Armin's) home.
    • Das ist die/der [person onscreen]. (This is [person onscreen].): Armin's simple but effective way of introducing the person you are about to observe doing her/his job.
    • Klingt komisch, ist aber so. (roughly: May sound strange, but that's how it is.): Used when a small detail needed for further understanding of the topic can't be explained child-comprehensibly in a short time. Similar to Willing Suspension of Disbelief, as children are already quite used to accepting something without being given an explanation. Sometimes wrongly attributed to Peter Lustig, the host of another children's edutainment show.
    • Das zeigen wir euch nach der nächsten Maus. (We'll show you this after the next Mouse): Very complex educational topics can sometimes take up one complete episode, or more. When this happens, the fictional stories are dropped, leaving only the very short Mausspots to serve as breaks, hence 'the next Mouse'.
    • Aus, die Maus! (literally Off, the mouse!, meaning That's all, folks!): Like all of the above catchphrases, well known among German native speakers - so much so that Hades uses a variation of this phrase in the German dub of Disney's Hercules.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Various and variable. Surely Lola counts. Whether Kati Sommer from "Lehrer Linke" (swedish original: "Inga Sörman" and "Magister Flykt") also qualifies depends whether her excuse stories for being always late to school fall under this, Weirdness Magnet or Blatant Lies.
  • Cool Old Guy: Series co-creator Armin Maiwald, now in his eighties and as noted a bonafide German TV icon.
  • The Ditz: The duck.
  • Eastern European Animation: The Little Mole, a Czech cartoon characternote , became famous in Germany by regularly starring in the first story segment.
  • Edutainment Show: In Germany, basically the foundation of the concept.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The three mascots of the show are only known as the mouse, the (tiny blue) elephant and the (yellow) duck. According to Word of God the mouse doesn't even have a binary gender (though by German grammatical default she gets female pronouns, as does the duck; the elephant gets male ones).
    • In the "Björn Bär" animations (from the Sven Nordquist picture books, he's more famous for "Petterson and Findus") all other people are addressed by him this way. Since he's The Ditz, it is unclear whether those are really their names.
  • Femme Fatalons: Non-villainous example in the 10th anniversary special of the Elephant Show. In typical Die Maus style, they show what could happen during ten years (in this case, if you don't cut your nails).
  • Fishing for Sole: Thoroughly inverted in a Mausspot in which the mouse is evidently very annoyed to keep catching fish. Eventually she gets the bright idea of using a sock as bait, whereupon she triumphantly pulls up her lost boot, puts them both on and happily trots away.
  • Follow Your Nose: Given an amusing twist in one Mausspot. The mouse is duly mesmerized by the oh-so-delicious scent of sausage, ham and even cheese... only to discover that smells can be *very* deceiving.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: The "Two Minute Fairytale" miniseries. Any Aesop goes kaput either.
  • Funny Animal Anatomy: Variable. The mouse (mostly) walks upright and uses her front paws as hands, but she also snuffles round things as a real mouse would. The elephant and duck deviate much less from their real-world counterparts (it helps that a trunk and wings make very plausible hand analogues).
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Most of the Mausspots, in very typical German fashion, involve the mouse (and sometimes the elephant, and very occasionally the duck) jury-rigging a clever solution to their latest dilemma. The means and materials might be completely surreal (ie., folding her tail into a paperclip) but the engineering principles are always sound.
  • Idea Bulb: Does turn up in one Mausspot... in which the mouse needs the bulb to replace the burnt-out one in her dark basement.
  • The Klutz: The usually very clever and competent mouse also fancies herself a great athlete, with decidedly more mixed results.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Show host Christoph always wears a green pullover. In one post-episode scene, he eventually reveals that he effectively has a Doug Funnie closet – with a green sweater pullover for each day of the week.
  • Meaningful Name: Exploited. In the Easter special, we meet Mrs. Brotesser (literally "Breadeater") whose job is testing the hardness of eggs. Of course they couldn't resist the obvious name gag, so when the reporter asks what to do with all the eggs that didn't survive the test, she cheerily says "Brot essen!" and serves up a large plate of breaded eggs.
  • Medium Awareness: Many of the mouse's adventures involve her reshaping her animated surroundings to her liking, ie. using the border of the backdrop to shelter from rain falling inside it, or turning another backdrop over so she can walk down stairs instead of up them.
  • Musical Exposition: In one particularly famous explanatory film, Armin raps (yes, raps) about how tooth paste is manufactured with the little coloured stripes on it. And it's awesome.
  • No Kill like Overkill: In their quest to explain complex subjects to children, the producers famously spare no effort in setting up demonstrations, which are often so elaborate and imaginative they're as fascinating as the subject itself (setting off many dozens of mousetraps to illustrate atomic chain reactions, for instance).
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Interestingly, this varies considerably among the chicken of Mullewapp. Most are straight flat, but occasionally you see a very well-endowed one.
  • Not Me This Time: The fox is the default villain in "Mullewapp" (and naturally always gets a beating instead of lunch) but there was an episode where he was innocent (a chicken fell foul of a Rake Take plus Laser-Guided Amnesia) —and very whiny about it, too.
  • Parental Bonus: One Mausspot features the mouse setting up for brunch. She unpacks all the standard, innocuous ingredients (unaware they're being stolen by the elephant as she does so)... and then produces a bottle of wine, which she cuddles with a distinctly happy sigh. The last sound, after she's joined the elephant in hiding under the table, is of her pouring a glass.
  • Percussive Maintenance: The mouse tends to have a short fuse with malfunctioning machinery and usually resorts to this. It never works... often because as it turns out the machine is actually being operated by a certain small blue elephant. (Or the elephant got stuck in it, god knows how.)
  • The Pigpen: Julia, from the song "Jule wäscht sich nie" ("Julia never washes").
  • Rail Enthusiast: Armin, who, in keeping with his status as a Cool Old Guy, possesses a driver's licence for steam trains and offers to casually man such a train during one of the Maus' summer tours.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: They showed the initial training of avalanche rescue dog Chili with the intention of following up via a segment on the big final exam, but just beforehand Chili had an accident, possibly ruining her career altogether. (Filming went on with a "colleague" of hers instead.)
  • Reality Warper: The mouse seems to be a benign version.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Very strictly followed in the above mentioned toothpaste rap.
  • Road-Sign Reversal: Played with in a Mausspot. An arrow in the mountains points to... wherever, we'll never know, the slope is far too steep for the free-climbing mouse and elephant. The mouse solves the problem pragmatically, by turning the arrow around to point to the earth and setting up an impromptu picnic.
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: Ultimately subverted, when the Maus, fed up by always missing the elephant by aimlessly running through the doors, merges all five doors to one, behind which now necessarily is the elephant. (Don't think too hard about it.)
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: A kid-friendly version in "Gute Nacht Carola". A Monster Under The Bed boasts of how evil he is, but the worst he does is holding Carola's plush penguin hostage. Carola fears nothing and calls him out on his "I am soooo scary" routine. "You're not evil - you're just petulant!" The unnamed monster sees the error of his (non-)ways, meekly allows Carola to rename him "Johnny", and while they might not be bestest friends ever after, he may sleep under her bed.
  • Signature Sound Effect: The Mausspots have very distinctive sound effects, most famously the mouse's very expressive Squeaky Eyes.
  • 6 Is 9: In a Mausspot, the Maus runs into a school board asserting 6+6=81, confusing her greatly until the elephant turns it upside-down.
  • Squeaky Eyes: Done with castanets for the mouse. The elephant's Alertness Blinks make a more conventional 'boing!' (or sometimes 'cha-ching!') sound.
  • Subbing for Santa: In a "Mullewapp" episode, the pig accidentally knocked out Santa Claus (it's a long story) and now he has to bring the X-mas presents to the farm. His friends, the mouse and the rooster, help forming a riotous inverse Totem Pole Trench with the pig on top (Rooster: "Have you ever seen a Santa with a beak?"). Another example is a Mausspot when the Easter Bunny falls ill and the Mouse takes over.
  • Totem Pole Trench: Besides the Mullewapp episode mentioned above, one Mausspot features the mouse discovering that the elegant evening gown she's bought is far too long. After tripping over it a few times, she decides to try standing atop the elephant, making the dress just the right length.
  • Troll: The elephant has some tendencies to this, too.
  • The Unintelligible: The elephant and the duck only make noises fitted to their respective species. The mouse's voice sounds more human, but it's not intelligible besides "Hmm" or occasionally "Oh!"
  • Unraveled Entanglement: Turns up in a couple of Mausspots, once with a fold-out beach chair and once with a ball of string the mouse is trying to wind back up. Also in a Mausspot where the Maus demonstrates her sport abilities at the rings...not. (After creating a hopeless tangle, she turns the result into a hammock.)
  • Very Special Episode: The show doesn't refrain from tackling relatively serious topics, like the Chernobyl disaster or how life during the post-war era was.

...and of course with the mouse and the elephant!

Alternative Title(s): Mouse TV