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Western Animation / Madeline

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"If you believe you must be big in order to be tough
then you should get to know me. I'll teach you other stuff!"
"I'm Madeline", the theme song of the TV specials and first series

Although critically acclaimed animated versions of the Madeline books were produced throughout The '50s (the first was even nominated for an Academy Award), it wasn't until 1988 that CINAR and DiC created the widely remembered TV special based on the first book for HBO. It gave names to three of Madeline's friends (Nicole, Danielle, and Chloe) who would be present in later TV showings. The special was a success, so CINAR and DiC created more specials based on the rest of the books. The project also saw a soundtrack CD, "Madeline's Favorite Songs", with music from the specials released.

In 1993, after their partnership with CINAR had ended, DiC decided to make a Madeline TV series. Reusing the character designs, some of the talents (Christopher Plummer was held back by DiC as the narrator), and the Title Theme Tune from the old specials, Madeline's other friends were given names, and had various adventures that were not present in the books. Similar to the specials, the show was filled with Ear Worm music. It premiered on The Family Channel. Some notable differences between the CINAR-DiC Partnership version and this version were new voice actors, some girls hair colors were changed, the animation was much better, and various supporting book characters made more appearances as well. In 1995, more episodes premiered on ABC Saturday mornings, under the title The New Adventures of Madeline. Following a second Soundtrack CD release ("Hats Off To Madeline"), the franchise went into a 4-year hiatus.


The silence ended when DiC made a direct-to-video movie, known as Madeline: Lost in Paris. The plot was a man posing as Madeline's uncle came to take her to a finishing school in Vienna, but it was actually a lace factory that put orphan girls to labor. This movie had a slightly different color palette than the 1993 version, and different voice actors. Released by Disney in 1999, the movie was later re-released by Shout! Factory on DVD, but removing all Disney idents.

This was immediately followed by the 3rd series, in 2000, when DiC made more episodes, also under the title The New Adventures of Madeline, with improved animation (to follow up with the direct-to-video movie). Also, the color palette changed again for a few of the girls. Many of the voice talents also changed in this version. This version of the cartoon premiered on the Playhouse Disney block of Disney Channel. A third soundtrack CD was released shortly after, "Sing-A-Long with Madeline", after which the franchise once again fell silent.


The next project involving everyone's favorite redhead is the direct-to-video movie My Fair Madeline (although it did air on Nickelodeon once), which was released silently in 2002, one year after the regular cartoon ended. The plot was Madeline and her friends going to stop a gang of thieves. There have been no new episodes of the show produced since and the franchise fell silent once more.

Unknown to a lot of people, another direct-to-video movie of Madeline called Madeline in Tahiti was released in 2007. Not much is known about this movie due to its mainstream obscurity. It's about Madeline and her friends going to Tahiti on a vacation and plot to stop a man's plans to make a volcano erupt so he can steal from the capitol when it is evacuated. Madeline also gets with a disagreement with Pepito and learns that The Power of Friendship is more important than a vacation. Trailers and clips are available on YouTube and it can be purchased on Amazon and iTunes. The movie is also on YouTube but it isn't available for every country. After this, it seems the franchise seems to have ended.

The show focuses on a group of twelve girls who live at a boarding school with a nun named Miss Clavel in Paris, France. They live next door to the Spanish ambassador, who also has a young son named Pepito who is about the same age as the girls. Together, they all often end up on adventures, led by the bubbly red-haired Madeline. Though small, she never lets it get her down and is filled with courage, telling tigers "poo-poo" and finding courage no matter how tough things might seem. Whether it's becoming a famous artist, traveling with gypsies, or solving adventures, Madeline's adventures are rarely ordinary, and sure to be a lot of fun. The English language version of the cartoon is often peppered with French words and phrases, such as mes enfants and oui oui.

Vote for your favorite episode here.

In addition to the tropes carried over from the books, the Madeline cartoons provide examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: The DiC series changed up a few of the girls' hair colors between seasons:
    • Janine was a blonde, up until season 3 where her hair suddenly became dark brown.
    • Sylvie (or Simone) had greenish-colored hair while Monique's appeared to be a pink color. Both of them received brown hair in season 3.
    • Ellie also had greenish hair early on, but it was darkened to black by season 2.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Many of the cartoon stories, particularly the earlier ones, are highly extended versions of Madeline books. However, given that the cartoon series ended up running four seasons, with a total of 65 episodes, including the original specials, it was inevitable that most of the material would end up being new.
  • Adaptational Nationality: Ludwig Bemelmans actually meant for Madeline to be an American girl studying abroad in Paris. Of course, readers have always assumed that she's a native Parisian, and the animated series gives her a pronounced French accent.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: The gypsies from Madeline and the Gypsies seem like kidnappers who take Madeline and Pepito into their circus, and eventually hide them in a lion's suit so that Miss Clavel can't find them. The TV special instead had the gypsies tell Madeline and Pepito to go home after they come down from being stuck on the Ferris Wheel, only for the two of them to express a desire to join their circus. They also don't make Madeline and Pepito wear the lion's suit until after their own lion becomes too sick to perform.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Miss Clavel noticing Madeline's empty bed in Madeline and the Gypsies, then quickly realizing that Madeline got left behind at the circus. The cartoon also shows Pepito's parents (who were apparently off on a business trip in the book) worrying about him also getting left behind.
    • The original "Something is Not Right" sequence. Especially the ending.
    • Lost in Paris has been said to scare kids to the point where they get nightmares and also instill fear of relatives in several younger viewers.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Pepito's cousins return in "Madeline and the Mummy" and seem to have completely forgotten why they stopped being brats in the last episode. Pablito also comes back in "Madeline and the Wedding" and "Madeline's Manners" and still acts like a brat but he seems to learn his lesson for good in the latter.
  • Alternate Continuity: Basically, the continuities from the original six specials and the television series are different. For example, Pepito and his family moved to London in the special Madeline in London, but are still in Paris in the series. Also, Madeline's parents were alive in the original specials, but in the series they were retconned as being dead after the live-action movie did the same thing.
  • Animated Adaptation: The specials are adaptations of the books.
  • Anywhere but Their Lips: Pepito gets a kiss on the cheek from Madeline after he gives her a new parasol in "Madeline's Birthday at the Zoo."
  • Art Evolution: Went a long way from the original books to the last special, My Fair Madeline. And it's still evolving, but thankfully now at a slower pace.
  • Author Avatar: Sort of. There's an artist named Ludwig in the TV series who is friends with the girls and is even seen working on the original picture book in one episode.
  • Award-Bait Song: The song "Wishes" from the Madeline's Christmas special stands out as this because of its pop-like quality and sound, despite not being sung by someone famous. Nonetheless, this doesn't lose the syrupy nature of most Madeline songs, and it fits.
  • Banister Slide: This is a fairly frequent occurrence on the series. Madeline is usually the culprit.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Generous doses of it, considering that the girls are speaking untranslated French through half of everything. Lost in Paris springs to mind.
  • Black Bead Eyes: Seen on all of the characters.
  • Bragging Theme Tune: "I'm Madeline". Also counts as an "I Am" Song.
  • Cabin Fever: This happened in the second half of "Madeline's Vacation", where a snow drift blocked the tunnel path of Aunt Hilda's cottage. The children saw the rescue patrol and decided to lure attention for them. While nobody suffers cabin fever, Pepito starts being paranoid about a snow monster coming by.
  • Chekhov's Army: At the start of Madeline and the Forty Thieves, we see a pair of magpies fly briefly across the screen. It turns out that they are the 40 thieves.
  • Christmas Episode: Madeline's Christmas, "Madeline's Holiday with Mr. Grump" and the two part episodes "Madeline at the North Pole" and "Madeline and Santa".
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Nicole in the cartoon, and Cloe in the first special.
  • Cool Big Sis: Tatiana the prima ballerina from Madeline at the Ballet. She might have the most important role, but she makes sure all of her co-stars are treated fairly, including Madeline, who was initially left out of the production because the dance teacher thought she was too short. Even after Madeline botches the first rehearsal, Tatiana finds her backstage, comforts her and still allows her to dance in the production, and they pull it off flawlessly.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Chloe gets one in "Madeline and the Old Violin." It turns out that she has talent when it comes to the violin.
  • Digital Destruction:
    • The Shout Factory and Mill Creek releases of the episodes. Aside from the logo replacement, the main issue is that the framerate is slightly altered. While not as bad, it can be hard for older fans are used to the previous releases.
    • The biggest offender is "Madeline on the Orient Express" on the Mill Creek releases. When Chloe was spelling at the train station, the scene has a digital hiccup.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Used in every song, but much, much more in the DiC version (ironic since they used to be with Disney). Unsurprisingly, this show airs on the Disney channel in regions outside the US.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Pepito's cousins, by their own admittance, are even worse brats than him, but they still get chased and nearly gored by an angry full-grown bull.
  • Even the Dog Is Ashamed: In the opening of "Madeline and the Treasure Hunt," Genevieve whimpers and whines each time the girls give obviously wrong answer to questions being asked of them regarding geography.
  • Every Episode Ending: Each episode of the cartoon ends with the narrator saying, "And that's all there is. There isn't any more." Those lines originally appeared at the end of the first Madeline book.
  • Foot Bath Treatment: Briefly used to treat Madeline after Genevieve saves her from the Seine in "Madeline's Rescue." (The corresponding scene in the original book does not include the foot bath.)
  • For Science!: In "Madeline and the Dinosaur Bone," this is the stated reason why a group of paleontologists is allowed to wreck the garden of the old house, digging a giant mess, and then taking away the dinosaur bone that Genevieve dug up to a museum.
  • From Special To Series: Started out as a few specials that aired from the late 80's to the early 90's before becoming a series.
  • Halloween Episode: "Madeline and the Haunted House", "Madeline's Halloween" and "Madeline and the Spider Lady".
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Madeline in the second DiC series. All other adaptions have her parents alive and well (the old house is a Catholic boarding school, not an orphanage).
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Pepito is a mild version. When the writers need someone to taunt and tease the girls, he's usually the one they pass the Villain Ball to.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Mr. Grump in "Madeline's Holiday With Mr. Grump"
    • Sugar Dimples in "Madeline in Hollywood."
  • Just a Stupid Accent: Of course, Madeline speaks English with a French accent. The others characters also speak English with a French accent, except for the ones with voice actors who are Not Even Bothering with the Accent. In the movie, everyone has British accents. The characters, however, particularly Miss Clavel, do occasionally speak a bit of French here and there, in fact, enough that if you watch through the entire series you can probably pick a fair few French phrases.
  • Lampshade Wearing: In Madeline and the Big Cheese. See CMOF page for details.
  • Landmark Sale: In "Madeline in New York", Mr. Moneybags gives Madeline the deed to the Brooklyn Bridge. This becomes a hassle for her later on when so many accidents happened on the bridge. The mayor Fiorello heard about it and wasn't pleased as he knew Mr. Moneybags owes taxes for it.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Zigzagged. In "Madeline and the Costume Party," the girls contract chicken pox and Pepito laughs every time he sees them. Of course, on the eve of the party, Pepito has caught the illness from the girls and fully expects them to laugh at him too. They spend the evening with him to watch the fireworks instead.
  • Licensed Games / Edutainment Games: Tons of edutainment titles came out for PC/Macs between the 90s and the turn of the century. Chances are if you studied grade school in the US during the 90s, you would've played one of the titles in the classroom.
  • Limited Animation: It was produced by DiC in the late '80s to the beginning of the 2000s, after all. Though it's extremely evident in the original specials.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Chloe, Nicole, Danielle, Yvette, Nona, Lulu, Anne, Ellie, Monique, Janine, and Sylvie/Simone
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Sugar Dimples, i.e. that Shirley Temple Expy who appeared in a few episodes. She was at first mean-spirited and brattish especially off-camera, but had a change of heart when she befriended Madeline, revealing that she suffered from a lack of friends.
  • Nice Hat: Subverted in Pepito's case, where when introduced he was known as the "Bad Hat" due to the distinctive black hat he wore during his usual pranks and mischief. He disowns it after he sees the error of his old ways.
    • Played straight with Madeline and her classmates, all of whom wear a formal yellow hat for all of their outings.
  • No Antagonist:
    • Played straight most of the time. The only places where antagonists show up are in the two direct-to-DVD movies and in Madeline and the Singing Dog.
    • Zig-zagged through all the adaptations themselves. Pepito starts out as an antagonist, but is then redeemed a little later on.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Genevieve, the dog.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: When Madeline sings Without You in Madeline And The Science Project. If you're able to refrain yourself from crying, you'll notice that Madeline has suddenly lost her French accent.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: This is the ending of "Madeline in the Magic Carpet." Madeline is told that the adventure she had of riding on a magic carpet and rescuing a genie with Pepito and Pancho was just a dream. That evening, she finds under her bed the magic lamp that had been thrown in Pepito's garbage.
  • The Power of Friendship: "We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all, we love each other."
  • Put on a Bus: Pepito is forced to move to London with his family when his father is ordered to resume his usual diplomatic business there. They eventually return to Paris, however.
  • Race Lift: Nona originally had light skin, but it was changed to be dark brown in season 2 of the DiC series. Anne and Janine also had their skintones darkened. This may have been done to add more diversity to the show.
  • Running Gag: When Pepito accompanies the girls on a trip, the taxi always leaves him behind at first.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Pepito states this in "Madeline and the Wedding" when Pablito makes fun of Pepito for being friends with Madeline and stating that he is a sissy for being friends with a girl.
  • Sick Episode: Madeline and the Costume Party has Madeline and all her friends catch the chicken pox. Also Madeline's Christmas (the book and TV special) has Miss Clavel and all the girls except Madeline catch a bad cold.
  • Slasher Smile: Pepito gets a few in the "Bad Bat Hat" song.
  • Title Sequence Replacement:
    • Disney Channel tacked the theme song of The New Adventures of Madeline onto the original specials and Family Channel-era episodes.
    • The post-Lost-in-Paris episodes of the show broadcast Asia had the theme song of Hats off to Madeline, the second series theme song, replacing Oh Madeline, the third series theme song.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Mr. Grump in "Madeline's Holiday With Mr. Grump."
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: "A Bad Bad Hat," describing Pepito's mischievous period.

Madeline: Lost in Paris provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: The subplot of Miss Clavel trying to find Madeline relies on this.
  • Animation Bump: Madeline: Lost in Paris has better animation than the specials and TV series.
  • Child Hater: Madame LaCroque. In fact, she even says so herself.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: The Heartwarming Orphan girls laboring in the lace shop.
  • Cruel And Unusual Punishment: Fifi is forced to work on black lace as punishment for coughing all over her work, which with poor light would do serious harm to her eyes.
  • Darker and Edgier: This movie and My Fair Madeline have darker elements than the rest of the franchise.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Fifi, due to her lack of sunlight.
  • Foreshadowing: What gifts does "Horst" bestow all the girls with upon his first visit? Laces.
  • Freudian Excuse: LaCroque has one. Downplayed in that it's she lost her entire cabaret career after tripping, falling offstage, and exposing her underwear. She was forced to sell her hair to make lace, and perhaps out of revenge, began a lace-making sweatshop that imprisoned little girls.
  • Ill Girl: Fifi suffers from Incurable Cough of Death. Of course, by the end, it goes away.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Played with, as Miss Clavel laments not making certain of Horst's true nature when it becomes apparent that Madeline has been stolen away.
  • Oh, Crap!: Madeline first suspects that something is off when Horst opts to take the metro and forces her to abandon Genevieve. Miss Clavel and the girls soon after discover that they never boarded the train bound for Vienna.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: An In-Universe example from Horst, who curses in French rather than Austrian when he drops Madeline's heavy suitcase on his foot, confirming her suspicion that he was not her uncle.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Madeline's beaded necklace, left to her by her mother. She uses these to leave clues for her friends when she realizes she is being kidnapped, saving only one to remind herself to stay strong. Her friends are eventually successful in retrieving all of them in their search for her.
  • Trail Of Breadcrumbs: Madeline drops beads so that her friends can follow her to wherever her "uncle" is taking her.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Downplayed. LaCroque threatens the lace shop girls with this all the time because lace is supposedly made from human hair. But when she finally cuts Madeline's hair, it's a few strands on one side; this is treated as if the poor girl has been shorn. Her 11 schoolmates later copy the cut in solidarity. However, Fifi's haircut is much more ragged and unattractive, thus playing the trope a little straighter. By the end of the movie, everyone's hair has grown back.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Horst handles Madeline quite roughly when she figures out his ruse as he takes her into the lace shop. She even urges him not to push her.
  • Would Hurt a Child: LaCroque threatens to forcibly cut the hair from any of the sweatshop girls if they cross her and later does so to Madeline. Even worse, she makes Fifi work on black lace, not caring at all if the poor girl goes blind from it.

My Fair Madeline provides examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: None of the adults really believe Madeline witnessing the couple who tried to steal the painting and later, their plan to steal the Crown Jewels. Not even Lord Cucuface and Miss Clavel have much of a role here and they couldn't even convince the police to free Madeline when she was wrongly jailed until Emma revealed the truth to the King.
  • The Bully: Emma, the blonde ringlet-haired, freckle-faced student at the finishing school who openly belittles Madeline. She gets better and asks Madeline if they could be friends by the end after apologising for taking the credit in capturing the thieves.
  • Butt-Monkey: Madeline plays this role in the movie. She witnesses a couple trying to steal a painting, but accidentally destroys property in the Louvre. Because of this and the fact that nobody believes her, she is sent to a finishing school to become more ladylike where she is bullied by Emma and gets into disagreements with her teachers about how a lady should act. When she sneaks out to find the thieves, she gets into trouble and is almost arrested by police officers for trespassing in a hotel. She climbs Big Ben and almost falls off the hand of the clock. On the day that the thieves planned to steal the king's jewels, she is not credited in catching the thieves and is arrested under the belief that she was trying to steal the crown. Luckily, in the end, Emma tells the truth and Madeline is freed and deemed a hero.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Pepito does not appear in this special.
  • Darker and Edgier: This movie and Lost in Paris have darker elements than the rest of the franchise.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: While Madeline was in finishing school, her teacher says that a lady must always agree with a gentleman, which she finds ridiculous. The teacher calls her out on expressing her opinion (unless called for) as being unladylike as well.
  • Hair Color Dissonance: Madeline's red hair looks more like auburn in this special.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Lampshaded by Madeline about the teachers and other students at the finishing school.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Miss Clavel's voice was provided by Whoopi Goldberg. Hence, her voice sounded much deeper than usual which is jarring for long-time viewers of Madeline.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Madeline witnesses a man and a woman trying to steal a painting but, very few believe her. This causes her to get sent to a finishing school, get into trouble with police officers and other citizens, and later causes her to be arrested and put in jail. Eventually, they find out that she is right and she is freed and deemed a hero.

It's time to go, au revoir,
Though you may shout, "Encore!"
That's all there is,
There isn't any more!