Madeline and a couple of her school chums.


Original Medium: Illustrated children's story
Published by: Viking Press
First appeared: 1939
Creator: Ludwig Bemelmans
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The characters of illustrated children's stories who became animated stars go back much farther than even Horton the Elephant, by Dr. Seuss (Hejji), who was first animated as long ago as 1942. In fact, Quacky Doodles & Danny Daddles, whose printed stories were illustrated by Johnny Gruelle (Mr. Twee Deedle) goes back to the very early days of the medium, when cartoons were silent. In more recent years, Clifford the Big Red Dog, The Berenstain Bears,

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Curious George and many others have all attested to the vitality of this branch of animation. Madeline, by author/illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans, first appeared in 1939, and was first animated in 1952.

Madeline was one of 12 pre-teen girls who lived together in an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, as Bemelmans described it in the first paragraph of the first book. The house was a private boarding school run by Miss Clavel. Madeline was the smallest of the 12, as Bemelmans also mentioned in that paragraph, but also the most adventurous and fearless, as he didn't. The last part became apparent only as the story progressed, when she did things like make fun of a zoo tiger to his face, barely outside the danger zone. The little girls looked very similar in illustrations, but you could tell which was Madeline by her red hair.

In the first book, succinctly titled Madeline, Madeline had her appendix out. In the five sequels Bemelmans did during his lifetime, she went to London, became friends with the son of the Spanish ambassador, ran off to join a band of gypsies, and had other adventures that might befall a young girl in a Paris boarding school. The stories, which are written in the same rhyming, four-beat iambic verse as Bucky Bug, Max & Moritz and much other juvenile literature, won numerous citations, including a Caldecott Award. After 1962, when Bemelmans died, the series was continued by his grandson, John Bemelmans-Marciano.

In 1952, like Alice, Raggedy Ann and other kids' book stars before her, Madeline became an animated character. Her first appearance in that medium (released November 27 of that year) was also succinctly titled Madeline. It came from the innovative '50s studio UPA, which was also responsible for Mr. Magoo. The director was Robert "Bobe" Cannon, whose other UPA credits include Gerald McBoing-Boing. It was narrated by Gladys Holland, who has few other voice credits. It got an Oscar nomination, but didn't go on to a series.

On October 16, 1960, she was done in live action, with child actress Gina Gillespie (sister of Mouseketeer Darlene) in the title role. Gillespie's other roles include Pippi Longstocking, also a famous redhead of children's literature.

On June 8, 1989, she was the subject of an animated cable-TV movie — also succinctly titled Madeline. It was produced by DIC Enterprises (Rainbow Brite), which put out several more Madeline specials, including Madeline's Christmas and Madeline & the Bad Hat, during the next few years. There, she was voiced by Marcia Moreau (Flora in Babar the Elephant).

She was again done as live action when the French company Jaffilms released the again-succinctly-titled Madeline on July 10, 1998. It starred 10-year-old Hatty Jones, who has no other film acting credits of any type. Despite its French origin, it was made in English. There have been no sequels.

Despite its French setting and atmosphere, this series, too, was originally done in English. It was first published in America by Viking Press. Bemelmans, born in Austria in 1898, came to America in 1914 and became a citizen in 1918. He didn't become a writer until in his mid-30s. Madeline was his greatest success in that field.


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