Case Number 21043: Small Claims Court


Shout! Factory // 1995 // 132 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // April 3rd, 2011

The Charge

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived 12 little girls in two straight lines. They left the house at half past nine, in two straight lines, in rain or shine. The smallest one was Madeline.

The Case

From the late 1930s to the 1950s, Ludwig Bemelmans wrote six rhyming children's books about Madeline, a little girl who lives in Paris with 11 other girls and is cared for by a nun named Miss Clavel. Over the years, the simple, gentle stories have inspired a number of animated television productions, as well as a live-action feature film starring Frances MacDormand (Fargo). The longest running of the television productions was Madeline, which ran for 20 episodes on The Family Channel, beginning in 1993. The 22-minute episodes feature adventures in which Madeline and her friends have all manner of Parisian adventures. In 1995, the series moved to ABC for an additional 13 episodes and was renamed The New Adventures of Madeline.

Madeline on the Town includes three episodes of Madeline and three episodes of The New Adventures of Madeline:

* "Madeline and the Wedding" (The New Adventures of Madeline)
Madeline plays matchmaker to two lonely people: flower shop owner Mlle. Le Fleur and Mr. Le Deaux, the baker. Meanwhile, Madeline's friendship with the boy next door, Pepito, is strained by Pepito's mischievous cousin Pablito, who calls him a sissy for playing with a girl. Will the wedding of the florist and baker reunite the friends?

* "Madeline on Stage" (The New Adventures of Madeline)
After a trip to the theater, the girls fall in love with acting. When their new acting coach Mr. Hamislavski stages a production of "The Enchanted Forest," Madeline is crestfallen that she doesn't win the lead role. But soon she learns that even a small part is important.

* "Madeline and the Fashion Show" (The New Adventures of Madeline)
Miss Clavel takes the girls to visit a local café that is the home of haute couture. Soon the girls want designer clothes and handbags. When Madeline and her schoolmates are invited to a fashion show to see designer Mme. Cliché's new line -- made entirely of cheese -- they learn the valuable lesson that "style that's genuine can be found within: just be yourself, and you will shine."

* "Madeline at the Ballet" (Madeline)
On their way through Paris, the girls "hurry up and down each street, for ballet lessons are a treat." Madeline and her schoolmates are scheduled to try out for supporting roles in "The Happy Swan," a ballet to be staged at the city's opulent music hall. Stunned by the skills of the prima ballerina, Madeline must overcome her fear of auditioning.

* "Madeline at the Costume Party" (Madeline)
When Pepito's father, the Spanish ambassador, throws a costume ball at the embassy next door, Miss Clavel and the girls are invited. But the party is almost ruined when the girls come down with chicken pox.

* "Madeline's Birthday at the Zoo" (Madeline)
Pepito and his father take Madeline to the zoo for her birthday. The festivities are interrupted when a mischievous monkey steals Madeline's balloon and sets all of the animals free. Meanwhile, Miss Clavel and the girls plan to surprise Madeline with a birthday party upon her return.

Madeline and The New Adventures of Madeline are cheaply animated and the child voice actors' French accents are hit-or-miss at best, but the shows do a decent job of reproducing the simple charm of Bemelmans' books. This is in large part due to the mellifluous narration of Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music) in the earlier series and Christopher Gaze in the latter, which hews closely to the poetic rhythms and cadences in the books. The New Adventures of Madeline relies too much on absurd characters like Mr. Hamislavski and Mme. Cliché, while Madeline better adheres to the sorts of simple plotlines that Bemelman crafted, based largely on Madeline's klutziness and naiveté as the youngest of the girls, but The New Adventures of Madeline is still solid entertainment for kiddies, deftly avoiding the shrill and sarcastic tone that too often characterizes more recent children's shows.

On the audio and video front, the episodes show their age and low-budget production. Detail is soft, colors are muted, and there's minor source damage throughout. The stereo audio mix is flat and lifeless, but never shrill or distorted. The limitations are in the source, not the transfer. The episodes from The New Adventures of Madeline fare slightly better than those from Madeline, but only slightly.

The disc contains no extras. The main menu offers a Play All option and a secondary menu from which you can select individual episodes. There are no scene selections, no subtitle options, and only the single audio option. That doesn't really matter, though, if your child is a Madeline fan. With six episodes from the two series and a running time of over two hours, Madeline on the Town is an excellent budget title.

The Verdict

That's all there is; there isn't any more.

Review content copyright © 2011 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile
Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 132 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb: Madeline

* IMDb: The New Adventures of Madeline