Animated Discussions
by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

The movie Doogal opens this week, and this story of a dog on a quest has one complicated pedigree. For openers, this movie was not produced in America. The Weinstein Company brought it over from another country, dubbed in American voice actors, and is releasing it with a new title. That may not seem like such a big deal, except for one point: The “other country” is The United Kingdom. Doogal was released in Great Britain last year as The Magic Roundabout, and boasted a voice cast that included Joanna Lumley, Jim Broadbent, Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue, and everyone’s favorite “Dr. Who,” Tom Baker. It was already in English.

We don’t know whether they were spooked by the failure of Valiant, or if the distributors thought that the new voice cast would have more box-office appeal, but some of the replacements seem a bit odd. Zeebad, the villain of the movie, was voiced in the original British version by Tom Baker, who can be quite menacing. In the American version, Zeebad has the voice of Jon Stewart. The lead character is voiced either by Daniel Tay or Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson, depending on when you check the official website. We guess they’re still making their mind up on that one, and the movie opens in two days as we write this.

Even more strange is how the movie, which only had the soundtrack changed for its domestic debut, now has a different director listed. Butch Hartman, who was brought in to supervise the new voice recordings, gets to walk off with a sole director’s credit. Dave Borthwick, Jean Duval, and Frank Passingham share the director’s credit for the British version, which to reiterate, is the same movie. It looks like Hartman, who created The Fairly Oddparents for Nickelodeon, found an easy way to get a feature film credit under his belt.

This sort of cross-cultural confusion is par for the course for The Magic Roundabout. Created by Serge Danot as a stop-motion-animated children’s program in France in the 1960s, the show was brought over to the United Kingdom where it was chopped up, scrambled, and translated into entirely new stories that had a large measure of adult humor added. They bore little resemblance to the French version. The show was wildly popular in the ’60s and ’70s. After fading from the public’s memory, the show was revived last year as a feature-length movie.

The show was rarely seen in the United States, so this CGI revival didn’t have the nostalgic boost that the movie had in Britain. We can understand the title change, since American’s don’t know what a Roundabout is, but we’re puzzled by some of the new voice casting. Joanna Lumley, who has high recognition due to Absolutely Fabulous, was replaced by Whoopi Goldberg. While they evidently can’t decide who will voice Doogal, the trailers show him singing with Robbie Williams’ voice, from the UK version. Kevin Smith is listed as providing a voice for the movie, but he’s not on any of the cast lists we’ve seen, so he may be another late addition.

Aside from all the confusing history and voice-cast quirks, Doogal looks like it might be a fun little family movie. There are a few pop-culture jokes in the trailer, and the animation is worlds beyond the primitive mess that polluted Hoodwinked. Doogal might be a fun way for animation fans to pass the time while we’re waiting for Ice Age 2.