AskDefine | Define Madeline

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Proper noun

  1. A given name, anglicized from Madeleine, the form of Magdalene.

Related terms

Extensive Definition

For the small shell-shaped French cake, see Madeleine (cake).
For the 1998 film, see Madeline (1998 film).
Madeline is a children's book series written by Ludwig Bemelmans, an American author of Austrian and German origins. The first book in the series, Madeline, was published in 1939. It proved to be a success, and Bemelmans wrote many sequels to the original during the 1940s and 1950s. The series continues to this day, written by Bemelmans' grandson John Bemelmans-Marciano. The books were later adapted into a television series and a feature film.
The books, and the show, detail Madeline's daily adventures in late 1930s France. Every day, she and her friends break their bread, brush their teeth, go to bed, and go for a walk in two straight lines. As well, each book shows Madeline's bravery and kindness, especially in the face of adversity.
From the Sept. 4, 1939 issue of Life Magazine:
"Madeline is the story of an adorable pipsqueak. It was written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans and will be published on Sept. 5 by Simon & Schuster ($2). Its author came to the U.S. in 1914 from the Austrian Tyrol. He became a citizen and enlisted in the War. Later he related his experiences as a German-speaking U.S. soldier in a 1937 best-seller, My War with the United States.
In its origins, Madeline goes back to a summer's day in 1938 when Bemelmans was run down by the only automobile on the Ile D'yeu off France. In the hospital, he found himself neighbor to a young girl recuperating from an appendectomy. He was so impressed by the enjoyment the child derived from her operation that he decided to write a children's book in which the heroine should experience a similar adventure. In a fatherly way he wrote the book for his daughter, Barbara, age 3, who is as precocious and enchanting a youngster as Madeline."
The books are famous for having the closing line, first uttered by actress Ethel Barrymore in a play:
That's all there is, there isn't any more.

Film and television adaptations

Madeline on the silver screen

The earliest appearance of Madeline in the cinema was in the 1952 animated short Madeline, produced by United Productions of America (UPA) and directed by Bobe Cannon. The film was nominated for the 1952 Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons), but lost to the Tom and Jerry cartoon Johann Mouse.
In 1959, William L. Snyder's Rembrandt Films produced animated adaptations of Madeline's Rescue, Madeline and the Bad Hat and Madeline and the Gypsies for the educational film market. The latter two were featured, along with other similar adaptations of children's books, in Snyder and Gene Deitch's 1966 theatrical feature Alice of Wonderland in Paris.
A live-action feature adaptation of Madeline, produced in France by Jaffilms but shot in English, was released in 1998 by Tri-Star Pictures. It starred Hatty Jones as the title character, Frances MacDormand as Miss Clavel and a supporting cast with British actor Ben Daniels & Nigel Hawthorne. Its script encompassed the plots of three of the books. Original music for the film was provided by Michel Legrand and has Carly Simon singing the theme song "In Two Straight Lines". It was directed by Daisy Mayer.

Madeline on TV

In 1989, DiC Enterprises adapted the first Madeline book into an animated television special for HBO. The show's teleplay was written by Judy Rothman, who would serve as writer, lyricist and story editor for all subsequent Madeline animated projects. The special was narrated by Christopher Plummer, and featured original music and songs by Joe Raposo (who died four months before the special aired), with lyrics by Judy Rothman. The special was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Animated Program (One Hour or Less).
In 1991, Cinar produced animated adaptations of the other five Madeline books for The Family Channel, with Christopher Plummer returning as narrator. Each special featured new songs, with lyrics by Judy Rothman and music by Canadian composer Jeffrey Zahn, who replaced the late Joe Raposo. In addition, "I'm Madeline," Madeline's theme song from the original special, was reprised in the new specials.
In 1993, DiC began producing a Madeline cartoon series, again for The Family Channel. 20 episodes were produced for the series (Season 1). Christopher Plummer again reprised his role as narrator, and "I'm Madeline" was used as the series' theme song. Until recently the show aired on The Disney Channel and Toon Disney in the U.S., and is still repeated daily on Disney networks and affiliates worldwide.
In 1995, additional 13 episodes were produced for ABC, under the title The New Adventures of Madeline. The new episodes featured a new theme song: "Hats Off to Madeline".
In 2001, another new batch of 28 episodes was produced for The Disney Channel. The theme song was once again changed, this time to "Oh, Madeline!" (although overseas airings of the episodes still had "Hats Off to Madeline" as the opening theme instead). In addition, Christopher Gaze succeeded Christopher Plummer as narrator of the series. The show won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Animated Program. The New Adventures of Madeline was shown on KOL's Secret Slumber Party between Fall 2006 and 2007.
DiC also produced two animated telefilms. Madeline: Lost in Paris (1999) featured Madeline being drawn into a scam by her supposed "Uncle" Horst, and finding out the true meaning to the word "family." The second cartoon feature, Madeline: My Fair Madeline (2002), puts our beloved heroine in a London finishing school as punishment for the trouble she caused, while trying to stop two thieves from robbing the Louvre. When she finds out that the thieves are in London, Madeline does everything she can to stop them from stealing the Crown Jewels.


  • Madeline: The smallest one, yet the leader, of the girls, appears 7 or 8 years old.
  • Nicole, Chloe, Danielle, Yvette, Nona: Madeline's best friends on the television series.
  • Marie: Small and clever, always trying to look out for Madeline.
  • Regine: Has a voice in the 12 girls (besides Madeline) and always asks Miss Clavel questions.
  • Camille: Has a good sense of smell, and is one of the quietest.
  • Isabelle: Is a bit sassy at times, but still very friendly.
  • Daphine: Lovely and intelligent, always being looked after the girls.
  • Anne: Has a rather loud voice at times, and is very enthusiastic.
  • Amy: A know-it-all, and defends the girls when defense is needed.
  • Dominique: Smart, pretty, and graceful, Dominique always has a smile on her face.
  • Kate: Is very close to Miss Clavel. Teacher's pet.
  • Juliette: Is a worry-wart, but very good friends with everyone, especially Dominique and Anne.
  • Simone: The tallest one, rather bossy (being the tallest), but very friendly.
  • Miss Clavel: The teacher. Always trying to keep Madeline out of trouble.
  • Pepito: The Spanish ambassador's son. Lives next door to the girls; used to be extremely naughty, but Madeline redeemed him. As such, he was called "the Bad Hat" by the girls, and afterwards, they seem to have girlish crushes on him.
  • Lord Cucuface (known in the movie as Lord Cuvington): Chairman of the school's board of trustees.
  • Genevieve: The girls' dog. Extremely intelligent for a dog of her type. Saved Madeline from drowning.

Soundtracks and audiobooks

Madeline audiobooks have been appearing since the early 70s in the form of vinyl records. The record typically consists of a mixture of stories and songs.
The first soundtrack for the TV series was Madeline's Favorite Songs, released in 1995. It contains 16 tracks of music composed by Joe Raposo or Jeff Zahn with lyrics by Judy Rothman from the DIC and Cinar specials. The second soundtrack, Hats off to Madeline, was released in 1996. It contained 17 tracks of music (by Andy Street, lyrics by Judy Rothman Rofé) from the 1993 and 1995 episodes of the show. In 2002, the latest Madeline soundtrack to date, Sing-A-Long With Madeline, was released, featuring 27 tracks of music from the 2001 episodes.

Computer CD-ROMs

Madeline CD-ROMs started appearing in the early 90s, in time with the TV show. The CDs were compatible with both Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh based PCs. They were published by Creative Wonders


Madeline toys were initially produced by Eden Toys LLC. After the acquisition of Eden by Learning Curve, Learning Curve now produces Madeline toys. Most popular during the 90's was a Madeline ragdoll, with a signature half-smile and scar from the appendectomy that corresponds with the story from the book.


  • It is revealed in the book Madeline In America that Madeline's family name is Fogg, as in Madeline Fogg. This is the first time that Madeline's surname was revealed; according to John Bemelmans-Marciano, her surname was probably made up for the sake of the rhyme.
  • In the 1998 movie starring former British actress Hatty Jones, the whole story took place in 1956. However, the literary Madeline took place earlier, in the late 1930s. The reason for this is that the producers decided to move the setting to the late 1950s to avoid conflicting with World War II.
  • The Sugar Dimples and Alfred Hancock characters, who appeared in "Madeline In Hollywood" and a few other episodes, are obvious parodies of Shirley Temple and Alfred Hitchcock, respectively.
  • Miss Clavel (aka Sister Clavel), the nun who takes care of the twelve children, seems to be less nervous in the movie than in the TV series, as she was more confident in driving a car in the movie, adding to the fact that the role played by Frances McDormand was also a bit of a car buff.
  • The person who was responsible for keeping the boarding school from being sold in the movie was said to be the 'Uzbekistani ambassador'. However, since the whole story took place in the Cold War years, Uzbekistan was still a part of the Soviet Union, and there wasn't such an ambassador yet until the union broke up in 1991.
  • There was an episode in which Madeline, Pepito and her friends encountered a skunk while visiting Lord Covington's perfume factory. However, skunks inhabit the Americas from Canada to central South America.
  • It is said in the website that Madeline's classmates' names weren't mentioned in the books (ie, "...unnamed classmates"). However, some of her classmates in the TV series (who appeared prominently) have names (like Danielle and Chloe), so this probably suggests that the show's producers gave names to some of the girls to fill the void.
  • A frequent misconception in the series, especially among those new to the book (or the cartoon) is that the girls were in an orphanage. Contrary to popular belief, Madeline is not an orphan as evidenced by her father's gifts when she is in the hospital getting her appendix removed. The girls are in a boarding school, not an orphanage. As well, Yvette once received long black gloves from a relative in Ohio, and she and her aunt went shopping for Cliché designer wear. The film, however, portrays Madeline as an orphan, but her residence is still a boarding school.


External links

Madeline in Japanese: マドレーヌ (児童文学)
Madeline in Polish: Madeline
Madeline in Simple English: Madeline
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