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Lions Gate presents
Madeline at the Eiffel Tower (2000)

"In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.
They left the house at half past nine.
The smallest one was Madeline."

- Narrator (Christopher Gaze)

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: April 11, 2002

Stars: Andrea Libman, Stephanie Louise Vallance, Christopher Gaze
Other Stars: Brittney Irvin, Chantal Strand, Veronika Sztopa, Michael Heyward, French Tickner
Director: Judy Reilly

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:03m:35s
Release Date: March 26, 2002
UPC: 031398792628
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Sacre bleu, mes petits! Three episodes of The New Adventures of Madeline come to DVD, offering some fun and the opportunity to discuss Gothic architecture with the little ones. The series has its charms, and is sure to bring with it a whiff of nostalgia for parents who grew up reading the Madeline books; and while each tale has a small moral, they happily lack the preachiness of "Gee, Davey" religious cartoons. I can only imagine that we're setting our kids up for some episodes of déjà vu, when images on display in the background here show up in their European history textbooks. (But hey, I learned about Carmen and opera from The Bad News Bears.) Each episode also includes a chirpy musical number, with animated dancing clearly influenced by Busby Berkeley extravaganzas.

In the first episode, Madeline at the Eiffel Tower, Madeline and her classmates have to solve a science project: how can they toss an egg off of a balcony without having it go splat on the ground? Madeline is the most creative and enterprising of the little Galileos, and puts a pillow on the ground to cradle her egg. And so the girls are off on a field trip to the Eiffel Tower; tagging along is Pepito, a little boy whose parents are Spanish diplomats stationed in Paris. (He's consistently the only boy in a roomful of girls. Either Pepito has some gender issues, or he's years ahead of his pals.) Pepito and Madeline, on a dare, get stranded at the top of the tower after closing time, with the elevator broken; tout de Paris pitches in to retrieve the stranded children, and there's a small lesson to be learned about not doing things on a dare.

Pepito is up to no good again in the second episode, Madeline at Versailles; he chows down on chocolate, and smears his messy fingers all over the keyboard of an antique harpsichord. In the long French tradition of J'accuse!, the authorities figure out that Pepito is the culprit, and his punishment is washing the many windows at the palace. (You may wonder just what these children are doing with such free rein, and at Marie Antoinette's palace, no less.)

Finally, there's Madeline and the White Lie, in which Lord Cucuface, the girls' protector, tries to squeeze a donation for a new roof out of a couple of big ol' Texans. (Pepito is absent this time around.) Cucuface passes out by the Seine, and Madeline takes over the tour—she passes herself off as Paris' youngest guide, and starts lying like crazy. (For instance, the tour goes to the Louvre, where Madeline insists that the Mona Lisa ran a pet shop, specializing in poodles and goldfish. An animated Mona Lisa is not happy about her new job description.) Madeline is of course found out and is deeply sorry; the good-hearted Texans take a liking to the li'l gal nonetheless, and Cucuface gets his roof.

All the Madeline stories are of course set in Paris, which apparently gives the voice-over actors license to throw in a phrase or two of French, and to use accents that rival Inspector Clouseau's. ("Dat is awwwraght, Danielle. Ah em a beet deezy mahself.") There are a couple of words that go strangely unspoken in all these Madeline stories, and maybe I'm making too much of things, but this is bound to be a little baffling for smaller children who may not have read the books. The first is "orphan." No explanation is given as to why these girls live in this house, and why they're looked after not by their parents, but by Lord Cucuface and Miss Clavell. Won't little kids ask where Madeline's mommy and daddy are? (Pardonnez-moi: mere et pere.) The other is "nun." Miss Clavell is just a very busy babysitter who wears this odd gown and funny hat. Similarly, Notre Dame is a place merely for hunchbacks; I'm not agitating for religious cartoons, but it's an odd omission that Catholicism seems to be almost a dirty word here.

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

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Colors are a little garish and uneven, and the animation generally is a little crude. It seems as if these episodes were pretty sloppily dumped onto DVD, and hence aren't first rate.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Dynamics are a bit skewed—when you first pop in the disc, the promo for DIC will blow you and the kids out of the room. Otherwise, audio tracks are clean enough.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 3 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Sabrina The Teenage Witch; Sing-a-Long Around the World With Madeline; Sonic the Hedgehog: Super Sonic
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Interactive trivia game
Extras Review: Chapter stops are for each of the episodes; unfortunately there's no way to get to the songs in each without scanning through. Inspector Gadget is on hand to teach the kids what a DVD menu is, and what it does—I think this is what they mean by "Easy Play," though I bet if the kids can get the disc in the player and turn on the TV, they can figure out how to get to the goods, too.

What's billed as an Exciting Interactive Trivia Game is eight multiple-choice questions, the answers to which you'll learn from the episodes. (They vary from story points to the year that Versailles was built.) Get them right, and your special bonus is getting to see what look like the animators' first rough drawings for the episodes included here. Unless you're too easily amused, I doubt that you'll find this "exciting."

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

The sweet-natured episodes on this disc are sure to please the little ones, if they haven't already seen them on television. And they're just clever enough not to make the adults' skin crawl, after the inevitable hundredth viewing. Bonne chance, mes amis!


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