Ooh la la! Wombles director Johnny Vegas AXES Madame Cholet’s French accent in new adaptation of BBC hit… because ‘she’s from Wimbledon’
- READ MORE: The Wombles is set for a TV return 50 years after it first aired
The Wombles director Johnny Vegas has axed Madame Cholet’s French accent in a new adaptation of the BBC hit because the characters are ‘all from Wimbledon’.
A number of the books will be adapted for radio with Richard E Grant as narrator to mark 50 years since the stories first appeared on the BBC.
Vegas, the director of the adaptations which will air on Christmas Day, said no significant changes have been made to the stories – but admitted that one character will not sound the same.
Madame Cholet is known as the chef of the Wimbledon burrow and typically has a French accent despite being from the London area.
Comedian Vegas told BBC Radio 4’s Today prgramme: ‘We changed the accent of Madame Cholet from French. They were all essentially born in Wimbledon and they were all more or less of that region.’
The Wombles director Johnny Vegas has axed the French accent of Madame Cholet (pictured) in a new adaptation of the BBC hit
Director Johnny Vegas (left) is pictured with narrator Richard E Grant (right)
The characters were invented by Elisabeth Beresford in the late 1960s and were first seen in children’s novels before being turned into a TV show in the 70s
The Wombles were created by Elisabeth Beresford in 1968 – but shot to global fame with the BBC series five years later (above)
He added: ‘We just thought – we know that ”French people do not talk like that no more” and… why set her apart with a French accent just because she had a French name?’
The radio adaptations will track the lives of fictional characters Madame Cholet and Great Uncle Bulgaria Coburg, Tobermory, Orinoco, Bungo, Tomsk, Wellington and Alderney as they travel around Wimbledon common.
The characters were invented by Elisabeth Beresford in the late 1960s and were first seen in children’s novels before being turned into a TV show in the 70s.
The character’s live in burrows in Wimbledon Common where they try to help the environment by collecting and recycling litter – with their moto being ‘Make Good Use of Bad Rubbish’.
Vegas said: ‘Everybody has a fondness for it and I didn’t realise quite how ahead of its time it was, the message that was contained within the story-telling… it was tidying and it was recycling.
‘It’s a wonderfully engaging story, Richard did a beautiful job when he came in and read and I think with a lot of books that we’ve transferred to radio, this could have been written [now]…[rather than] 50 years ago.’
Elisabeth Beresford is pictured with Great Uncle Bulgaria, one of the most beloved Wombles characters
ITV rebooted the series in the late 1990s (above). The revival lasted for three series before the Wimbledon Common dwellers were retired again
The original Wombles: Madame Cholet, Tomsk, Bungo, Wellington, Great Uncle Bulgaria, Orinoco and Tobermory
The Wombles performing on stage in a 70s Christmas special as they celebrated the decade
CGI versions of the Wombles have appeared on the official Facebook page for several years
The cuddly creatures shot to global fame in 1973 with a BBC series of stop-motion animated shorts, narrated by Bernard Cribbins.
The show came with an accompanying novelty band, led by musician Mike Batt, which performed the theme tune Remember You’re a Womble – and elevated the litter-pickers to the status of timeless British icons.
Wombles returned to British living rooms in the 1990s after three series’ worth of new episodes were produced by a Canadian TV company and screened on ITV, with Beresford and Batt returning to write the show and oversee its output.
Beresford died on Christmas Eve in 2010 at home on Alderney in the Channel Islands.
Five years later, Batt tried to reboot the show again with a cast including Cribbins and Ray Winstone.
But the musician’s attempts to get the CGI series off the ground ended in failure after he sold the rights to the show amid financial troubles; he declared himself bankrupt in 2017.
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