Babar (TV series)

Babar is a Canadian/French animated fantasy television series produced in Canada by Nelvana Limited and The Clifford Ross Company. It premiered in 1989 on CBC and HBO, and subsequently was rerun on Qubo since 2006.[2][3] The series is based on Jean de Brunhoff's original Babar books, and was Nelvana's first international co-production. The series' 78 episodes have been broadcast in 30 languages in over 150 countries.

Babar title card
Created byJean de Brunhoff
Written by
Directed by
  • Raymond Jafelice
  • Laura Shepherd
  • Dale Schott
  • Larry Jacobs
Theme music composerMilan Kymlicka
Composer(s)Milan Kymlicka
Country of originCanada
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes78 (list of episodes)
Running time23 minutes
Production company(s)
Original networkCBC (seasons 1–3)
Global TV (seasons 4–5)
HBO (United States)
Picture formatNTSC (480i)
Audio formatStereo
Original releaseMarch 28, 1989 (1989-03-28)[1] 
September 28, 2002 (2002-09-28)[1]
Followed byBabar and the Adventures of Badou (2010–2015)
External links

This was the first regular series based on the Babar books; prior to this, two previous Babar specials narrated by Peter Ustinov were produced by Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez for NBC: The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant on October 21, 1968,[4] and Babar Comes to America on September 7, 1971.[5]

While the French author Laurent de Brunhoff pronounces the name Babar as "BUH-bar", the series in its first five seasons pronounces the name as "BAB-bar".[6]

In 2010, a computer-animated sequel series spin-off of Babar titled Babar and the Adventures of Badou was launched on Disney Junior. The new series takes place several years and focuses on a majority of new characters including Badou, Babar's grandson and Pom's son.


Based on the books by Jean de Brunhoff and Laurent de Brunhoff, the plot of the first two seasons focuses on the story of Babar as it is told by him to his children. The past Babar is a young elephant who, traumatized by a hunter slaughtering his mother, flees from his home forest to the city, where a kind Old Lady adopts him and teaches him the ways of human life. He returns to his home forest full of ideas for progress and, following the previous elephant king's death from eating poisonous mushrooms, hatches a plan to drive out the unnamed hunter and his men. For his heroism, Babar is crowned king of the elephants, plans and builds Celesteville, and becomes a father himself.

While the first two seasons focus on Babar's recollections of his childhood and early years as king, the series shifts its focus in the third season to Babar's family life in the present day.



Babar's family

  • Babar: The King of Celesteville. He brought his love of the city back to the great forest and built the beautiful, happy kingdom of Celesteville. However, he is a dedicated ruler and world traveler. His mother was shot by a poacher when he was young, so he is very protective and caring of his family, as well as the elephants and other animals of the kingdom.
  • Celeste: Babar's wife and Queen of Celesteville. She has also travelled the world and has had many great adventures. She has a regal presence, an engaging manner, and a gentle sense of humor.
  • Arthur: Babar's mischief-making brother-in-law. He often gets himself (and one or more of the children) involved with practical jokes and stunts. Although the English and French versions of the official characters page lists him as a cousin, this goes against the canon of the show where he is clearly referred to as Celeste's brother, Babar's brother-in-law, and the uncle of Babar and Celeste's children. The Japanese version also refers to him as Celeste's younger brother. In addition, neither Celeste nor Arthur is ever referred to as a cousin of Babar in the show. In the book, "The Story of Babar," Celeste and Arthur are shown to have two different mothers and we are told they are Babar's cousin and little cousin, respectively. Arthur is prominent in childhood flashbacks in the first two seasons, but his later appearances as an adult are sporadic as he is frequently at sea.
  • Pom: The oldest of the triplets and the leader of the children. He is protective of his brother and sisters though he will gladly join in with Alexander in playfully teasing his sisters Flora and Isabelle.
  • Flora: Flora is fun-loving and strong-willed.
  • Alexander: The smallest of the triplets, is a non-stop ball of entertainment who is disarmingly naive about the commotion he causes.
  • Isabelle: The youngest of the four children. She begins to walk and talk at an early age. Isabelle starts as a baby in the series but eventually develops as a toddler.
  • Babar's Mother is an unnamed elephant that gives birth to Babar. After she is murdered by the hunter he is adopted by Madame. She is Pom, Alexander, Flora and Isabelle's grandmother and Badou's great-grandmother

Babar's close friends and royal court

  • The hunter is the moustached human who shot Babar's mother in the series premiere. He serves as the main antagonist of the first five episodes series.
  • Madame (The Old Lady): A human who adopted Babar when he ran away from the hunter who killed his mother. From their first meeting in the city, the Old Lady and Babar shared a special friendship. She gave him a home and taught him about life in the city. Though she missed him greatly, she understood his decision to return to the forest. Babar built her a home in Celesteville, where she now lives with her elephant friends. Her husband plays a organ who only appeared in "The Phantom".
  • Zephir: A monkey who is one of Babar's oldest friends, and is considered one of the family. He is the first to take off with Arthur and the kids on some crazy adventure, but Babar knows that Zephir can always be trusted to look after the children and bring them home safely. Zephir runs the local malt shop.
  • Cornelius: The oldest and wisest elephant in Celesteville and the prime minister, who takes his job as Babar's chief advisor very seriously, whether accompanying Babar on state visits or organizing numerous Celesteville parades. His catchphrase is "My tusks!"
  • Pompadour: Another advisor to Babar, his finance minister, and the minister of royal protocol, to which he strongly adheres. A high-strung elephant, he often opposes radical ideas and is easily alarmed.
  • Troubadour: Pompadour's assistant, a smaller elephant who does not speak but is very dedicated to helping Babar and his family. He is prominent in the earlier seasons.
  • Chef Truffles: The palace cook, often easily upset by various situations in the palace which concern food preparation. He speaks with a French accent.
  • The Old King: The late King of the Elephant who died after eating poisonous mushrooms. He appears to Babar as a vision in "Ghost for a Day".
  • The old Lady's friends who only appeared in "City Ways".
  • The school children who only appeared in "School Days".
  • The royal judge who only appeared in "Between Friends".
  • The cheetahs who only appeared in "Tour De Celesteville".

Rataxes' family

  • Lord Rataxes: The king of Rhinoland, Rataxes is typically depicted as a malevolent but rude and occasionally incompetent leader. Although he only appears once in the canon of the books, the series portrays him as a major antagonist with an unrequited hatred for Babar (a sentiment Babar does not share) who dreams of claiming Celesteville for himself. Sometimes, he helps Babar and friends as an antihero. He appears to remain the same age both in the present and in Babar's stories from the past, as do his wife and advisor Basil.
  • Lady Rataxes: Rataxes' wife. She is very calm than her husband, and is also on friendly terms with Babar, Celeste, and the elephants. Her real name is Louise,[7] but she is normally called Lady Rataxes.
  • Victor: Rataxes' son, who is also in the friendly terms with the elephants. He is friends with Flora, Alexander, and Pom despite the rivalry between their fathers.
  • Basil: Rataxes' advisor; he is highly capable, competent, and organized. Like Lady Rataxes and Victor, he's in the friendly terms with the elephants. He does most of the paperwork, leads security for the rhino palace, and serves as Rataxes' travel agent and spy. He is also a self-proclaimed fitness expert, an advocate of clean living, and a skillful theatre director. He is extremely loyal and humble to Rataxes but not above subtly poking fun at his employer from time to time.


DVD releases

In Region 2, Fremantle Home Entertainment released 3 single disc collections on DVD in the UK on May 4, 2009.[8][9][10]

On June 5, 2012, Entertainment One released the complete first season on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time.[11]

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
Babar - The Classic Series: The Complete First Season 13 June 5, 2012

Critical reception

David Knox at TV Tonight commented on the subject of death and the way it is depicted in Children's Television, citing the pilot of Babar as an example, "This week ABC replayed the pilot episode of the animated series in which the baby elephant loses his mother to a hunter after being shot by a rifle. Produced by a Canadian company in 1989 it doesn't shy away from the separation of mother and child, as written in the original Babar the Elephant stories." An ABC spokesperson told TV Tonight that ABC had carefully considered the content which aired at 3:30 p.m. EST on ABC2 for a G-rated audience, ABC in Australia (2 July 1990 - 3 June 2012) "At no point in the sequence was there any depiction of blood or wounds, and the depiction of the rifle being used was very careful and discreet. The simple animation style reduced the level of detail of the rifle and the action. While there was a sense of threat and menace associated with the hunter and his use of violence, having regard to the animation style, the level of visual detail, and the stylized manner in which the action was depicted, Audience and Consumer Affairs considers that this sense of threat and menace was very low. The violence in the sequence was very discreetly implied, and was not gratuitous as it was a pivotal, dramatic moment of great significance to the story."[12]

Charles Solomon of The Los Angeles Times gave a review of Babar's first few episodes, "The designs for the characters and the simple animation capture the essence of Jean de Brunhoff's understated watercolor illustrations. The artists occasionally seem to lose their sense of the characters' size and weight: The young Babar jumps and climbs in ways that seem very unelephantlike (but very few elephants wear uniforms and crowns, as the adult Babar does). As the voice of Babar, Gordon Pinsent gives the elephant king a reassuring presence and keeps the mildly didactic stories from bogging down in moralizing. Child actors provide the voices for the young Babar and his friends, which makes the show sound a lot like a "Peanuts" special at times. Created by the Canadian Nelvana studio—the producers of the entertaining "My Pet Monster"--"Babar" manages to be endearing without sliding into the saccharine cutesiness of Hello Kitty. Parents with children in the 4-to-10-year-old range should plan on setting their VCRs: The kids will probably want to watch Babar more than once."[13]

Common Sense Media finds the series suitable for viewers aged 4 and up, and has given the series 4 stars of 5 adding, "Babar is a good role model who promotes sharing and getting along with others."[14] They continued to say that Parents Need to Know that "Although the show is an ideal pick for preschoolers, most kids will probably outgrow it by the time they're 7". The review ended by saying, "Many shows adapted from books tend to move at a slow pace. But Babar provides enough adventure and silliness to keep even the most active preschooler engaged. As an extra plus, the music is beautifully orchestrated. Babar exemplifies the lesson that all of us are the same on the inside. These elephants hold their trunks high, but they also know that money doesn't conquer all. Many kids' shows depict well-off characters as villainous and/or gluttonous; Babar shows kids that wealth doesn't necessarily equate to greed."[14]


In 1990, the TV series won a 7 d'Or award for Best Youth Program (Meilleure émission pour la jeunesse). In 1989, the TV series won a Gemini award for Best Animated Program or Series (Patrick Loubert, Lenora Hume, Clive A. Smith, and Michael Hirsh). In 1990, the show won a Gemini for Best Animated Program or Series (Patrick Loubert, Michael Hirsh, and Clive A. Smith). It was also nominated for a Gemini award for Best Original Music Score for a Series (Milan Kymlicka). In 1992, the TV series won a Gemini award for Best Animated Program or Series (Clive A. Smith, Patrick Loubert, and Michael Hirsh).[15]


Babar: The Movie

In 1989, New Line Cinema, Nelvana, and Astral Films announced that a film adaption of Babar would be released. This would be followed by a sequel released in 1999, titled Babar: King of the Elephants, and was released by Alliance Films theatrically and HBO Home Video as a direct-to-video film.

Babar and Father Christmas

The 1986 television film Babar and Father Christmas won the 1987 Gemini award for Best Animated Program or Series (Merilyn Read, and Alison Clayton). It first aired on HBO in the U.S. on December 5, 1986, on the CBC in Canada on December 15, 1986 and on the BBC in the United Kingdom on Christmas Eve 1986. The film's DVD title is also known as Babar et le Père Noël in France. The film was made in Canada. The song "Christmas in Celesteville" was featured in the TV film. Gary Morton wrote the music and Merilyn Read wrote the lyrics. John Brough, Geri Childs, Teresa Dunn, and Craig Kennedy are credited as singers.[16][17]

2000 series

Babar (2000)
Created bysee creator
StarringDan Lett
Janet-Laine Green
Kyle Fairlie
Kristen Bone
Noah Reid
Phillip Williams
Country of originCanada
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes13
Executive producer(s)Patrick Loubert
Michael Hirsh
Clive A. Smith
Robert Réa
Kyojiro Amano
Clifford Ross
Running time33 minutes
Production company(s)Nelvana
The Clifford Ross Company
Original networkCBS
Original releaseSeptember 23 
December 16, 2000
External links

There was a short-lived revival of the animated series in 2000 for the company Nelvana Limited, and the Kodansha company in Japan. Most of the episodes for the revival series have Babar and his family traveling in a hot-air balloon to different Lands of Adventure, such as the Land of Toys. None of the cast from the previous series returned for the revival, though Dan Lett would go on to voice the adult Pom in Babar and the Adventures of Badou.


See also


  1. "Babar Episodes". CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
  3. Solomon, Charles (April 1, 1989). "'Babar' Debut on HBO Holds a Trunkful of Charm". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
  4. "The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant at IMDb". Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  5. "Babar Comes to America at IMDb". Retrieved 2011-01-03.
  6. "Babar at IMDb". Retrieved 2011-01-03.
  7. Lady Retaxes' real name, Louise, is revealed in the episode "No Place Like Home"
  8. Babar - The Missing Crown Affair
  9. Babar - School Days
  10. King Tuttle's Vote
  11. Lambert, David. "Babar - Front Cover Box Art for 'The Classic Series: Season 1' on DVD". Archived from the original on April 9, 2012. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
  12. Knox, David (2010-11-12). "Babar's first steps to tragedy". Retrieved 2011-01-03.
  13. Solomon, Charles (1989-04-01). "'Babar' Debut on HBO Holds a Trunkful of Charm". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-03.
  14. "Babar at commonsensemedia". Retrieved 2011-01-03.
  15. "Awards for "Babar" at IMDb". Retrieved 2011-01-03.
  16. "Babar and Father Christmas". Retrieved 2011-01-03.
  17. "History of Animation 1981 - 1990". Retrieved 2011-01-03.
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