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Madeline is a 1988 Canadian-American animated television special directed by Judy Rothman, and was co-produced by DIC Entertainment & Cinar. The special originally aired on HBO on April 9, 1988.

The special is largely based off the first "Madeline" book, and it gave many other of the twelve little girls individual personalities.

The special was released onto VHS in 1990 by Hi-Tops Video, and has been released onto other VHS compilations by Golden Books Family Entertainment during the 1990's. In recent years, it has been released onto DVD compilations, released most noticeably on Bonjour, Madeline - The Original Specials in 2013.


The special begins in the evening with the narrator introducing the Boarding School in Paris; the Twelve little girls and Ms. Clavel. Parallel to the book, they break their bread, brush their teeth and go to bed. They pretend to snore until Ms. Clavel leaves. The girls have a friendly pillow fight. It gets quite chaotic before they are scared by a monster. (It's revealed that Madeline used shadow puppetry.) The girls eventually go to sleep, all in agreement that Madeline is the best prankster among-est them all.

The next day, the girls went out for a walk; they stop to be entertained by a local street performing clown. Madeline offers her hat to the clown while balance juggling. Later, the girls witness a police officer arresting a burglar and frown in disgust at the criminal. Later still; during a light snowfall, they encounter a wounded soldier. They give him their balloons to make him feel better.

The next day, the narrator establishes the girls' daily outings. They leave the house every day at half past 9 AM, regardless of the weather. Most of the girls are well behaved, while Madeline often breaks away from her place in line. She sees something interesting and becomes very imaginative. To resolve this: Ms. Clavel picks her up and carries her for the rest of the walk, as everyone laughs playfully.

Madeline meets two mice, who live in the holes. While the other girls are scared, Madeline decided to adopt the two tiny creatures as pets. The scene transitions to winter as Madeline showcases her ice-skating talents. She befriends a snowman (Characterization; Play Acting: may not be real.) The scene transitions back to spring at the zoo. The other girls are quite scared of an aggressive tiger, but Madeline bravely says "Pooh Pooh" to the beast.

Later, as the girls cross a footbridge over the Seine river, Madeline runs up on top of the rampart suspension rail bridge, terrifying Ms. Clavel. She imagines herself flying a small propeller plane over the city, viewing many landmarks. As she descends, she returns back to reality, with Ms. Clavel gently pulling her back down onto the footpath.

Sometime later, it's winter. The girls are out for a walk. Strangely, Madeline seems upset and fatigued. She seems disinterested in all the things that usually make her happy despite, encouragement from all her friends. She doesn't want to skate, she doesn't enjoy the zoo and she eventually had to be carried home by Ms. Clavel, who assumes she stayed up late from the previous night. At dinner, Madeline has lost her appetite and discretely gives her food to the mice.

That night after the girls have gone to sleep, Ms. Clavel wakes up, sensing that something is quite wrong. She rushes in fear to check on the girls, finding them trying to comfort Madeline in pain. Ms. Clavel calls the local physician Dr. Cohn, who immediately rides his bike over to the Vine Boarder House to examine Madeline.

He then calls the hospital, to diagnosing Madeline. The Surgeon needs to cut out her appendicitis, immediately. The ambulance arrives, and Dr. Cohn takes Madeline to the hospital, wheeling her to the surgery room. The other girls and Ms. Clavel weep in fear and sadness.

The next day, the other girls wonder if Madeline is alright, debating and wondering what an appendix is? Miss. Clavel and the Children wait to receive word from the doctors if her condition has changed. They return to the Boarding School waiting for them to call. The Doctors are pleased to announce that Madeline's surgery has been successful, while spending the next ten days of recovery. She enjoys the tranquility, relaxation of the local hospital as the spring arrives.

In Madeline's Absence: the girls become disorganized and forgetful of their daily routine; to the point, their smile is turned upside-down (wearing a frown of sadness) about to sulk. Too depressed to see the Juggling Clown, he could not cheer on the police or be mean at the Crook; the cop just captured; So sad but not scared, they did not even pay attention to the ferocious Lion, who was supposed to chill their bones, snapping them out of their depression. Their heads look down so droopy watching the pavement, passing everything by, while not looking to where they're going. To resolve this problem: Ms. Clavel announce their visit to the hospital for Madeline.

Ms. Clavel takes the girls on a bus to a local marketplace; where they buy some flowers and a large stuffed tiger for Madeline. At the hospital, they're so impressed by the toys, candy and dollhouse sent by Madeline's family acquaintance. Ms. Clavel leaves the room to speak with Dr. Cohn about Madeline's eventual return to the school as soon as possible. Madeline enjoys her presents before showing the appendicitis scar in front of the girls, impressing them all even further.

The girls and Ms. Clavel soon depart the hospital on a bus ride back home to the Vine-Boarder House; their Dorm school. The girls become envious of Madeline's time-off from school, while they go through their normal evening routines, albeit with much less enthusiasm. Later that night, after the girls have gone to sleep, Ms. Clavel wakes up again and senses that something is quite wrong. She again rushes in to the girls' bedroom, afraid of something much worse: A disaster. To her relief; she finds that the other girls simply wanting to have the same operation as Madeline's. Ms. Clavel kindly laughs, telling them; "they're in good health, no need for them to have surgery as well," "and it's time them to sleep". She quietly creeps out and shut the doors, wishing them a good night.

The narrator concludes the tale by saying: "And that's all there is, there isn't anymore." Before the credits roll, Madeline appears one last time to give a wink to the audience.

Differences from the Book

  • The other 11 girls are each given more personality; with Chloe, Nicole, Danielle and Yvette having spoken lines.
  • Madeline's hair is different from the books.
  • More French phrases are used throughout the special, both to build up the world and serve as an educational opportunity for the audience.
  • Madeline slides down the banister, instead of taking the stairs in the school.
  • The fourth wall is broken as the 12 girls introduce themselves to the audience.
  • The girls say grace before having dinner. "We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all, we love each other."
  • Madeline pranks the girls and Ms. Clavel by pretending to choke on her dinner. She also incorrectly brushes her teeth, prompting Ms. Clavel to correct her.
  • The girls have a friendly pillow fight after being put to bed. Madeline then pranks them by using shadow puppets.
  • They smile at a friendly street-performing clown, rather than a woman feeding a horse.
    • Additionally, the girls actually say that they smile at the good and frown at the bad when they do so.
  • The magician doesn't appear in the background.
  • The girls give the wounded soldier their balloons.
  • The clocktower bells are used to frame the girls as they leave the house.
  • Madeline and the Girls sing "I'm Madeline", while imagining themselves on a number of adventures (at the circus and on a mountain hike) all while Ms. Clavel is trying to keep them in line.
  • An anthropomorphic snowman appears in the winter scenes.
  • When Madeline scares Ms. Clavel while crossing the Seine, she imagines flying across the Parisian skyline in a propeller aircraft, similar to Snoopy and the Red Baron.
  • There's an extended sequence in the winter, leading up to Madeline's appendicitis, which makes it very clear that Madeline isn't feeling well, despite encountering all the things that she normally enjoys.
  • Madeline is never fitted for new clothes.
  • Ms. Clavel sings "Something is Not Right" when rushing to the Girls' bedroom.
  • The girls fret over Madeline's absence and discuss in childish ignorance what appendicitis is.
  • It's officially stated that Madeline's appendix is removed.
  • Madeline asks the nurse to bring her a couple of mice, scaring the poor woman.
  • The girls' daily routine is severely disrupted without Madeline. "They frowned at the good, they smiled at the bad, they didn't know when to be happy or sad."
  • The girls sing a song when heading to visit Madeline.
  • An extended sequence of the girls searching for a present for Madeline, along with flowers and a vase.
  • Ms. Clavel leaves the hospital room to have a talk with Dr. Cohn.
  • The girls play with a stuffed tiger they bought for Madeline.
  • Madeline sings "Voila, my Scar."
  • The girls brew over Madeline's perceived fortune to be out of school, in bed with toys, some candy and a dollhouse.
  • Ms. Clavel sings a reprise of "Something is Not Right" when rushing to the Girls' bedroom.
  • The girls make elaborate decorations on their stomachs to mimic their appendix scars.
  • Madeline winks to the audience via an iris-in, breaking the fourth wall again.

Foreign Language


  • The Girls say "Bonjour" (Hello) to introduce themselves to the audience.
  • The Girls say "Bonne Nuit" (Good night) to Ms. Clavel. She responds "Bonne Nuit, mes Enfants" (Good night, my children).
  • Nicole says "Mon Dieu" (My God) in fear when seeing the shadow.
  • Madeline says "Bonjour, Monsieur" (Hello, Sir) and "Merci" (Thank you) to the friendly clown.
  • Madeline sings "Alors" (Well then), "Encore" (Again), and "Regardez" (Look) during the "Fly Air Madeline" song.
  • Madeline says "Non non pardon" (No, no, sorry.) when she's sick and can't skate.
  • Madeline says "Oui, Oui" (Yes, yes.) to Ms. Clavel to let her know she's okay.
  • Madeline says "S'il vous plaît" (Please) when asking the nurse to bring her a couple of mice.
  • Ms. Clavel says "Mes Petite" (My little ones) when they are going to the hospital.
  • Madeline sings "Voila" (Here it is), "Très Chic" (Very classy) when during the "Voila, My Scar" song.


  • In later animated products, some of the other little girls were given darker skin complexions.
  • While both Cinar and DIC Entertainment produced the special, the VHS release from Hi-Tops only credits it to DIC Entertainment, while some others only credit it to Cinar.
  • This special acts as the pilot episode.
  • Joe Raposo, the man who composed the music for the special, is notable for the songs he wrote on "Sesame Street".