'Boing!' McKellen to be voice of Zebedee in 'Magic' movie

Most theatre critics would probably agree that Sir Ian McKellen is the leading British actor of his generation.

Most theatre critics would probably agree that Sir Ian McKellen is the leading British actor of his generation.

With more than 40 major international awards during his career, he is known for roles such as the lead in Shakespeare's Richard III and more recently as the wizard Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings film series

But yesterday, the titan of British stage and film was unveiled as the actor lined up to play the boingy thing from The Magic Roundabout .

The children's series is being made into a feature film and Sir Ian has been cast in the role of Zebedee - the red-faced chap on a spring that shouts "Time for Bed!" at the end of episodes. But the news he has signed up for such a part is not as surprising as it first sounds. His triumph in The Lord of the Rings made him a great favourite with children and Zebedee, like Gandalf, is always ready to practise some magic and turn himself into anything he chooses. Sir Ian is already preparing to appear in the pantomime Aladdin at The Old Vic this Christmas.

Then there is the attraction of the cast that has already been assembled by Pathé for the Magic Roundabout movie. Bill Nighy who starred in Love Actually , will voice the spaced out hippy rabbit Dylan, while the Cockney actor Ray Winstone has agreed to play Soldier Sam. Kylie Minogue will speak for the girl character Florence and Robbie Williams will play the dog Dougal, who is usually regarded as the star of the show. Joanna Lumley will speak for the cow Ermintrude; Jim Broadbent will play Brian, the snail.

Sir Ian's casting as Zebedee came as something of a surprise, given that both Richard Briers and Tom Baker had been previously linked with the role. A spokeswoman for the actor said: "He's delighted to be involved. He thinks The Magic Roundabout is a great project and fantastic for kids and adults alike."

The Magic Roundabout was created in 1965 by a French advertising executive called Serge Danot. It was completely rewritten for the BBC by Eric Thompson, father of the actress Emma.

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