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Dr. John Dolittle is a character in a series of children's books written by Hugh John Lofting. Lofting came by the idea for the character as a British officer writing wartime letters home to his children. On his return from the war, he penned and published "The Story of Doctor Dolittle", which quickly became a success. Doctor John Dolittle is, according to the author, "...an eccentric country physician with a bent for natural history and a great love of pets, who finally decides to give up his human practice for the more difficult, more sincere, and, for him, more attractive therapy of the animal kingdom..." The popularity of the story led to a number of sequels, and eventually several film adaptations, most notably starring comedian Eddie Murphy in 1998. Originally the character was an older man, but since has been portrayed as a younger man and even a young girl in more recent film versions. The quirkiness and wide variety of differences in his portrayal make Doctor Dolittle a fun and fairly simple costume idea.
The Doctor's clothing is very easy to replicate. He is typically seen wearing a long white lab coat in more modern versions of the tale. Beneath the coat the Doctor typically wore a suit, but there is definitely room for interpretation here. The original story takes place in the early to mid-1800s, so period clothing of this time would be appropriate, however it has been adapted so many times through history that more modern clothing would work as well. When the Doctor was recently portrayed by a young girl, the character typically wore jeans and a T-shirt beneath the lab coat.
In the original telling of Doctor Dolittle, the Doctor was usually seen wearing a large top-hat. This hat has not been used as often in the more modern portrayals, but could still be incorporated into the costume depending on the version of the doctor being imitated. The Doctor is also typically shown wearing a stethoscope around his neck, which he uses often, and in many versions he wears glasses. In the more well-known version portrayed by Eddie Murphy, the character has a very large moustache.
The most important props to a Doctor Dolittle costume are animals. The Doctor surrounded himself with animals in all versions of the story. If any actual pets are available and acceptable where the costume is going to be worn, try including one. If not, then fake animals will work just as well. A stuffed dog, cat, monkey, or just about any other animal will do the trick! In many versions of the story, Doctor Dolittle is also seen with some type of medical bag or briefcase, and this makes a nice addition to the costume as well.
The Doctor is presented in the stories as an "absent minded" sort of character. He is portrayed as a very capable scientist and doctor, however he fumbles around a bit with daily activities. To portray this as part of a costume, try walking around with your head in the clouds, so to speak. Mumbling scientific facts under one's breath while accidentally walking into a wall, for example. Doctor Dolittle also has a much better rapport with animals than with humans. If an animal, real or toy, is utilised, the character should spend a good amount of time in conversation with the animal, and comment to the animal on the activities of the humans in the area.
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