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Teletubbies

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Teletubbies
Teletubbies logo.gif
Created by Anne Wood
Andrew Davenport
Developed by Ragdoll Productions for BBC Television
Starring

Dave Thompson
Simon Shelton
John Simmit
Nikky Smedley
Pui Fan Lee

Jane Horrocks
Jim Broadbent
Fearne Cotton (2015 reboot)
Narrated by Tim Whitnall
Toyah Willcox
Eric Sykes
Rolf Saxon
Mark Heenehan
Daniel Rigby (2015 reboot)
Opening theme 'Teletubbies say "Eh-oh!"'
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 4
No. of episodes 365 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) David G Hiller
Vic Finch
Running time 25 minutes
Release
Original channel BBC
Original release Original series:
  • March 31, 1997 (1997-03-31) – February 16, 2001 (2001-02-16)
Revived series:
2015 (2015)

Teletubbies is a British children's television series targeted at pre-school viewers, originally airing on the BBC. It aired from 31 March 1997 to 16 February 2001. The series was created by Ragdoll Productions' Anne Wood CBE and Andrew Davenport, who wrote each of the show's 365 episodes. Though production had been announced cancelled in 2002,[1] a new series of Teletubbies will air in 2016.

Teletubbies, particularly notable for its high production values, rapidly became a critical and commercial success in Britain and abroad and won a BAFTA in 1998.[2] Teletubbies Everywhere was awarded "Best Pre-school Live Action Series" at the 2002 Children's BAFTA Awards.[3] 'Teletubbies say "Eh-oh!"', a single based on the show's theme song, reached number 1 in the UK Singles Chart in December 1997 and remained in the Top 75 for 32 weeks, selling over a million copies.

In June 2014, the BBC announced it had ordered 60 episodes of a new series of Teletubbies to be aired, with DHX Media, which recently acquired Ragdoll Productions, producing the series.[4] This marks the first new episodes of the series since 2001 and the first to be aired on CBeebies, after reruns of the original series were broadcast on the channel. However, the new series will be filmed on replica model sets instead of Wimpstone Farm in Warwickshire (the original setting for Teletubbyland). In April 2015, Daniel Rigby was announced as the show's narrator, Fearne Cotton and Jim Broadbent were announced as the voices for the Voice Trumpets and Jane Horrocks will voice the Tubby Phone, a device that transports the Teletubbies to the modern world.[5]

Overview

The programme focuses on four multi-coloured toddlers of a mythological alien species known as "Teletubbies," named for the television screens implanted in the characters' abdomens, "telly" being a common British abbreviation for television. Recognised throughout popular culture for the uniquely-shaped antenna protruding from the head of each being, their respective names, and their signature colours, the four Teletubbies depicted in this programme are Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po. Communicating through gibberish or babbling, the Teletubbies were designed to bear resemblance to live toddlers dwelling within a beautiful, grassy, and floral landscape that is also populated by rabbits with bird calls audible in the background. The main shelter of the four is a grassy dome (known as the "Tubbytronic Superdome," though the real name of the residence is never mentioned during the entire course of the programme) implanted in the ground accessed through sliding down a hole at the top. The creatures co-exist in Teletubbyland (the name of their home environment) with a number of strange contraptions such as the Noo-noo, the group's anthropomorphic blue vacuum cleaner, and the Voice Trumpets. The show is noted for its colourful, psychedelic setting designed specifically by the creators to appeal to the attention spans of infants or unlock different sections of the mind while also educating young children and toddlers of transitions that can be expected in life.

Throughout the course of every episode, an assortment of rituals are performed that are sometimes revamped differently each time, such as the playful interactions between the Teletubbies and the voice trumpets, the mishaps caused by the Noo-noo, the footage of live children displayed on the screens in the Teletubbies' stomachs, and the magical event that occurs once per episode. The event differs each time and is often caused inexplicably, and is frequently strange yet whimsical. Often the Teletubbies engage in games with one another, with Noo-noo, or the voice trumpets in many episode segments, and the episode is closed by the narrator and voice trumpets to the disappointed, reluctant, but eventually obedient Teletubbies, who bid the viewer farewell as they disappear into the Tubbytronic Superdome yet again.

Characters

The main characters. From left to right: Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Po, and Tinky Winky.

Main characters

  • Tinky Winky (played by Dave Thompson and later Simon Shelton) is the first Teletubby. He is the largest and oldest of the Teletubbies, is covered in purple terrycloth, and has a triangular antenna on his head. He is notable for the red bag he almost always carries.
  • Dipsy (played by John Simmit) is the second Teletubby. He is green and is named "Dipsy" because his antenna resembles a dipstick. Dipsy is the most stubborn of the Teletubbies, and will sometimes refuse to go along with the other Teletubbies' group opinion. His face is notably darker than the rest of the Teletubbies, and the creators have stated that he is Black.[6]
  • Laa-Laa (played by Nikky Smedley) is the third Teletubby. She is yellow and has a curly antenna. She is very sweet, likes to sing and dance, and is often shown looking out for the other Teletubbies.
  • Po (played by Pui Fan Lee) is the fourth and last Teletubby. She is the smallest and youngest out of all the Teletubbies. She is red, and has an antenna shaped like a stick used for blowing soap bubbles. Po usually speaks in a soft voice. She has been stated by the show's creators to be Cantonese.[6]

Supporting characters

  • The Noo-noo (operated by Mark Dean[7]) is both the Teletubbies' guardian and housekeeper, due to his resemblance to a vacuum cleaner. The Noo-noo hardly ever ventures outside the Tubbytronic Superdome, instead remaining indoors and constantly cleaning with his sucker-like nose. He does not speak like the other characters, communicating instead through a series of slurping and sucking noises. At times, the Noo-noo gets annoyed with the Teletubbies' antics and vacuums their food or toys. This usually prompts the Teletubbies to scold the Noo-noo through a cry of "Naughty Noo-noo!"
  • The sun (played by Jessica Smith[8]) appears at the beginning and end of each episode. It has the face of a baby and seems to act as a wake-up call for the Teletubbies.
  • The Voice Trumpets are several devices resembling periscopes that rise from the ground and interact with the Teletubbies, serving as supervisors for the beings who often arise to engage in games with them. They are the only residents of Teletubbyland who speak in complete English sentences.
  • The rabbits are brown-coloured creatures found throughout Teletubbyland. The Teletubbies enjoy watching them hop and play. The rabbits are the only type of Earth animal found in the land, and take residence in rabbit holes and bushes.

The show also features the voices of Tim Whitnall, Toyah Willcox, Eric Sykes, Mark Heenehan and occasionally Sandra Dickinson and Penelope Keith, all of whom provide narration. The only physical human cast member is Tamzin Griffin.

International broadcast

Teletubbies is also aired outside of Great Britain. In the United States, the original and revived series currently air on Nickelodeon as part of the Nick Jr. block.[9] It was formerly broadcast on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) public television from 6 April 1998 until 19 June 2005, and would continue to air reruns until 29 August 2008, when it was pulled from the schedule.[10] In Australia and New Zealand, the series airs on CBeebies Australia.[11]

Promotion

Teletubbies 10th anniversary events

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the premiere of Teletubbies, a series of events took place at the end of March through the beginning of April 2007.[12] The characters appeared outside of Teletubbyland for the first time on 21 March 2007 in London, England at an invitation-only event to officially begin the programme's tenth anniversary year sponsored by BBC Worldwide, the programme's licensees. They appeared in the United States for the first time at appearances in New York City's Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, and Apollo Theater. They also appeared on The Today Show on 29 March 2007. The episode included the first ever televised interview with the actors outside of their costumes. A partnership was formed with Isaac Mizrahi in which Mizrahi designed Teletubbies-inspired bags to be auctioned off to benefit the Cure Autism Now and Autism Speaks charities. A new line of clothing was launched to be sold in the Pop-Up Shop[13] and other specialty stores. New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg announced 28 March 2007 "Teletubbies Day" and gave the key to the city to the Teletubbies. Following their appearance in New York City, the Teletubbies went on their first live European tour, performing shows in London, Paris, Bremen, Darmstadt, Halle (Saale), Hamburg, Köln, and Hannover.

Reception

Tinky Winky controversy

Tinky Winky started a still hinted-at controversy in 1999 because of his carrying a bag that looks much like a woman's handbag (although he was first "outed" by the academic and cultural critic Andy Medhurst in a letter of July 1997 to The Face).[citation needed] He aroused the interest of Jerry Falwell in 1999 when Falwell alleged that the character was a "gay role model". Falwell issued an attack in his National Liberty Journal, citing a Washington Post "In/Out" column which stated that lesbian comedian Ellen DeGeneres was "out" as the chief national gay representative, while trendy Tinky Winky was "in." He warned parents that Tinky Winky could be a covert homosexual symbol, because "he is purple, the gay pride color, and his antenna is shaped like a triangle: the gay pride symbol."[14] The BBC made an official response, "Tinky Winky is simply a sweet, technological baby with a magic bag." Ken Viselman of Itsy-Bitsy Entertainment, who distributed the show in the USA, commented, "He's not gay. He's not straight. He's just a character in a children's series."[15]

In May 2007, Polish Ombudsman for Children Ewa Sowińska revisited the matter, and planned to order an investigation.[16] She said in the 28 May 2007 edition of Wprost[full citation needed] that the handbag-carrying Tinky Winky could promote homosexuality. Journalists from Wprost mentioned claims that the Teletubbies promote homosexuality, to which Sowińska replied that she had heard of the issue. The journalists then asked about Tinky Winky. "I noticed that he has a woman's handbag, but I didn't realize he's a boy," Sowińska told the magazine, adding, "Later I learned that there could be some hidden homosexual undertones." Sowińska said she would ask her office's psychologists to look into the allegations, "and judge whether it can be shown on public television and whether the suggested problem really exists." However, on 30 May 2007, Sowińska said in a public statement that she no longer suspected the Teletubbies of promoting homosexuality. She said: "The opinion of a leading sexologist, who maintains that this series has no negative effects on a child's psychology, is perfectly credible. As a result I have decided that it is no longer necessary to seek the opinion of other psychologists."[17]

Despite the objections, the Independent on Sunday‍ '​s editors included Tinky Winky as the only fictional character in the 2008 inaugural "Happy List", alongside 99 real-life adults recognised for making Britain a better and happier place.[18]

Cult following

Although the programme is aimed at children between the ages of one and four, it had a substantial cult following with older generations, mainly university and college students.[19] The mixture of bright colours, unusual designs, repetitive non-verbal dialogue, ritualistic format, and the occasional forays into physical comedy appealed to many who perceived the programme as having psychedelic qualities.

In popular culture

  • In an episode of The Simpsons titled "Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder", Homer dresses up like a Teletubby to entertain Maggie, remarking "...and I'm all man, in case you heard otherwise" in reference to claims by Jerry Falwell.
  • In the eleventh episode of the second season of The Chaser's War on Everything, the possibility of Tinky Winky being homosexual was parodied when the Chaser's tested the Peel Hotel (in Collingwood, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)'s gaydar (the hotel's Peel dancebar was given the right to ban heterosexual patrons) with a Tinky Winky costumed figure that acted in a stereotypical homosexual fashion.

CD single

In December 1997, BBC Worldwide released a CD single from the series, based on the show's theme song, called Teletubbies say "Eh-oh!". The song is the only single from Teletubbies, making them a one-hit wonder in the United Kingdom, and mostly a remix of the theme song from the hit Television programme performed by the series characters written by Andrew McCrorie-Shand and Andrew Davenport. Produced by McCrorie-Shand and Steve James, this single reached number 1 in the UK Singles Chart in December 1997, remaining in the Top 75 for 32 weeks after its release, selling over a million copies.[21]

See also

References

  1. ^ "CBBC wants first tenders | News | Broadcast". Broadcast now.co.uk. 29 June 2001. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  2. ^ "Tubbies toast another three years". BBC News. 1 March 1999. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  3. ^ "Past Winners and Nominees – Children's – Awards – 2002". BAFTA. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  4. ^ Sweeney, Mark (13 June 2014). "BBC’s CBeebies orders 60 new Teletubbies episodes". www.theguardian.com. The Guardian. 
  5. ^ Plunkett, John. "Teletubbies return with touch screens in stomachs". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-06-05. 
  6. ^ a b "FAQ". Archived from the original on 7 June 2009. 
  7. ^ "Teletubbies Authors". 
  8. ^ "The baby from Teletubbies reveals herself". The Daily Telegraph. Unknown. 23 December 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  9. ^ "Nickelodeon Is Rebooting The 'Teletubbies'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  10. ^ "The Trouble With Teletubbies". Commercialexploitation.org. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  11. ^ "Teletubbies - CBeebies Australia". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  12. ^ Rusak, Gary (12 March 2007). "Teletubbies celebrate 10th anniversary in high style". KidScreen Magazine. 
  13. ^ "Teletubbies Pop-Up Shop". 
  14. ^ "Falwell Sees Gay in a Teletubby". 
  15. ^ Marwan Kraidy (2005). Hybridity, Or the Cultural Logic of Globalization. pp. 106–107. ISBN 978-1-59213-144-0. 
  16. ^ Adam Easton (28 May 2007). Poland targets 'gay' Teletubbies. BBC News. 
  17. ^ Polish watchdog backs away from Teletubbies probe. CBC. 30 May 2007. 
  18. ^ "The IoS Happy List 2008 - the 100". The Independent. Retrieved 24 May 2015. 
  19. ^ Gutenko, Gregory. "Deconstructing Teletubbies: Differences between UK and US college students' reading of the children's television programme.". Kansas City, Missouri, USA: College of Arts & Sciences, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Unexpectedly, the four furry alien-like "techno-baby" Teletubbies and their surreal Tubbyland world have also generated a cult following among college students. (The campus activities calendar at Imperial College includes the airtimes and episode highlights for each show.) 
  20. ^ Laugh and Enjoy a Satire of the Presidential Election, "Yeouido Teletubbies", Kyunghyang Shinmun, 7 November 2012, Retrieved on 19 January 2013.
  21. ^ Teletubbies top the charts. BBC. 7 December 1997. Retrieved 29 December 2008. 

External links