Teletubbies is a British BBC children's television series targeted at pre-school viewers and produced from 31 March 1997 to 5 January 2001 by Ragdoll Productions. It was created by Ragdoll's creative director Anne Wood CBE and Andrew Davenport, who wrote each of the show's 365 episodes. The programme's original narrator was Tim Whitnall. Teletubbies was also aired internationally; in the United States, it was 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. In 2002, production was cancelled and it was announced that no new episodes would be produced, with the last episode being aired on 5 January 2001. However, a total of 365 episodes had been produced – enough for a full year.
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. Teletubbies Everywhere was awarded "Best Pre-school Live Action Series" at the 2002 Children's BAFTA Awards.
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. 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. Teletubbies was controversial for this reason. Other critics felt the show was insufficiently educational.
The programme was also at the centre of a controversy when American televangelist and conservative pundit Jerry Falwell claimed in 1999 that Tinky Winky, one of the Teletubbies, was a homosexual role model for children. Falwell based this conclusion on the character's purple colour and triangular antenna; both the colour purple and the triangle are sometimes used as symbols of the Gay Pride movement. '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.
The programme focuses on four strange multi-coloured toddlers of a mythological species known as "Teletubbies," named for the television screens implanted in the characters' abdomens. 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 Laa-Laa, Po, Dipsy, and Tinky Winky. Communicating through infantile 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 Noo-noo, the group's anthropomorphic blue vacuum cleaner, with the tendency to suck up the Teletubbies' possessions and the voice trumpets, 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. 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 Noo-noo, the footage of live children displayed on the screens in the creatures' stomachs, and, particularly, the "magical event" that occurs once per episode. The event differs each time and is often caused inexplicably, and is frequently psychedelic and 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.
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 also notably darker than the rest of the Teletubbies, and the creators have stated that he is Black.
Tinky Winky (played by Dave Thompson, Mark Heenehan, and 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 always carries.
Laa-Laa (played by Nikky Smedley) is the third Teletubby. She is yellow, and has a curly antenna. She is very sweet and likes to sing and dance, and is often seen to look 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 has a soft voice. She has been stated by the show's creators to be Cantonese, and as such, she is bilingual, speaking both English and Cantonese. Her red colour is in keeping with the Communist ideology of her native China.
Noo-noo seems to be both the Teletubbies' guardian and housekeeper, due to its resemblance to a vacuum cleaner, which is its principal purpose in the house. Noo-noo hardly ever ventures outside, instead remaining indoors and constantly cleaning with its sucker-like nose. It does not speak like the other characters, instead communicating through a series of slurping and sucking noises. At times, Noo-noo gets annoyed with the Teletubbies' antics and can vacuum their food or toys. This usually prompts the Teletubbies to scold Noo-noo through a cry of "Naughty Noo-noo!"
The show also features the voices of Tim Whitnall, Toyah Willcox, Eric Sykes, and occasionally Sandra Dickinson and Penelope Keith, all of whom provide narration. The only physical cast members are Tamzin Griffin and Jessica Smith.
Teletubbies 10th anniversary eventsEdit
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the premiere of Teletubbies, a series of events took place at the end of March through the beginning of April 2007. 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 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.
A Pop-up shop opened in New York City's West Village from 28 March to 7 April 2007. A percentage of the store's profits went to the Cure Autism Now and Autism Speaks charities.
Teletubbies live eventsEdit
Following the Teletubbies' appearance in New York City, they went on their first live European tour, performing shows in London, Paris, Bremen, Darmstadt, Halle (Saale), Hamburg, Köln, and Hannover.