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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
Narrated by Tim Whitnall
Toyah Willcox
Eric Sykes
Rolf Saxon
Mark Heenehan
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)
Executive producer(s) David G Hiller
Vic Finch
Running time 25 minutes
Original channel BBC (British), PBS Kids (USA)
Original airing Original series:
  • March 31, 1997 (1997-03-31) – February 16, 2001 (2001-02-16)
Revived series:
2014-present (2014-present)

Teletubbies is a British BBC children's television series targeted at pre-school viewers and produced from 31 March 1997 to 16 February 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.[1] In 2002, production was cancelled and it was announced that no new episodes would be produced, with the last episode being aired on 16 February 2001. However, a total of 365 episodes had been produced – enough for a full year.[2]

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.[3] Teletubbies Everywhere was awarded "Best Pre-school Live Action Series" at the 2002 Children's BAFTA Awards.[4]

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.[5] 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.[3]

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.[6] '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 a new 60-episode series of Teletubbies will be aired, with DHX Media, which recently acquired Ragdoll Productions, producing the series.[7] This marks the first new episodes of the series since 2001 and the first to be aired on CBeebies, after reruns were broadcast on the channel. However, the new series will be filmed on replica model sets instead of the Warwickshire countryside (the original setting for Teletubbyland) since a pond now exists there. It is currently unknown if the four Teletubbies actors will reprise their roles.


The programme focuses on four strange multi-coloured toddlers of a mythological alien 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.


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

Tinky Winky (played by Dave Thompson, 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.

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.[8]

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,[8] and as such, she is bilingual, speaking both English and Cantonese.

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,Mark Heenehan 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 events

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.[9] 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.

Pop-up shop

A Pop-up shop opened in New York City's West Village from 28 March to 7 April 2007.[10] A percentage of the store's profits went to the Cure Autism Now and Autism Speaks charities.

Teletubbies live events

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.


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). 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."[6]

The BBC, who co-produced the programme, 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."[11]

In May 2007, Polish Ombudsman for Children Ewa Sowińska revisited the matter, and planned to order an investigation.[12] She said in the 28 May 2007 edition of Wprost 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."

But 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."[13]

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.[14]

Teletubby doll incidents

In an unrelated incident, reported in 2000, a girl's Tinky Winky toy reportedly said "I got a gun." Kenn Viselman claimed the toy actually said "Again, again!" a catchphrase from the show.[15] In a similar incident in 1998, a girl's talking Po doll was thought to be saying "faggot faggot, faggot faggot, faggot faggot, bite my butt", as well as "fatty, fatty." The toy was recalled and it was revealed to have said "fidit, fidit, and mon, mon" inspired by the Cantonese Chinese for "faster, faster, and slower, slower". [16]

In popular culture

  • In 1998, Tom Fulp of Newgrounds created a spoof of Teletubbies called "Teletubby Fun Land"[17] which resulted in a lawsuit from the BBC.[18] This resulted in a boost of notoriety and media exposure, and the video was renamed Tellybubby Fun Land.
  • In The Simpsons episode "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 6 June 2007, second season, eleventh episode 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.[20]

See also


  1. ^ "The Trouble With Teletubbies". Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  2. ^ "CBBC wants first tenders | News | Broadcast". Broadcast 29 June 2001. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  3. ^ a b BBC News Entertainment: Tubbies toast another three years
  4. ^ "Past Winners and Nominees – Children's – Awards – 2002".  
  5. ^ 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.) 
  6. ^ a b Falwell Sees 'Gay' In a Teletubby. New York Times. 11 February 1999. 
  7. ^ Sweeney, Mark (13 June 2014). BBC’s CBeebies orders 60 new Teletubbies episodes "BBC’s CBeebies orders 60 new Teletubbies episodes".  
  8. ^ a b "FAQ". Archived from the original on 7 June 2009. 
  9. ^ Rusak, Gary (12 March 2007). "Teletubbies celebrate 10th anniversary in high style". KidScreen Magazine. 
  10. ^ "Teletubbies Pop-Up Shop". 
  11. ^ Marwan Kraidy (2005). Hybridity, Or the Cultural Logic of Globalization. pp. 106–107.  
  12. ^ Adam Easton (28 May 2007). Poland targets 'gay' Teletubbies. BBC News. 
  13. ^ Polish watchdog backs away from Teletubbies probe. CBC. 30 May 2007. 
  14. ^ The IoS Happy List 2008 – the 100
  15. ^ Dotinga, Randy (12 April 2000). "Lawsuit to Target Teletubbies for Gun Talk". APBNews. Archived from the original on 10 May 2000. 
  16. ^ Teletubbies Q&A's
  17. ^ Newgrounds Presents: Teletubby Fun Land
  18. ^ Newgrounds Literature
  19. ^ Laugh and Enjoy a Satire of the Presidential Election, "Yeouido Teletubbies", Kyunghyang Shinmun, 7 November 2012, Retrieved on 19 January 2013.
  20. ^ Teletubbies top the charts. BBC. 7 December 1997. Retrieved 29 December 2008. 

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