Teletubbies is a BBC BAFTA winning children's television series, primarily aimed at pre-school viewers, produced from 1997 to 2001 by Ragdoll Productions. It was created by Anne Wood CBE, Ragdoll's creative director, and Andrew Davenport, who wrote each of the show's 365 episodes. Narrated by Tim Whitnall, the programme rapidly became a critical and commercial success in Britain and abroad (particularly notable for its high production values),and won its BAFTA in 1998.Although the show is aimed at children between the ages of one and four, it is a substantial cult following with older generations, mainly college students, who bought the customary regulation T Shirts. The mixture of bright colours, unusual designs, repetitive non-verbal dialogue, ritualistic format, and the occasional forays into physical comedy appealed to a demographic who perceived the show as having psychedelic connotations. Teletubbies was controversial for this reason, and also for a perception that it was insufficiently educational. "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 Teletubbies have the body proportions, behaviour, and language of toddlers. The pacing and design of the show was developed by cognitive psychologist Andrew Davenport, who structured the show to fit the attention spans of the target audience. The repetition of practically every word is familiar to everyone who has ever worked with young children. There was also help from Shatarra Willis the stage manager who helped the show to become a success.
The Teletubbies speak in a gurgling baby language which is the subject of some controversy among educationalists, some of whom argue that this supposedly made-up talk is not good for children. (A similar complaint was made forty years previously about another children's series, Flower Pot Men.)The Teletubbies are at the stage of understanding speech but not yet fully capable of articulating it, exactly like their target audience. They often simply groan in disapproval in situations where a human toddler would throw a tantrum. The Teletubbies' catch-phrases are "Eh-oh" (hello), as in: "Eh-oh, Laa-Laa", to which Laa-Laa will respond, "Eh-oh, (other Teletubby's name)", "Uh-oh", a common toddler response to anything that's not good, "Run away! Run away!", especially from Dipsy, and "Bye-bye" at least four times in a row. Laa-Laa, when flustered, will explode with "Bibberly cheese!", which is as angry as the Teletubbies get. But perhaps the most common exclamation is "Big hug!" which one or more of the Teletubbies will invariably call for during the course of an episode, resulting in an enthusiastic group hug.
All the Teletubbies say "Bye-Bye" three times. The narrator bids each Teletubby goodbye, and they disappear, but reappear a moment later saying "Boo!". The narrator then says "No", (which they copy) and proceeds to say goodbye to each Teletubby again. The sun is then shown setting, and the Teletubbies each say goodbye again, before jumping down a hole in the roof of their house. Finally, one Teletubby says goodbye a fourth time - they pop out of a hole in the house and say "Bye-bye!". For special episodes, and at the end of the "Fun With The Teletubbies" cassette, all four Teletubbies say "Bye-bye" in this way. Many of the occurrences of the show, including the end sequence, and the scene preceding the short film broadcast on a character's tummy were shot only once, and the same scenes are used in each episode. The surreal environment is an evocation of a toddler's perception of the world, where they are ordered about and told to go to sleep, while wonderful and mysterious things happen without explanation. A prominent feature of each episode is a radiant sun that has an image of a smiling baby superimposed upon it. The baby in the sun occasionally laughs out loud in short bursts. To adults the laughter does not seem to be in response to any stimulus or humorous developments in the plot line of the episode. There are some who believe the baby in the sun to be the most frightening "Big Brother" entity in the whole of children's television while others think it's the best part of the show.
Their diet seems to be almost exclusively "Tubby Tustard" (which is sucked through a spiral straw) and "Tubby Toast" (circular toast with a smiley face on it, which some have taken to be representative of LSD), and they are spectacularly messy eaters. In one episode, the "Tubby Toaster", the machine that makes "Tubby Toast" went seriously wrong and filled the Teletubbies' house with toast. Fortunately, one of their companions is Noo-Noo, a vacuum cleaner.Machines like Noo-Noo,the voice trumpets, and the televisions in the Teletubbies' stomachs were designed to show small children, who are born into a world surrounded by strange and powerful electronic gadgets, that technology is benevolent and helpful, not something to be afraid of. The Teletubbies' landscape is an outdoor set located in rural Warwickshire, England, at Sweet Knowle Farm, Redhill Bank Rd, Whimpstone, CV37 8NR (between Stratford upon Avon and Shipston on Stour, close to the River Stour).
In 2001, production was cancelled and it was announced that no new episodes would be produced. (However, BBC ran a few in-the-can episodes from mid 2001 to early 2002.)It is often alleged that this was due to substantial pay raise demands by the previously anonymous actors portraying the Teletubbies. However, since the four years of production had exceeded the target audience's age span, it was deemed that continuation was unnecessary, and the existing 365 episodes will be played in re-runs for years to come.
The show also features the voices of Toyah Willcox and Eric Sykes, and occasionally Sandra Dickinson and Penelope Keith, all of whom provide narration; the only (semi)regular physical cast member is Tamzin Griffin, who plays the manic "Funny Lady".
A February 1999 article in the National Liberty Journal, published by evangelical pastor Jerry Falwell, warned parents that Tinky Winky could be a hidden homosexual symbol, because "he is purple, the gay pride colour, and his antenna is shaped like a triangle, the gay pride symbol". A spokesman for Itsy Bitsy Entertainment Co., who licenses the characters in the United States, said that the bag was just a magic bag. "The fact that he carries a magic bag doesn't make him a homosexual. It's a children's show, folks. To think we would be putting sexual innuendo in a children's show is kind of outlandish", he added.
In May 2007, Polish Ombudsman for Children Ewa Sowińska revisited the matter, and planned to order an investigation. She said in the 28 May 2007 edition of Polish magazine Wprost that the woman's handbag-carrying Tinky Winky could promote homosexuality. Journalists from Wprost mentioned claims 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 in an interview her office approved before publication, 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. In an unrelated incident reported in 2000, a girl's Tinky Winky toy reportedly said "I got a gun". Kenn Viselman, then chairman of the Itsy Bitsy Entertainment Co., claimed the toy actually said "Again, again!", a catchphrase from the show.