“Over the hills and far away,
Teletubbies come to play.”
It was a British Invasion of another sort, when a new fab four arrived on American shores after finding much success in their home country of England. This time around, however, the moptop hairdos were absent, replaced by geometrical antennae, as well as far more colorful (and furry) attire. And, while this description might fit a typical 80s glam band, instead it is about a quartet of four lovable and nonsensical creatures called Teletubbies.
Anne Wood and Andrew Davenport created Teletubbies in 1997, a children’s show which targeted the youngest set of television viewers, the preschoolers. The idea was to help boost confidence and diminish anxiety as their future school days approached. To this end, the show’s creators placed these lovable creatures within Teletubbyland, a welcoming place filled with simplistic toys such as scooters and rubber balls. Perhaps the most technologically advanced device in this strange world was imbedded in the Teletubbies tummies – rectangular television screens that provided a window into the real world. Other somewhat advanced gadgets included Noo-Noo, an independent vacuum cleaner that cleaned up whatever messes might occur, such as custard and plenty of crumbs that resulted from use of the Tubby Toaster. The inclusion of these devices was to help teach kids that machinery wasn’t something to be afraid of, but rather, something that is helpful to people.
Teletubbies each had their own distinct personality, color, accessories, and dimensions. The smallest was Po, a mischievous red creature that spent much time riding her scooter. The next largest was the yellow Laa-Laa, who was enamored with her bouncing ball and loved to sing. Then there was Dipsy, the welcoming green member of the group, who sported a snazzy zebra-striped hat and said “Eh-oh (hello) at every opportunity. And finally, there was the much-maligned Tinky Winky. With his purple appearance, triangle-shaped antennae and ever-present magic bag, he managed to raise the eyebrow of televangelist Jerry Falwell, who, in 1999, felt it was his civic duty to warn parents that Tinky Winky was gay. There were some protests as a result, but his remarks prompted more amusement than ire.
Besides, the controversy didn’t seem to hurt the popularity of the show, which remained on the air until 2001, producing a sizable 365 episodes along the way. And, being that the Teletubbies only spoke gibberish, the show was easy to alter for broadcast in other countries; only the filmed portions shown on their Teletummies had to be re-dubbed.
While the longevity of the Teletubbies may not quite rival that of the “other” Fab Four, it should be noted that these whimsical little creatures did manage to land their own #1 hit on the British music charts. Titled “Teletubbies Say Eh-Oh!,” the single sold in excess of a million copies and remained on the charts for 32 weeks. In contrast, The Beatles’ first released single, “Love Me Do” only made it to #4 on the UK charts. Eh-oh!
If you fondly remember the days when Teletubbies roamed the earth, we welcome all of your thoughts in our comments sections, as we tip our hats to these preschool mentors of yesteryear.