Can you believe it's 25 years since Teletubbies first appeared on TV?

31st March 2022

Teletubbies is just one of the children's TV shows featured in our Shooglebox Year Boxes.

It's 25 years since the first episode of the Teletubbies aired in the UK, which is giving us all an excuse to reminisce about the adventures of Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po – loveable technological babies with TV bellies and antennae on their heads. When they first appeared on our screens on 31st March 1997, speaking in baby language and eating Tubby Toast and Custard, the Teletubbies changed children's TV forever.

The programme's creators, Anne Wood and Andrew Davenport from the production company Ragdoll, wanted to help children learn through play in an age that was becoming increasingly technological. The programme was aimed at the under fives and was the first time programme makers had tried to address babies and toddlers directly with language, sounds and colours they could relate to.

According to the Independent in October 1997, the show didn't get much PR "until the Daily Mail and Telegraph seized on a few letters from concerned parents sent to the Radio Times complaining that supposed gibberish had replaced the popular pre-school programme Playdays."

The show quickly became a huge success and parents were desperate to get their hands on Teletubby toys for Christmas – the Derby Telegraph reported some parents started camping outside Mothercare World from 3am when they went on sale.

The Teletubbies was filmed in the studio and on location. Finding a suitable filming location for the programme proved challenging, as Anne Wood and Andrew Davenport explain in their Guardian interview in 2013. They were able to rent a field from a farmer in Warwickshire whose land Ragdoll Productions had used to film Tots TV, but locals started protesting against this due to the "havoc" a different TV show in the area had caused. Wood assured planners that "it was a low-key children's programme and no one would be aware of the filming"; however, once it started broadcasting photographers started trekking across the farmer's fields and helicopters hovered above to try and get a glimpse of the actors. The original site is now under water.

The starting titles featured a rising sun – an animation that included a smiling laughing gurgling baby. Jessica Smith was the baby who was filmed for the role at nine months old – she was interviewed by ITV's Lorraine in 2017 in this clip on YouTube and still has the same radiant smile!

Ragdoll Productions' original Teletubbies ran for five series, with the last episode airing on 16th February 2001. The episodes from series one are available to view in this playlist on the Teletubbies' YouTube channel. A revival series, developed by producers Darrall Macqueen and DHX Media, aired from November 2015 to October 2018. Rather than being filmed outside, the reboot was filmed inside a studio using a 20:1 scale model of Teletubbyland and green screen, as shown by British Cinematographer.

In recent years, the Teletubbies have gained a large following on social platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter.

Children's TV shows always make a great conversation starter and children's TV is just one of the many themes we've included in our Year Boxes on Shooglebox – including the Teletubbies.

We've created a box of cards for every year since 1950 about what people in Britain were watching, listening to and talking about that year. The Year Boxes are designed to demonstrate the full potential of Shooglebox and inspire people to create colourful, content-rich boxes of their own. The visual card layout gives you an overview of each year and, if you're intrigued by any of the cards, there's more info on the back of each with links back to the original sources.

See what else was happening in Britain in 1997 ...

... or read more about our Year Boxes here.

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