The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Genius behind ‘Teletubbie­s’ in go-to-sleep kids show

Davenport, an actor and puppeteer, is the J.K. Rowling of the under-5s

- By Fiachra Gibbons

CANNES, France: “Teletubbie­s” creator Andrew Davenport has come up with a new show “guaranteed to stop children climbing the walls,” BBC bosses claimed Sunday.

Davenport, an actor and puppeteer known as the “J.K. Rowling of the under-5s,” also wrote and made the worldwide hit “In the Night Garden.”

The British public broadcaste­r believes that his new series called “Moon and Me” will transport the next generation of toddlers to the Land of Nod.

It got its world premiere Sunday at the MIPJunior children’s entertainm­ent market in Cannes, France. Davenport introduced the show by video link from Atlanta, Georgia, where he is rushing to finish the first series for the BBC’s pre-school CBeebies channel.

Commission­ing editor Michael Towner called Davenport a “genius” and said the show’s calming combinatio­n of story and song is “guaranteed to stop children climbing the walls.”

“If any of you didn’t have a lump in your throat toward the end of that, you are not human and you shouldn’t be working with children,” Davenport said, after the first episodes was aired.

A mix of puppetry and stopmotion animation, “Moon and Me” turns on a doll called Peppianna who lives in a toy house with her five friends including Mr. Onions, who begins every sentence by saying “onions,” Collywobbl­e, Lilyplant and Lambkin.

Full of typically Davenport catchphras­es such as “Tiddle toddle,” the show also contains a magical character called Moon Boy that could double for its creator.

Towner described how Davenport – a legend in pre-school television – had turned up to his office in Salford with “his trademark aluminum wheelie case and proceeded to unpack books tied in ribbon and individual­ly wrapped boxes containing the clay maquettes of all the characters.

“As we read through the script, we looked at each other and said, ‘We have to have this!’ But this being the BBC, we couldn’t afford to fully fund it but we asked him to find some partners for us and he did.”

The 50-episode show, which has taken more than two and a half years to make, will also be shown by Universal Kids in the U.S. later this year.

Davenport, who left his home in London for rural Georgia so he could work “18-hour days on the show,” said he wanted to create a “toy house story for contempora­ry times.”

But before he wrote a single line, the former speech therapist spent months researchin­g how small children interacted with toy houses.

“I worked with [psychologi­sts at] the University of Sheffield to create a toy house play observatio­n project. The house we were using was rigged with cameras and microphone­s so we could really get to see what it was like to be a toy subject to the play of a child.

“That threw up a whole load of interestin­g material that went into ‘Moon and Me,’” he added.

Davenport said the story “revolves around a doll called Peppianna who comes alive when the Moon shines on her toy house. When she wakes up she writes a letter to the Moon … but little does she know that on the Moon lives a character called Moon Baby who comes down to ring the doorbell on the toy house and brings his moon magic to bring the other toys in the house to life.”

Towner said the series will “anchor the ‘Bedtime Hour’ on CBeebies,” the sequence of yawn-inducing, eye-lid closing shows that helps hypnotize millions of children to bed at night.

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