Cannes, France | AFP | “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-fives”, 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 towards the end of that, you are not human and you shouldn’t be working with children,” he added, after the first work-in-progress episode was shown.
A mix of puppetry and stop-motion 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.
– Child observation project –
Towner described how Davenport — a legend in pre-school television — had turned up to his office in Salford with “his trademark aluminium 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 US 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 “toyhouse 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 toyhouse 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 hypnotise millions of British children off to bed at night.