It’s 2023 so it must be…Time for Teletubbies!
Used to dressing the likes of Cardi B, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Lizzo, British fashion designer Christian Cowan has his sights set on a new fashion collaboration: the Teletubbies capsule collection. The accompanying photoshoot set up to promote Cowan’s new line says it all.
The standout piece of the collection is the Teletubbies Boot, a green high heel number zipping up to a bust of Dipsy and priced at £2,041 ($2,500). Dare you ever think of doubting the pop culture magnitude of ‘the Tubbies’, consider Cowan’s recent Instagram post which elicited an immediate response of “Need!” from Paris Hilton.
This isn’t the first time the Teletubbies have been associated with fashion and, trust me, it won’t be the last. Last December, Koi footwear featured five vegan, gender-neutral shoes with color schemes matching all four characters, plus their faithful vacuum cleaner Noo-Noo. In 2017, Dipsy walked the runway for London designer Bobby Abley as part of his Tubbies-inspired collection.
Since they first appeared on our collective telly screens in March 1997, Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po, the creation of Anne Wood and Andrew Davenport, have been seen by over one billion children in more than 100 countries. Teletubbies say “Eh-oh!”, the 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.
While it has been a decade since the Teletubbies aired in America on PBS, they were a pop-culture phenomenon amongst college and university students despite their target audience being pre-school age. There were times that audiences for Teletubbies on KERA (the PBS station in North Texas) and other public television stations were greater and generated more response at 1:00am than at 8:00am. Pop-culture icon status aside, unfortunately, they weren’t timeless given the fact that they originally had analog TV screens on their stomachs and antennae on their heads. That is SO 20th century, don’t you think?.
The series made its 21st century return on CBeebies in 2015 with a new look designed to appeal to today’s digital-savvy children including iPad-style tummies which will screen live-action films from a child’s perspective.
In addition, there were virtual flowers which gradually came into bloom as the episode progressed, and an eco-friendly windmill made from real materials. What could possibly be next? 7-Grain Tubby Toast and gluten-free Tubby Custard? Better look out Noo-Noo, you might be looking at a 21st century life as a windtunnel vacuum cleaner with a cyclone technology makeover if you’re not careful.
Fast forward to 2022 and Tubbymania was back, once again, as in November of last year, Netflix relaunched the show. That followed on from the animated series Teletubbies, Let’s Go! just two months prior and a 3D version looking at baby Tubbies, Tiddlytubbies.
Last year, the official quartet even auditioned on Britain’s Got Talent to celebrate 25 years in the biz, dancing to Beyoncé and One Direction while handing out antennae headbands.
The original Teletubbyland site where the Teletubbies went to play was Wimpstone Farm in Warwickshire, home to not only the Teletubbies but the iconic windmill, the Tubbytronic Superdome and way-oversized scary rabbits from Denmark, I believe. Having had the opportunity to be at Wimpstone Farm during filming of the original series, I couldn’t help but notice the sheer magnitude of the set. I had the great good fortune to visit ‘Teletubby-land’ a number of years ago to watch the filming of one of the 485 episodes created over the course of the original and reboot series from 1997-2018.
Without going into great detail that might give away all of Anne Wood’s carefully guarded secrets (the threat of being put on double-secret probation has no statue of limitations, unfortunately), the huge windmill towered over the farm while the 6-10 foot Teletubbies played amongst the flowers. The 2015 makeover was filmed on a ‘replica model set’. I think I’m with co-creator Anne Wood on this one and won’t be watching at 8:00a or 1:00a.
Besides the visual 2015 makeover, Jim Broadbent and Fearne Cotton (Top of the Pops) starred as the voice trumpets that, once again, came up out of the ground with Jane Horrocks (Absolutely Fabulous, Trollied) voicing he mobile phone looking ‘tubby phone’. I have to wonder who will be the face in the sun that overlooks Teletubbyland as (ready to feel old?), the original ‘face in the sun’ is now 25 years of age so she’s going to need a bit of a makeover too.
Given that the original viewers of the series are now adults, WildBrain, an animation studio and digital media company, fervently believe that the Teletubbies stand ready to re-enter the zeitgeist through “over-the-top fun moments in pop culture, fashion and important causes”. One of the more recent causes has been to support gay pride by teaming up with the labels Ellesse and GoGuy for a Pride collection.
In: Odds & Sods