Say 'eh-oh' to the Teletubbies Sun Baby and 10 fun facts about the hit children's show

Jess Smith, 19, reveals she was the baby superimposed in the sun in Teletubbies. -- PHOTO: FACEBOOK / JESS SMITH 
Jess Smith, 19, reveals she was the baby superimposed in the sun in Teletubbies. -- PHOTO: FACEBOOK / JESS SMITH 

SINGAPORE - British student Jessica Smith has revealed that she was the giggling "sun baby" in hit 1990s children's television show Teletubbies.

Her laughing face and wide eyes appear in every episode, within the sun which rises over Teletubbyland. The bucolic Teletubbyland is where four Teletubbies - Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po, live.

They behave like toddlers and are famous for their Teletubby talk, with phrases like 'Eh-oh!', which means 'hello'.

The Sun baby's identity has been a mystery since the show began 19 years ago. She finally 'came out' in a Facebook post, British media reported on Tuesday.

In her post, she wrote: "So I've recently celebrated my 19th birthday and after a lot of thought, I've decided it's time to tell everyone.

"I used to hide it but after a lot of encouragement from my friends at university, I've gained the confidence to come out with it.

"I am the sun from Teletubbies. There has been quite a few people pretending to be 'the sun' but only I could tell you the real story."

Ms Smith was paid £250 (S$514) and given a box of toys for her part. Then a nine-month-old baby, she was put in a high chair for the filming so she would be looking down like the sun. Her father made her giggle by playing with a teddy bear behind the camera.

"No one knew how big the show was going to be so we didn't get offered royalties," she said.

Teletubbies, a BBC programme targeted at preschoolers, was a surprise hit and ran from 1997 to 2001. It was broadcast in more than 120 countries in 45 languages, and won a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award in 1998. It had a cult following among adults as well.

Here are 10 other things about the show you may not have known:

1. Red Teletubby Po speaks Cantonese

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Po is red and has a circular antenna. She is played by British-Chinese actress Lee Pui Fan, and can speak Cantonese. "As she scoots around she says 'fi-dit, fi-dit' which means faster, faster", according to the Teletubbies website. She also counts by saying "Yat, yee, san" (1,2,3 in Cantonese).

2. Green-coloured Dipsy is Black

Dipsy has a darker face than the rest of the Teletubbies and the makers have said he was intended to be black. He was played by black stand-up comedian John Simmit.

3. Tinky Winky compared the Teletubbies to the Beatles

Simon Shelton, who played the purple Tinky Winky, was a trained ballet dancer. He was reluctant to take the role at first, but said it turned out to be a good career move.

"We used to receive a lot of fan mail from kids and parents. I suppose we were a bit like the Beatles or the Take That of children's television,"

4. Life as a Teletubby was hard

Dancer Nikky Smedley, who plays Laa-Laa (the yellow one), told The Daily Mail in an interview that the actors worked 11-hour days and the suits were heavy and hot.

5. Many of the scenes had to be reshot

The outdoor set was located in rural farmlands. There were bunnies scampering all over Teletubbyland and whenever the camera caught them mating in the background, the scene had to be re-shot.

6. They had a hit single, produced by music and television producer Simon Cowell

Teletubbies say 'Eh-oh', was released in December 1997 by Simon Cowell's S Records. It reached no. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, and sold more than a million copies.

7. Teletubbies never age

One of the frequently asked questions on the show's website is if the Teletubbies age. The answer can be found on the Teletubbies website: "The Teletubbies are characters that behave like children aged about one or two. They will never grow older any more than Peter Rabbit, Kermit the Frog, Mickey Mouse or James Bond will age."

8. Tinky Winky is not gay

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American pastor Reverend Jerry Falwell attacked the show for "damaging the moral lives of children". He accused Tinky Winky of being gay because he is purple (the gay pride colour), has a triangle antenna (the gay pride symbol), and carries a red handbag. BBC said: "As far as we are concerned Tinky Winky is simply a sweet, technological baby with a magic bag."

9. There was a South Korean Sun Baby

When South Korean broadcaster KBS-2 bought the show in 1999, it replaced Jessica Smith's face with a Korean child in the sun. The Teletubbies were also re-named: Tinky Winky was Bora Dori, Laa Laa became Na-Na, Dipsy was Tubi and Po was called Ppo.

10. New episodes of the show coming your way

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Fans, take heart: This year, BBC announced that 60 new episodes of the show will be produced. You can also catch all 365 episodes broadcast from March 1997 to January 2001 on their Youtube channel.

Sources: BBC, Teletubbies website, Daily Mail, The Telegraph, Straits Times Archives

chuimin@sph.com.sg