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Sunday, 12 April, 1998, 05:21 GMT 06:21 UK
Teletubbies take America by storm
Ethnic diversity of Teletubbies wins American affections
After becoming a national obsession in Britain, the Teletubbies are now trying to conquer the world.

With their faces on sides of skyscrapers from Hollywood in California to Times Square in New York, Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po are the most talked about children entertainers in North America.

The cuddly foursome are reaching a new audience with their appearance on television screens across North America.

Teletubbie toy
Toys go on sale in August
Teletubby mania is expected to get bigger when a new line of toys, different from those available in Britain, is launched in American shops in August.

Newspapers in North America have dubbed the stars, with aerials on their heads and televisions in their tummies, the Fab Four.

Canada's The Globe and Mail described them as "Barney on drugs", "Care Bears on a hippie commune" or "Ewoks after a lobotomy".

Teletubbie advert
The cuddly four grace the world's tallest buildings
The Washington Post compared the Teletubbies phenomenon to the success of Sesame Street.

It said the Fab Four appealed among American children and adults because of their ethnic diversity.

"Dipsy is black, Po Chinese. And they have somewhat distinct personalities," it said.

"The cloying Laa-Laa is somehow a little harder to take than others. Tinky Winky, the heaviest, looks like an eggplant with cellulite. He also sometimes carries a red purse, which has won him popularity among gay viewers."

Barney upstaged by four phenomenon
Elizabeth Knowle, whose son is a Teletubbies fan, shares this view.

"There's so much more ethnic diversity of every kind; in skin colour, ethnicity, shapes, size and gender," she said.

"The Teletubbies are different colours in their little suits but they are basically all alike. It's funny how that really is striking compared to what you get used to watching American children's programmes."

But Peggy Charen, founder of Action for Children's TV, is worried about its effect on children who have not yet learned to speak. Parents in Britain have voiced similar concerns.

"In the beginning I was a little disturbed by the idea that they were was designed for one-year-olds," she said.

"I think that the best television for children who have to be propped up to watch it is no television at all."

See also:

07 Dec 97 | UK
Teletubbies top the charts
02 Feb 98 | UK
Teletubbies top toy sales
27 Dec 97 | Teletubbies
The Teletubbies' rise to stardom
16 Mar 98 | Asia-Pacific
Gift of speech for Teletubbies
07 Apr 98 | World
Teletubbies go west
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