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Monday, March 16, 1998 Published at 11:56 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Gift of speech for Teletubbies
image: [ The factory is working flat out to meet production targets ]
The factory is working flat out to meet production targets

After the family traumas caused by the shortage of Teletubby dolls in the run-up to Christmas, manufacturers are under pressure to ensure that the next generation of the toys reaches the shops on time.

Talking teletubbies hit the toy shops next month and at one factory in Southern China production is now in full swing.

[ image: Po lies on the early stages of the line ... inside out]
Po lies on the early stages of the line ... inside out
In stage one of the production line lie 50,000 heads. On the floor above, stitching is underway and it is a race against time to meet the target of 400,000 dolls by the end of March.

All 1,500 workers there are dedicated to the Teletubby production drive. Chinese television does not show the series though, so Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po mean little to the people who make them.

Teletubbies are just another product and the factory workers call them "the aliens".

[ image: 400,000 dolls must be ready for toy shops by next month]
400,000 dolls must be ready for toy shops by next month
Machinists there are paid not by the hour but according to how many dolls they turn out.

However, no workers are allowed to speak to outsiders. Since British newspaper allegations were made about labour exploitation, only the boss talks to the media.

John Hales, chief executive of Golden Bear, told BBC Breakfast News: "These allegations are totally unfounded and are simply not true. The British Toy Manufacturers' Association, of which we are a member, introduced, a couple of years ago, a code of conduct which we have to abide by."

[ image: Factory workers call Teletubbies
Factory workers call Teletubbies "aliens"
This means ensuring that everyone who works there is at least 18 and in a safe, clean environment. Nevertheless, this factory in southern China is a long way from the cosy certainties of Home Hill.

It feels like Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po are preparing to take over the world and the girls can scarcely keep up with demand for Teletubbies.

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