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Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 07:48 GMT 08:48 UK


The battle for tots' TV

The Tweenies: Mix fantasy and real life

Things could be about to get messy in the clean-cut world of toddlers' TV with the launch of two new programmes to win over the under-fives.

The Tweenies are BBC One's new daily draw for pre-school children, while ITV's breakfast station GMTV is also entering the fray - with the rainbow-coloured Jellikins.

[ image: The Teletubbies: Continue to have great success]
The Teletubbies: Continue to have great success
But these new kids on the block will not just be battling each other. The reigning champions of children's TV - the Teletubbies - could prove difficult to knock off their throne.

Children's television has become fiercely competitive and, for those with the magic formula, potentially a multi-million pound business.

Ragdoll Productions - the company behind the Teletubbies - has clearly found that magic combination, making several million pounds for itself and the BBC out of the characters.

Now both the BBC and GMTV no doubt hope that their new ventures, the Tweenies and the Jellikins, will follow in the footsteps of Laa-Laa, Dipsy, Tinky Winky and Po.

Good character

The BBC says the Tweenies, made by independent producer Tell-Tale Productions, is for youngsters who have graduated from the Teletubbies.

Nonetheless, comparisons between the two can still be made, starting with characterisation again playing an important part.

Move aside Tinky Winky and company, Tweenies brings Jake, Fizz, Milo and Bella - four brightly coloured child-like characters who play and explore their world.

[ image: The Jellikins: New for tots on GMTV]
The Jellikins: New for tots on GMTV
The Teletubbies have their mischief-making pet vacuum Noo-noo. The Tweenies have Doodles the dog.

They also have a slogan: Are You Ready To Play? - clearly more comprehensible than what comes out of the Teletubbies' mouths.

Over on GMTV, a similar formula is being put into play. Strum, Bouncey, Amber, Coral, Denny and Pepper are six jelly babies of different hues who live in a Jelly World with Duffy the Dragon.

The station describes the Jellikins as "six, happy loveable characters" whose "main aim in life is to make rainbows for anyone who needs them with their Jellyscope".

Reality dawns

There are vital differences between the two shows. Whereas the Jellikins - and the Teletubbies - operate in a completely make-believe world, the Tweenies let reality creep in.

They are looked after by two human adult helpers, Judy and Max. Doodles is a real dog. Even the Tweenies themselves, it seems, have different ages and emotional depth.

Producer Will Brenton said: "We wanted the Tweenies to walk, talk and have the dexterity that youngsters have and we wanted them to be able to convey emotion and character through their facial expressions."

[ image: Rik Mayall: His children are fans of his new friends]
Rik Mayall: His children are fans of his new friends
Fantasy in children's TV is often considered a winner in the popularity, and nostalgia, stakes.

The unlikely Clangers or the Magic Roundabout, for example, are considered perennial favourites. The Teletubbies couldn't be further from real life.

Comedy actor Rik Mayall - who voiced the Jellikins' adventures - said his children are already big fans.

"My three-year-old daughter Bonnie adores the Jellikins. She's so involved and transfixed when she watches it. My son, Sid, who's 10, loves it too. He falls about laughing," he said.

But GMTV could still find itself at a disadvantage - it is only showing 78 twice-weekly episodes of the Jellikins, compared to the 260 daily adventures of the Tweenies on the BBC.

As for the Teletubbies, a BBC spokesperson insisted they are still going strong and will be around "for a very, very long time to come".

The Tweenies starts in early September on BBC Two. The Jellikins can be seen at 06.50BST on GMTV from 31 July.

The Teletubbies is currently running each week day morning on BBC One at 10.20BST.

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