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Monday, 22 November, 1999, 09:05 GMT
Happy 50th birthday Noddy
Noddy appearing in a BBC promotional video

He still looks as bright as a button with his trademark cheeky smile - so it is hard to believe Noddy is celebrating his 50th birthday.

Despite his age, Enid Blyton's mischievous little boy, and his aurally-overendowed sidekick Big Ears, is as popular as ever.

Four million Noddy books are sold worldwide every year.

After undergoing several anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-elitist makeovers Noddy, shorn of the beastly Golliwogs, is as politically correct as they come.

Noddy nostalgia
24 books published since 1949
More than 200 million copies sold worldwide
Noddy merchandising worth 50m
Books translated in to more than 20 languages
Noddy in children's top ten in Japan
It was in 1949 that Enid Blyton first thought up the characters which were to transform her into the 20th century's most successful children's writer.

The original watercolour drawings of Noddy and Big Ears were sent to her for approval by Dutch illustrator Harmsen Van der Beek, and she snapped them up.

It was these images which helped to launch the cheeky little boy and his friends into the world to charm millions with the first book, Noddy Goes To Toyland.

Mr Van Der Beek died suddenly in 1953 after confessing to his publisher sometimes all he could see were little Noddies crawling over his desk.

Enid Blyton died in 1968.

Golliwogs given marching orders

But more than 200 million books in 27 languages and countless TV episodes later, Noddy is still a firm favourite.

He is known as Oui Oui in France, Doddi in Iceland, Purzelknirps in Germany and Hilitos in Spain.

But Noddy's fairy-tale life has been far from trouble-free.

His co-stars, the black-skinned Golliwogs of Golly Town were given their marching orders amid complaints of racist overtones. They were Toytown's criminal element who once stole Noddy's prized car.

To counter criticisms of sexism in their animated series, the BBC introduced a character called Dinah Doll to Toytown in 1992 who was described as a "black, assertive, ethnic minority female".

'Middle-class snob'

Noddy was also branded a middle-class snob, prompting book and television rewrites to make him more "normal".

Now, in what purists may consider the worst slight of all, Noddy is even being transplanted to the US and given a gang of new American friends.

A 5m animated series of Noddy's adventures was shown to great acclaim on US television last year.

Noddy spoke with an American accent, Mr Plod the policeman became Officer Plod, and, so as not to offend the aurally challenged, Big Ears was called Whitebeard.

Pleasing every sensitivity is often difficult.

When the Golliwogs became goblins in 1989, protests were received from Scandinavian countries who believed their trolls were being insulted.

Noddy's popularity remains as strong as ever, according to Enid Blyton Ltd, the company responsible for continued global popularity.

Friends star Lisa Kudrow counts herself as a fan
Among Noddy's British fans are All Saints singer Nicole Appleton, TV star Jonathan Ross - who once got himself a spin in Noddy's famous yellow car - and pop stars Ronan Keating and Simon le Bon.

According to Enid Blyton Ltd, the latest grown-up recruits to the Noddy fan club also include actor Jack Nicholson and Friends start Lisa Kudrow, who clamoured to have their picture taken with him at the Aids Paediatric event in New York in June.

Another highlight of this year was when Noddy, dressed as always in his jingly blue hat, was asked to ring the famous bell at the New York Stock Exchange to signal the start of the day's trading on Wall Street.

A generation of baby boomers has grown up with Noddy - but as he notches up his half century, you can be certain he will enter the millennium ready to reach a new army of fans.

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See also:
07 Sep 98 |  Entertainment
US success for Noddy
24 Nov 98 |  Entertainment
Noddy sale raises thousands
07 Jan 99 |  Entertainment
Noddy in virtual toyland
15 Jan 99 |  Entertainment
Noddy keeps his English voice
08 Mar 99 |  Entertainment
Barbie: Sparkling at 40
22 Jul 99 |  Entertainment
Treasure in TV's toychest

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