6th November 2018
Words by Maddy Darrall
In 2014, Darrall Macqueen began working with DHX Media to bring the Teletubbies back to the small screen. Using the latest technology and recent developments in CGI, the team enhanced and invigorated this family favourite ready for a new generation of young fans.
The original Teletubbies episodes, made between 1997 and 2001, were filmed on location outdoors – but the outdoor scenes in the new episodes were filmed on blue screen in a studio in West London. Here’s how they brought that lush, green meadow to life:
- The Teletubby landscape is a 1:20 scale model that wraps 360 degrees around the Home Dome. It features five variations of hillock formation, repeated three times over the landscape, which allowed the team to film in three locations in one set up just by changing the back plate.
- According to Director of Photography, Simon Reay, one of the joys of working on the new series was the opportunity to bring established methods of miniature photography up to date with sophisticated new technology. Simon and the Director, Jack Jameson, were able to view a live overlay when shooting on blue screen for a corresponding plate shot of the model. By overlaying the two in real time, they could see the 8-foot-tall Teletubbies within the model world, along with all the CGI elements in position.
- At the other extreme, the most historic technology on set was a Theodolite that dated back to the Second World War. This optical protractor is used to measure angles in the horizontal and vertical planes; for this project the team needed it to scale up the miniature model to the full sized set.
- The grass was made by a company in Germany. Production Designer Ant Howells considered six different samples before settling on the right mix of green and yellow, then his team used nail scissors, hairdressing scissors and beard trimmers to chop and shape the 6mm high blades into a realistic meadow. They added longer blades, 20,000 laser-cut flowers and 40,000 real dried flowers by hand to complete the landscape.
- Tubby Custard is made from a diuretic food thickener with added pink dye. It often went off and needed to be replenished regularly. The Art Department hand-made over 100 Tubby Custard splats out of silicon.
- The Teletubbies title sequence was recorded over a period of three hours with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra at Media City in Manchester. The musicians wore headphones so that they could hear the click track to ensure they were playing in time with the shots of the title sequence.
- The new Teletubbies series were filmed at Twickenham Film Studios in West London. Recent productions filmed on the same stage include Victor Frankenstein, with Daniel Radcliffe, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, and Before I Go to Sleep starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.