He’s been accused of ‘dumbing down’ toddlers, but Andrew Davenport is still the top hit-maker of preschool TV – and the name Pepi Nana is about to become very familiar to every parent in the world
We’ve not even started watching Moon and Me, the new CBeebies show by Teletubbies creator Andrew Davenport, and it’s already a hit in our house.
“I need that one! I need that one!” pleads my two-year-old daughter, pointing at a tiny thumbnail image of the show’s characters – Pepi Nana and Moon Baby – while it downloads for our test screening. Before I have time to explain to her once again the difference between “need” and “want” (you need food and oxygen, you only want to throw my umbrella in the bath), she’s dancing to the theme tune, talking to the characters like old friends and marvelling at the huge moon the show revolves around.
Another child transfixed! Just how does Davenport do this? Sadly for those looking for a quick childcare fix, the answer seems to be: incredible instinct and a lot of painstaking research.
For Moon and Me, Davenport, 53, teamed up with the University of Sheffield to develop a project in which cameras were set up all over a toy house, so they could observe a day in the life of a toy while they’re being played with.
“It was like the Big Brother house only with toys,” he laughs.
Their spying revealed some interesting findings – a fascination with stairs, and an insistence that there’s no better party than a tea party. Such things informed Moon and Me’s narrative, which is inspired by the Rumer Godden and Enid Blyton toyhouse stories of the 1930s and 40s. Pepi Nana is a toy who comes to life whenever the moon comes out (and her owner is asleep). Moon Baby visits them from the moon and, in what some people might deem a rude guest, proceeds to wake the rest of the toyhouse with an African thumb piano. He then guides them to Storyland for a story and a song. The whole thing retains the magical vibe of In the Night Garden, yet has a more traditional and homemade feel.