Was the "Teletubbies" television show based on a story of four psychotic children who purportedly were abused and who ultimately died horrifying deaths in a mental health institution? No, that's not true: The creators of the show said they were inspired by astronauts from the moon landing in creating their characters and by British comedians.
The claim appeared in a video on Instagram on March 13, 2023. The voice narration matches the captions. It opened:
The Teletubbies conspiracy theory claims that the show was inspired by events in a Bulgarian mental facility called La La Land.
Psychotic children were purportedly isolated in dark rooms, and apparently four children who died on the same day inspired the characters in Teletubbies.
Here is what the post looked like at the time of writing:
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Tue Mar 21 14:57:11 2023 UTC)
The video posted claims that the four colorful television characters were based on children who were horrifically abused while locked up in a mental institution. The video claims the tortured children found their only comfort in the televisions in their room. However, "when they got word that the mental institution was getting rid of them, the children concocted a plan to hide the TVs. The children would rip out their insides to hide the miniature TV sets that were too big to swallow, only to be found dead by the returning caregivers the next morning."
The video gives no evidence of any kind to substantiate that story.
The video uses doctored photos of the characters from the show, making them look evil and distorted. Here is the image of Tinky Winky from the video:
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Tue Mar 21 20:55:22 2023 UTC)
Here is an image from flickr of what the Tinky Winky character looked like on the show:
(Source: flickr screenshot taken on Tue Mar 21 20:56:34 2023 UTC)
The Teletubbies conspiracy theory was originally posted in 2013 as a creepypasta post, which are user-generated horror stories posted on the internet. It was a similar tale of the show purportedly being based on children in a mental institution.
The creators of "Teletubbies" said in an interview it was based on the combination of a Smithsonian exhibit and British comedians.
Anne Wood, co-creator of the show, and Andrew Davenport, the series writer, told The Guardian in a 2013 article titled, "How we made: Teletubbies," that their inspiration for the show's characters came from visiting the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Wood recalled the initial development of the show:
We were interested in how children were reacting to the increasingly technological environment of the late 1990s. We'd just visited the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and Andrew [Davenport] had been amused at how astronauts looked like toddlers in nappies.
Davenport shared his inspiration for the characters, including references to British comedian Benny Hill and the comic duo of Morecambe and Wise:
I was fascinated by the moon landings. It struck me as funny that, at this pinnacle of human achievement, the figures that emerged in bulky spacesuits from landing capsules are like toddlers, with oversized heads and foreshortened legs - and they respond to the excitement of their new world by bouncing about. So I devised characters based on spacemen, with limited language just like the emergent speech of young children. I was inspired by Benny Hill, who sometimes used speeded-up film of people for his gags, and the physical humour of Morecambe and Wise.
The conspiracy video claims to explain why the characters are called Teletubbies:
The children's main source of comfort were the television sets in their room ... and when they got word that the mental institution was getting rid of them, the children concocted a plan to hide the TVs. The children would rip out their insides to hide the miniature TV sets that were too big to swallow, only to be found dead by the returning caregivers the next morning.
Davenport explained why he put television screens in the tummies of the characters:
Part of the BBC's brief was to include live-action pictures of children. This presented problems. Tinky Winky was 8ft 6in tall so the Teletubbies would have seemed like monsters to kids. So I put TVs on to their tummies: I was entertained by the idea that the Teletubbies watch children on their screens with the same fascination that children watch Teletubbies on theirs.