Part 10: The case of the exploding bear

There comes a time in the life of any New Zealander from the generation known as “X”, when one must look back and wonder what happened to the Play School toys.

Big Ted, Manu and Humpty now live at Te Papa, the sign at the Otago Settlers Museum says. The bear, the wahine and the curious round gent are most likely enjoying life in the lush, climate-controlled national museum. “Aw yee-yah,” Big Ted no doubt exclaims to Buzzy Bee. “We had a TV show. We were all famous ‘n’ shit. It was platinum, baby. VIP.”

Jemima, the sign also notes, is awol. Is it true that she went to Sydney in the late-80s in order to further her career in television, only to find life in a new country harder than she expected? And is it true there’s crazy old junkie lady staggering around Kings Cross, with dyed ginger hair, muttering to herself about something called “the round window”?

Little Ted, however, can be found at the Otago Settlers Museum. But paying a visit to him will not result in a warm fuzzy wash of Generation X nostalgia, suitable for turning into a Mr Vintage T-shirt design.

This is because Little Ted ain’t got no head. He was ritually decapitated on the last day of filming in Dunedin. “Nya ha ha!” the production crew no doubt evilly cackled as the explosives were detonated, resulting in a cascade of yellow fur and kapok. “Who’s the pretty boy TV star now, eh?”

While the headless corpse of Little Ted is on display at the Otago Settlers Museum, it’s certainly not in a prominent spot. Ted lurks down a dark alcove, well away from the more glamorous parts of the museum. If you want to visit him, you have to seek him out, past the exhibited bucket of KFC, through the eerie hall of portraits of Dunedin’s settlers, and down a narrow corridor that was possibly a route to a fire exit in a former life. Or perhaps you’ll just stumble across him and find yourself a little shocked to see his remains.

Little Ted is a reminder of what can happen to those who are drawn into the appealing world of showbiz. One day you can be starring in a daily television programme; the next you’ve had your head blown up (for a laugh!) by your (former) colleagues.

It’s a cruel world.

Little Ted ain't got no head

3 thoughts on “Part 10: The case of the exploding bear”

  1. one of the last things we did in the UK before emigrating to New Zealand less than 3 months ago was to go watch a comedy show being made at the BBC studios in London.

    The show is set in a toy shop and on display was (allegedly) original big ted as used in the UK version of Play School. The warm up man started telling us about them but was quickly silenced by the production staff so i don’t think we were meant to know (but the truth is out now perhaps?)

    We didn’t have a Manu in the UK, but we did have a Hamble, affectionally described ‘the hate figure of the under-fives for the entire run of the programme’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/classic/playschool/trivia.shtml

    I shall definitely visit Te Papa to track these distant relatives of my own childhood idols. Albeit in their decapitated form.

  2. I have heard of Hamble! An English woman I work with is filled with a strange hatred for the frumpy little doll. Fortunately Manu was a much nicer one.

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