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Big Babies

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David Thair | 17:00 UK time, Monday, 15 March 2010

Big Babies
Big Babies, a new show starting today on CBBC (that's right, the children's BBC channel) features some familiar faces from our very own Comedy Extra - albeit planted onto the bodies of babies.

That's because it's a groundbreaking co-production between the BBC's in-house children's and Comedy departments, and comes from members of the comedy collective Broken Biscuits.

The Making of Big Babies

Big Babies started as a twinkle in the eye of music video director Jon Riche, who'd always wanted to make a music video with a band's heads transposed on babies' bodies. Unable to convince a band to do it, he hooked up with writer and performer Spencer Jones and, after borrowing a couple of babies for an hour and filming on a sofa, the idea for Big Babies was born. But it was when they joined forces with BBC comedy producer Jack Cheshire (who produced the visually ambitious sketch show The Wrong Door) that the project really started to grow:

"I was making a taster tape for a sketch show with Jon and Spencer after Sharon Horgan had introduced us and there was a sketch that the boys had just finished that featured the baby characters and showed the concept," recalls Jack. "I played the clip at a BBC cross-genre event and CBBC producer Japhet Asher and I got talking, took the clip to the CBBC Controller, who loved it and commissioned a script.  The next thing we knew there was a pilot, then a series, and we've been working together on it ever since!"

Armed with the concept, the team then had to go about creating it - taking into consideration a process which included puppets, babies, visual effects... and actors.

"It's an insanely complicated process," admits Jack. "Everything has to be written twice, shot twice and edited twice before the VFX team can go to work on the finished cut. It's quite an achievement to have made the show at all, let alone to have made something this good!"

Japhet explains the process in more depth: "We shoot the script with the babies and the puppets on location, and then we do an edit and a complete rewrite because the babies don't do anything that was in the original script, but a load of completely brilliant other stuff instead. Babies take direction very badly you see! Then we shoot the boys' heads against greenscreen performing the dialogue. Then we edit it all again. And then a tiny and brilliant VFX team goes to work tracking and compositing the babies' heads."

So how did they go about filming the babies?

"With difficulty," laughs Jack. "You can only have babies on camera for half an hour at a time so we had to have about ten babies on set a day. We took over an empty house in South London, built our sets in the reception rooms and used the rest of the house as a kind of crèche-come-studio-come-production office. It was madness, with babies swapping costumes and chaperones and puppeteers leaping in and out of shot and a nursery upstairs and sets being built in the garden. Every time we called upstairs for a new pair of babies we'd get a message back saying they were having a nap, or doing a poo, or having their fourth lunch of the afternoon. They were very much like actors actually."

Big Babies - birdsJaphet recalls: "We made one episode in a pet shop. You look around and realize you've brought together the unholy trinity of TV no-nos; working with babies, animals and puppets - all at the same time in the same location. Pure media madness!"

But despite, the challenges the new parents are immensely proud of their new comedy baby.  Says Jack:

"There's something about the mix of completely natural baby movements with Spencer and Martin's comedy performances that just works. It feels very fresh and funny and genuinely childlike. It's not like anything else you've ever seen and it appeals to everyone from the ages of 2 to 102.

"I've worked on some tough shows in the past but never one where literally everyone involved has had to work so hard, and for so long," he adds "The whole team have been fantastic. Jon and Spencer have been unbelievable. I'm so proud of them. I've got two young kids - you can imagine how exciting it is for me to be able to show them a childrens' show - on CBBC - that I've been involved with and that I'm really proud of. That's about as rewarding as it gets!"

Japhet agrees, he says: "Occasionally, you are blessed to work on a show where everyone involved feels they are caught up in something special. Every department goes the extra half-mile to make it great and Big Babies is one of those rare projects and it shows in the results. But this brings with it a level of responsibility to make sure we deliver a series that lives up to all those expectations. I think we've done that, and the reward is in the laughter we're already hearing from kids".

Big Babies starts today at 5.45pm on the CBBC Channel.


  • Comment number 1.

    Just seen the first episode now. Excellent. I think this is going to be as big (if not bigger) a hit with adults than it is with children. The expresions on the 'babies' faces mixed with the babies' body movements is priceless. Get rid of the cuddly toys and put it on later at night, give more 'grown ups' a chance to appreciate this. :o)

  • Comment number 2.

    Big Babies has achieved cult comedy status amongst the whole family in our house. The 'Only Fools and Horses' episode where the babies visit the market is hilarious, and we had to watch the 'Nine pounds' bit again and again - my seven year old was practically wetting himself. The comedy is top notch and the characters, including the cuddly toys, are brilliant. We particularly like the dancing white teddy and Budge with his crush on Princess Ga Ga and passion for biscuits. Looking forward to seeing many more episodes in the future.

  • Comment number 3.

    Big Babies is brilliant. Kids discovered it first and I had to enquire why they were laughing their little socks off. Soon I was joining in too. Hope it comes out on DVD. The kids (aged 8 and 5) will sit and watch episode after episode over and over again. Priceless.

  • Comment number 4.

    The funniest children's programme on television at the moment. It is a very talented writing team that can produce something that appeals to children whilst at the same time providing a separate set of subtle one-liners aimed at the mums and dads watching, too. eg. Brooks's parodied Parklife quote, "You need to cut down on your strawberry milk. Get some exercise."

    Just brilliant!

  • Comment number 5.

    BigBabies is by far the best comedy/kids show the BBc has shown for years. Charectors are all awesome, Rocco Brooks Gonch Budge etc me & kids and family all love it.
    Why are you only showing 2 episodes a fortnight?

    BBC, dont let this one go, its new and were all bored of the old stuff you continuely show..
    Sort it out!
    Stu & Ethan

  • Comment number 6.

    Fantastic show, my 3 year old discovered this but halfway through the series so I have 4 episodes recorded - Treaure map, Nans house, Market and Pet shop, what other ones have we missed?

    I love the mix of baby jerky movements which are funny to watch in themselves but with the guys faces on is just comic genius, I agree with the first comment, put it on later at night for the adults lol

    I can sit with my daughter and watch Big Babies over and over and I can't say that with many kids programmes (yawn!) we also sing the car song whenever we go out.

    Keep up the good work, hope this comes out on DVD

  • Comment number 7.

    Dear BBC, Big Babies is an excellent program. Funny for the kids and great for the adults. I sincerely hope that you green light another series. In fact as a TV Licence payer, I demand it! Your's Humbly!

    We're in the car and off we go, we're down the hill and up the road where do we go we just know, where we're off today!! Yay!


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