He is one of the most popular children’s characters ever, his show has been translated into 45 languages and shown in almost every country on the planet with worldwide revenues topping more than $5 billion.
But the name on the lips of millions of children could very easily have been Bob the Construction Worker.
The character’s creator Keith Chapman also reveals in tomorrow’s Radio Times that Bill the Builder was another name under consideration.
He tells the magazine: “It was a toss-up between Bill the Builder and Bob the Builder. But Bill didn’t sound quite right.”
As for “Bob the Construction Worker”, Chapman explains that the term “builder” isn’t often used in America, and if he was considering selling the programme overseas… “but, thankfully, in the end they let us keep the name.”
Other pioneers of children’s TV tell Radio Times how they came by their monikers too.
Anne Wood, co-creator of Teletubbies, says the name Tinky Winky “just came to me. Then we sat down and worked out the other names so it went in a nice rhythm: Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po. It took about half an hour.”
Lauren Child, who came up with Charlie and Lola, says that the cadence was important when choosing names: “I liked the sing-song sound of Charlie and Lola, they work well together and are easy to say.”
Back in 1999 when she created the lovable brother and sister, few little girls were called Lola, “but I sensed that there was something in the air and that this name would become popular. This has proved to be the case – I now meet countless Lolas.”
Child also reveals says that a proposed episode in which Lola caught head-lice was rejected by a squeamish Disney corporation, which had partially financed the show. Meanwhile, in the original books, Lola eats biscuits and crisps and sometimes stands on chairs but this is banned in the BBC version where she snacks on fruit and never climbs on furniture.
“And we almost had a problem with Lola doing forward rolls,” adds Child. “The BBC got terribly worried she could have a dreadful accident and break her neck. It doesn’t matter that she and Charlie are fictional, and they’re made of paper. The designers had to draw a very squishy mattress for her to do her forward roll on.”
The new issue of Radio Times is on sale on Tuesday
Ben has worked as a professional journalist specialising in TV and the arts for nearly twenty years writing for Stage newspaper, Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Times, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Broadcast, Independent and the New Statesman where he wrote a column.