At Ladybird, we are very excited as our favourite twins, Topsy and Tim, arrive on TV screens this week. Inspired by Jean and Gareth Adamson’s best-loved book series, Topsy and Tim is a fantastic new live-action drama for pre-schoolers, all about the ‘big’ things in little ones’ lives.
But just how easy was it to take a classic children’s book series and turn it into a live-action drama for television? We take a look behind the scenes to trace the development from book to screen, and see how the perfect TV Topsy and Tim were found!
It all began when one of the Executive Producers, Maddy Darrall, was on holiday with her children and in the holiday cottage was a selection of Topsy and Tim stories. Maddy read these stories with her children every night and they enjoyed them so much that she bought some on her return home.
It so happened that, at this time, the production company, Darrall Macqueen were looking for the right brand to pitch the idea of a preschool, live action series to CBeebies. Topsy and Tim seemed the perfect fit! Penguin were also looking for a TV home for Ladybird’s favourite twins and so the story began…
The next step was the search for the children who would play Topsy and Tim. Hundreds and hundreds of children were auditioned over a period of several months. Lots of mixed sex twins were auditioned to find a genuine brother and sister pairing and also same sex twins were auditioned in the hope of casting twin girls to play Topsy and twin boys to play Tim, as to have two children splitting one part would have meant less reliance on one child for filming.
However, in the end, it wasn’t twins that were chosen but two unrelated children, Jocelyn Macnab and Joshua Lester. Topsy and Tim Producer, Fiona Robinson explained why Jocelyn and Joshua fitted the bill so perfectly: "They absolutely shone in their auditions and made a wonderful pairing. They were able to display a brilliant sibling chemistry, despite being completely unrelated and very different personalities. The way they work on set is also very complimentary. As a pair and individually, they astound me each day with their capability."
Filming began at Twickenham Studios in March and was, by all accounts, a lot of fun. Filming (five days a week for most weeks of 2013) was understandably a big commitment for the young cast and their families and so the production team tried to keep things as fun as they could so they could enjoy the filming experience. Producer Fiona Robinson told Ladybird, "Before Hallowe'en, we surprised the children by dressing up in ghostly costumes and masks and we decorated the green room and backstage areas with fake cobwebs and spiders. I'm not sure who had more fun though, the kids or the crew!"
Jean Adamson, who started writing the Topsy and Tim books with her late husband Gareth in 1959, said she is "tickled pink that Topsy and Tim are still relevant to today’s audiences". Jean visited the set during filming to meet the cast and crew and take a tour around Topsy and Tim’s house – here she is with Mummy, Dad, Topsy and Tim – they all look very cosy on the sofa together!
At the end of October, with filming was over and editing finished, the cast and crew joined Jean and a host of celebrities from the world of television and music at a launch party for the series.
We hope you and your children enjoy watching Topsy and Tim. We’ll leave the last word to Heather Crossley, Ladybird Publisher and an Executive Producer of the programme: "Topsy and Tim gently explores all the key milestones in young children's worlds and allows them to engage and empathise with characters that are just like them. Topsy and Tim is already phenomenally successful as books, ebooks and apps published by Ladybird. TV is the natural next step for our favourite twins."
Topsy and Tim, starts Monday 11th November at 5.30pm on CBeebies.
Visit the Topsy and Tim website for more about Topsy and Tim books, watch the TV trailer and download free activity sheets.