CBeebies app retells Sir David Attenborough's escapades for toddlers

The 90-year-old broadcaster launches an animated series in which he revisits some of the most famous scenes of his TV career

He has waded with chimps, whispered with lyrebirds and cuddled mountain gorillas, but now Sir David Attenborough will be encountering some of his most challenging creatures yet – in a new animated series for toddlers.

The 90-year-old broadcaster is launching a series for very young children on the CBeebies app Storytime, in which a cartoon version of the naturalist revisits some of the most famous creatures of his career.

Attenborough’s Adventures will follow the broadcaster on expeditions dating from 1956, when he encountered komodo dragons on his first wildlife programme Zoo Quest, to 2016, when he presented a virtual reality programme about the world’s largest known dinosaur, the titanosaur.

The first episode, entitled David and the Gorilla Quest, recreates his famous 1978 expedition to Rwanda to film mountain gorillas, when one of the baby animals climbed on to his lap. This footage was on TV in 1979’s Life on Earth series.

“You want the very best people to narrate your stories,” Kay Benbow, controller of CBeebies, told the Guardian, “and although our very youngest audience aren’t going to know who Sir David Attenborough is, their parents are.

“He has a wonderful voice, he’s extremely eloquent … and the stories from [his] life are so fascinating for all ages, whether the children have seen the original footage or not. The story is still utterly charming and engaging. And so the idea was born.”

She would have loved, “of course”, to have explored the possibility of making a full series for broadcast, but said: “I think it’s about Sir David’s availability. Who wouldn’t want him [to record] a series, but I think he’s pretty booked up with the Natural History Unit. So we thought, let’s do what we can.”

The series, illustrated by Will Rose, is intended to help teach children how to read, said Benbow, and invites them to listen to Attenborough’s narration and interact with the app, answering questions once the story is done.

The Storytime app, one of three launched by the digital channel, has been downloaded 2.4m times and is read each week by 176,000 children across the UK.

Other “greatest hits” revisited in the five-part series include a 1990 film about termite mounds for The Trials of Life, recreated for the episode David and the Hidden City, and another Zoo Quest clip from 1957 in which he travelled to Papua New Guinea in search of birds of paradise, remade as David and the Treasure Hunter.

Attenborough said he was “thrilled that we’ve brought to life many fond memories of my exploration of the natural world for young children to explore and learn”.

So how easily does the nonagenarian Attenborough connect with the under sixes?

“I think Sir David Attenborough works for everybody,” said Benbow. “If you think about all the programmes he does, he tells you a wonderful story and brings it to life. That’s a wonderful skill – why wouldn’t we want him for CBeebies?”


Esther Addley

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
David Attenborough hologram to front tour guide phone app
Augmented reality app lets people visit UK green spaces with ‘Attenborough in your pocket’

Mark Sweney

13, Jan, 2021 @12:01 AM

Article image
BBC chairman warns end of licence fee would mean no CBeebies
Subscription service would lead to ‘big cuts’ to children’s and local TV, says David Clementi

Jim Waterson Media editor

11, Feb, 2020 @10:30 PM

Article image
Sir David Attenborough's TV life: the BBC looks back

Retrospective expected to be aired next year will mark 60 years since the naturalist joined the corporation in 1952

Ben Dowell

07, Apr, 2011 @6:38 PM

Article image
'Just don't waste': David Attenborough's heartfelt message to next generation
At launch of BBC nature series Seven Worlds, One Planet, Attenborough says message is finally getting through

Kate Abbott TV editor

18, Oct, 2019 @11:01 PM

Article image
Teletubbies set to return to CBeebies with new cast
Jane Horrocks, Jim Broadbent and Fearne Cotton will voice the BBC show, which last aired in 2001

Alexandra Topping

07, Apr, 2015 @8:46 AM

Article image
David Attenborough calls for more BBC arts coverage
Veteran broadcaster pushes corporation to showcase new attitudes and voices.

Aamna Mohdin

24, Sep, 2018 @11:01 PM

Article image
David Attenborough: I'll retire if my work becomes substandard
In rare comments on prospect of retirement, Blue Planet II narrator says physical problems could also force him to quit

Graham Ruddick

03, Jan, 2018 @12:01 AM

Article image
BBC's David Attenborough app offers over 1,000 clips free
Project marking presenter’s 90th birthday features footage from series including Zoo Quest, Planet Earth, and Frozen Planet

Mark Sweney

08, May, 2016 @6:00 AM

Article image
Sir David Attenborough to return for BBC's Blue Planet II
Seven-episode series to air this year will include footage of newly discovered and never-before filmed creatures

Jasper Jackson

20, Feb, 2017 @1:15 PM

Article image
David Attenborough's Life on BBC1

Life is David Attenborough's latest BBC wildlife epic, capturing the lives of creatures from hippos to butterflies; seals to beetles

09, Oct, 2009 @2:44 PM