I watched each episode of Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures several times and waited years before asking him a question: why? Why not just travel back in time before the egg was broken and take better care of it, rather than risking the fate of humanity by going back millions of years?
“I’m not doing it just for fun,” he stammers half-heartedly from his home in Bristol. “I do this for educational purposes. I take responsibility. I think this is the most important thing.
I want nothing more than to bring Day to justice for his ruthless abuse of the space-time continuum. However, I know that if I did, my kids would kill me. The longest-serving presenter on CBeebies, Day has spent nearly a decade and a half as the country’s unofficial babysitter. Tall, curly-haired and endlessly enthusiastic, Day is a steadfast pillar in the chain. He brings a spirit of playful authority to his screen time, a willingness to jump on two feet to any new situation. In addition, he sings his own name a lot.
You will know his shows, partly because many of them are made with the help of the BBC’s Natural History Unit, but mainly because they all have the word “Andy” in the title: Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures, Andy’s Aquatic Adventures, Andy’s Safari Adventures, Andy’s Secret Hideout, Andy Dinosaur Raps, Andy and the group. In addition, Day performs all of his thematic tunes, with lyrics mostly made up of the word “Andy”. In the opening sequence of Andy’s Baby Animals, for example, he sings his own name 12 times within 45 seconds.
“Look, I didn’t plan this,” he protests. “It just happened. Then he gives in. “I like trying to infiltrate the brains of the nation,” he admits. “’Andy, Andy, Andy.’ It’s actually hypnosis.
Day’s latest effort is a very sweet show called Andy’s Dino Toybox, where he just plays with dinosaur toys. The series was produced in direct response to Covid. Like Steph McGovern and Romesh Ranganathan before him, Day found himself producing it from his own home.“Do you remember Mrs. Doubtfire when he played with dinosaurs?” he asks. “I always thought it would be a great idea for a series. Just a really simple old school kids’ TV, me playing with dinosaurs, giving them knowledge. Then obviously the lockdown hit, and that was perfect because, in terms of budget, it costs a lot less than most shows. My other half, Kat, is a producer and director [the pair met on Andy’s Prehistoric Raps], and it’s very easy to work with it, which is great.
One potential problem, however, came in the form of Ruby, the couple’s two-year-old daughter. “The only way we could do that was obviously to shoot at night, when we were putting our little one down,” he says. “Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we would start filming around eight o’clock after putting her to bed, and end around eleven o’clock. Three and a half hours to do an episode. There was one night we couldn’t film because her molars were going through. We were just like, ‘Ah, we’re not going to do this, let’s go.’ Then the next day we ended up doing it at noon.
Despite this, fatherhood seems to be working well for Day. “I could talk all day about being a father,” he says. ” That’s great. He’s a great little character and we have a lot of fun. I can be dumb and play the game, and all the stuff I do on CBeebies anyway.
Has the fact of having a child changed the way it disseminates to children? “Whenever I do a presentation, I always imagine I’m talking to a kid, and it’s usually a six-year-old,” he says. “Now I have Rubes, and I imagine Rubes a little more. Before having children, I had met a lot of children, and communicated with children and entertained children, but there is nothing like having a real child and understanding a little more where it came from.
There was a minor storm earlier this year when BBC Chairman Sir David Clementi warned that replacing the license fee with a Netflix-like subscription model could potentially end CBeebies. As the face of a chain that could be in danger, how did he react to the news?
“I never worried because I think the things that last are the things that are useful,” he says. “CBeebies is a very educational, fun and safe place for parents to house their children. It could eventually become more online, but I still think it will be there. There is one more point in this. And I think kids and parents will always love to watch it. I just can’t see it happening anytime soon.
The whole television landscape has changed a lot since Day started on CBeebies. In his early days, he recalls, “the bonds of House CBeebies were much longer, and it was much more structured in some ways.” Now, the popularity of iPlayer means that many children go straight to shows, which means that the connective tissue in the CBeebies house is less important. Not that he seems worried, however. “I love being on preschool television,” he says. “I have done adult television, entertainment, and I would choose children’s television anytime.”
Which begs the question: After 14 solid years at the preschool pruning front, does Day have an exit strategy in mind? He begins to respond, only to endearingly lose himself in a defense of preschool TV as a medium.
“There was a time when children’s television was not always very popular,” he begins. “There has always been preschool television, but it wasn’t as important as it is now. But now it has become a very important market. And it should be. For some children, our shows teach them the ways of the world. They have the opportunity to experience things that they otherwise would not have been able to, because of their situation or whatever.
He stops. “What was the question again?” ”
Do you ever want to leave CBeebies?
“Oh, yeah,” he laughs. ” No. ”
Before I leave, I have just enough time for one last question. Who made you the sole arbiter of time travel? You have this incredible power, and yet you have chosen to keep it to yourself. What kind of man are you?
“Would you like to share a journey through time?” he stammers with indignation. “Everyone would like to try. There would be an absolute outcry. People were breaking down doors to enter the museum. There would be another pandemic. He shakes his head, resolute in his stance, still the cool older brother. “I can’t have this. “