WHILE her name may not ring a bell, Colleen Daley’s voice is instantly recognisable to millions of parents and children around the world.
The 50-year-old mum-of-two is the voice of Fizz, the loveable Tweenies character, famed for her beaded hair and floral pink dress, that took the pre-school world by storm in the late 90s.
“I never thought I’d be part of global phenomena,” Colleen tells Fabulous for Telly Timewarp, our new series where we chat to former small-screen icons.
“My friends drove me totally bonkers, they’d always want me to ‘do Fizz’ when we were in the pub. Then complete strangers would come over to me and would want to chat up Fizz. It was nuts.”
Colleen appeared in all 390 episodes of the show, which ran from 6 September 1999 to 25 July 2002.
Broadcasters in France, Australia, Portugal, South Africa and Singapore snapped up the rights, and it is still shown in many territories. The show is reported to have made BBC Worldwide more than £50m.
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Colleen says the Tweenies was such a phenomena that George Michael once approached her in the BBC canteen to talk about it.
“I remember choking on my sandwich,” she says. “I explained that I was recording tracks for the latest Tweenie album, not expecting him to have a clue what I was talking about but he asked me to do the voice.
“Me doing Fizz chatting to George Michael was surreal. I had no idea he was a Tweenie fanboy but that's the totally bonkers kind of ‘rock and roll life’ of the show.”
In 2000, the Tweenies won a Children’s BAFTA for Best Pre-school Live Action series, and the foursome released four albums, which spent weeks in the UK charts.
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Colleen, who was in Hornchurch, Essex, was 26-years-old and performing as the Good Fairy in Sleeping Beauty pantomime at The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry in March 1998 when she and her stage actor friends were approached by the pantomime producers and asked to help create a new characters for a possible children’s programme for the BBC.
The brainchild of writers Will Brenton and Iain Lauchlan, the programme featured four lifesize puppet-like characters known as the "Tweenies".
Fizz, Bella, Milo and Jake loved playing, singing, dancing, and learning in a fictional playgroup in England. Fizz was a particular hit with young girls thanks to her ballet obsession and love of the colour pink.
Colleen, who trained as a classical and musical theatre, spent almost a year preparing for the series to start in 1999. “It’s not just a case of going in and putting on a child’s voice,” she says.
“What people don't realise is that Fizz isn’t a one-woman show. It takes two people performing as her for each episode.”
Complete strangers would come over to me and would want to chat up Fizz
Fizz has a skin actor – in Colleen’s case it was Jenny Hutchinson who wore Fizz’s body and operated her hands and feet. Then Colleen used animatronics to operate her head, eyes and mouth, and voiced her.
“It’s something that shocks everyone,” she says. “People assume it’s just one actor in a suit.”
Colleen, who lives with her partner, Andy, 55, and mum to Lois, 14 and Betty 12, says Fizz’s “squeaky voice” was “modelled on my three year old toddler niece.” She says she’d often find herself doing the impression in weird and wonderful places.
“Shoppers would find themselves in aisle five standing next to me doing Fizz while I checked out the lingerie department or shopped for eggs” she says.
“I couldn’t refuse as Fizz brought so much joy to kids. I used to get a lot of weird looks, death stares and angry tuts from non-Fizz fans if I was out at dinner and someone asked for a Fizz chat and they were sitting near me and heard Fizz’s high pitched tone and recognised the Tweenie character.”
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Despite the show’s huge popularity, Colleen admits that Fizz had “haters”. She says: “People did troll me. One lady found out I was a Tweenie and immediately said ‘I hope you aren’t that ghastly sounding Fizz!’
“I smiled and politely answered her in the Fizz voice. Fizz told her I was, and I loved Fizz. When trolls met the real Fizz they immediately melted. I loved that.”
She says George Michael wasn’t the only famous fan. “Cold Feet’s John Thomson was a secret fan and asked me to do the voice, Danny Baker is a fan and gushed when I did Fizz’s voice while appearing on his radio show,” she says.
“We were on Top of the Pops with Janet Jackson and spotted her grinning when we performed our Tweenies tune.”
Colleen says keeping her Fizz voice in shape for recording, concerts and singing was critical.
“I kept a stash of Vocal Zones in all my bags for my throat, ginger honey and lemon drinks were a staple,” she says.
“I also chomped on raw onions to keep Fizz’s voice pitch perfect. The taste was disgusting but it worked!”
Me doing Fizz chatting to George Michael was surreal. I had no idea he was a Tweenie fanboy but that's the totally bonkers kind of ‘rock and roll life’ of the show.
Colleen says the BBC had “strict rules and guidelines” when it came to series actors and creators – but she did have some fun.
“Protecting Fizz was important. There were no wild weekends, drunken parties or running off with boys,” she says. “But me and the team did enjoy doing karaoke until 1am together. Fizz ripped up the mic!”
In 2000, the Tweenies toy became the fastest-selling children's product from the corporation's commercial arm – outstripping their famous predecessors the Teletubbies.
“I have seen Tweenie leg gaiters for bike riding, Tweenie flannels, soaps, spoons and a Fizz Karaoke Doll,” she says
“It was mind blowing,” Colleen says. “I had to be Fizz’s voice for concerts, games, DVDs and of course the series. There were times I’d be talking to friends and using Fizz’s voice. I was so busy. It was crazy!”.
It’s now the 24th anniversary of the Tweenies and Colleen, who has since gone on to star in an episode of Call The Midwife, says the larger-than-life puppets with their sunny disposition are still adored.
“People in their early twenties love the Tweenies!” she says.
Fizz gave me the chance to travel all over the world and provide for my family
“They remember watching them when they were toddlers. The Tweenies were always accepting of each other and living their ‘best life’ before it was on trend.”
In fact Colleen thinks that modern day kids could do with a touch of Tweenie magic.
She says: “It’s a shame to see kids rely more and more on YouTube for entertainment because the dedicated funding means quality programs like the Tweenies may not get made
“ It’s time the Tweenies time warped into 2023 and showed the kids who it's really done – Fabulous should start a petition!”
Being Fizz meant Colleen could buy a three-bedroom Edwardian house, marry and raise two children.”
“My kids used to love me being Fizz’s voice now as teenagers they cringe a bit,” she admits.
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“Fizz gave me the chance to travel all over the world and provide for my family. She helped me pay the bills and bring joy to millions of children’s lives. I adore her.”
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