15 childrens’ TV shows with surprising celebrity voices - including David Mitchell, Lorraine Kelly and Lin-Manuel Miranda

What do Derek Jacobi, Lauren Laverne and Rob Brydon have in common? They all voice characters in kids’ TV shows. Discover more surprising celebs in childrens’ TV shows here.

By Sophia Moir Published: 14 October 2022 - 11.05am
Getty / Disney+ / BBC / Entertainment One Kids TV shows celebrity voices

They might have shelves full of Oscars, BAFTAs and Golden Globes between them, but a surprising amount of A-list actors also have voice roles in some of the most popular childrens’ TV programmes.

Parents have spent many tired hours watching pre-school TV series such as Peppa Pig, Hey Duggee and Teletubbies, but listen to these shows carefully, and you might recognise some of the voices behind the characters and narrators.

From Mark Rylance in Bing and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Bluey, to Derek Jacobi in In The Night Garden and Lorraine Kelly in Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, we reveal 15 childrens’ TV shows with surprise voices behind the mic…

1. Peppa Pig - David Mitchell

Entertainment One / Getty

It’s one of the greatest pre-school TV shows of all time, with none other than director Quentin Tarantino calling Peppa Pig “the best British export of this decade”. But did you know that the animated childrens’ series about the adventures of a cartoon pig and her family has had many surprising celebrity cameos? British actor and comedian David Mitchell (Peep Show, Upstart Crow) voices Police Officer Panda, who “doesn’t actually arrest anyone”, while fellow comedian Jo Brand voices zookeeper Mrs Crocodile.

Peppa Pig is available on Netflix, Nick Jr and Channel 5.

2. Teletubbies - Jim Broadbent

BBC / Getty

A quarter of a century since the first Tubby Custard was poured, Teletubbies is something of a childhood TV classic, but even though few recognisable words are actually spoken, it does feature some surprise celebrity voices. British acting legend Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter, Paddington) has the “proud role” of announcing Teletubbies at the top of the show, as well the role of Voice Trumpet, a character which comes out of the grass to makes announcement. Fearne Cotton, David Walliams and Rochelle Humes have also had the role of a Voice Trumpet, while Jane Horrocks (Bloods) has voiced the Tubby Phone.

Teletubbies is available on BBC iPlayer.

3. Clangers - Michael Palin

BBC / Getty

Since 2015, Monty Python actor turned documentary host Michael Palin has narrated the reboot of Clangers on CBeebies, a contemporary version of the classic, stop-motion, animated children’s TV show from the 1970s. The acting legend said he had no hesitation in accepting the narration role: “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever been offered. It’s a classic, you know… I mean for children’s shows, it’s like Hamlet.”

Clangers is available on BBC iPlayer.

4. School of Roars - Andrew Scott

BBC / Getty

When you think of Andrew Scott, you may think of his award-winning roles in Sherlock, Fleabag and Spectre, but did you know he has a surprise voice role in a CBeebies show? The actor is the narrator of School of Roars, an animated series about mini-monsters at school. He also voices a number of characters, including the school’s cookery teacher, Mr Marrow. He said of the show: “I think the little people in my life are gonna love it.” Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax) and actress/comedian Kathy Burke also voice characters in School of Roars.

School of Roars is available on BBC iPlayer.

5. In the Night Garden - Derek Jacobi

BBC / Getty

 Live-action childrens’ series In The Night Garden is something of a bedtime staple for families up and down the country, and part of its long-standing appeal - it launched in 2007 - is the narration by distinguished stage and screen actor, Derek Jacobi (The Crown). The BBC actually stopped making  new episodes of the show in 2010, with reports that it was also the most expensive ever commission by the BBC Children's department at an estimated cost of £14.5 million for 100 half-hour episodes. Luckily for parents wishing their children to bed - 'somebody's not in bed – Iggle Piggle's not in bed' - it's still shown every night on CBeebies and is available on demand on BBC iPlayer.

In The Night Garden is available on BBC iPlayer.

6. Hey Duggee - Alexander Armstrong

BBC / Getty

The Guardian named it the best CBeebies show of all time - “it might well be the best kids’ show ever made”, wrote author Stuart Heritage - but did you know that Hey Duggee has a famous narrator? Alexander Armstrong, host of game show Pointless and the Classic FM morning show, is the voice who's heard kicking off each episode with  "Hello, Squirrels! I wonder what Duggee has planned for you today?" Earlier this year, Armstrong was joined by Sir David Attenborough in a special guest appearance, while Celebs Go Dating star Tom Read Wilson also had a surprise voice appearance as stinky lion Alain L’Odeur, below.

Hey Duggee is available on BBC iPlayer.

7. Bing - Mark Rylance

BBC / Getty

Mark Rylance is a BAFTA- and Oscar-winning actor who's starred in Hollywood movies and TV shows including Bridge of Spies, Wolf Hall and The BFG, but parents of pre-school age children will probably recognise his voice from CBeebies show Bing. The TV adaptation of the Bing Bunny book series follows a bunny in dungarees, with Rylance voicing his gentle grown-up, Flop, who guides him through his life. Speaking about how he ended up on the show, Rylance told Time Out London: “The creator of Bing saw [Rylance's West End play] Jerusalem and said ‘That’s Flop.’ I did the initial recording for him using the Rooster Byron voice. But it’s changed quite a lot now.” Shameless actor David Threlfall takes on the voice role of Flop from season 2 onwards.   

Bing is available on BBC iPlayer.

8. Tee and Mo - Lauren Laverne

BBC / Getty

Tee and Mo, the story of how monkey mum Mo and her three-year-old son Tee navigate life around the jungle tree, is narrated by radio presenter Lauren Laverne. Former Britpop star Laverne, who famously took over from Kirsty Young as the host of Desert Island Discs in 2018. Laverne also lends her singing voice to the pre-school show, singing the lullaby Go to Sleep in an episode before Tee goes to bed. It’s Laverne’s first time singing behind the mic in over 15 years.

Tee and Mo is available on BBC iPlayer.

9. Love Monster - Tamsin Greig

BBC / Getty

Another CBeebies show with a famous narrator is Love Monster, a quirky animation about the misadventures of a monster and his friends. British actress Tamsin Greig (Friday Night Dinner, Belgravia) narrates the series, acting as a bridge between the audience and the characters. Part of the appeal of working on the show for her was the idea of a monster not fitting in. She said: “I just love the beautiful paradox of a Love Monster - that he shouldn’t fit in but because of love, because of relationships, he does.” Star Trek legend George Takei also lends his voice to Love Monster, voicing Elder Panda, a wise bear who delivers little nuggets of wisdom to children at home and Love Monster alike.

Love Monster is available on BBC iPlayer.

10. Bluey - Lin-Manuel Miranda

Disney+ / Getty

We called it "the kids TV phenomenon that every parent must watch", and Australian cartoon Bluey has rave reviews from parents and critics alike. So it's no wonder that the show started garnering celebrity fans, with Eva Mendes, Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman and Billy Joel all voicing their affection. Some of these celeb fans have ended up with cameos on the show, with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda voicing a horse, Eva Mendes voicing a yoga instructor, and Natalie Portman voicing a documentary host. Speaking exclusively to BT.com, the show's Exec Producer Daley Pearson told us: “We’ve always managed to fit the guest roles in organically", adding that he'd "love" to have Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth on the show next.

Bluey is available on BBC iPlayer and Disney+.

11. Raa Raa the Noisy Lion - Lorraine Kelly

BBC / Getty

Lorraine Kelly is known for her eponymous early-morning chat show, but the Scottish TV host has a surprise narration role on a pre-school TV series. The Glasgow-born presenter narrates the CBeebies stop motion series Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, about a group of animals and their adventures in the Jingly Jangly Jungle. Kelly also sings on the show's theme tune, which she says "sounds like a cat being ironed". She told the Daily Record: “What really appealed to me about Raa Raa was that it's really educational but really entertaining. The kids will be educated but they won't know - they are just going to have fun.”

Raa Raa the Noisy Lion is available on BBC iPlayer.

12. Waffle the Wonder Dog - Rufus Hound

BBC / Getty

Comedian and actor Rufus Hound voices a hound of his own in live-action series Waffle the Wonder Dog, voicing red miniature poodle Waffle on CBeebies. He says he very much enjoys being a "talking dog for pre-schoolers", telling comedy.co.uk he enjoys getting to “leave nice voicemail messages on mate's phones for their young kids which is profoundly lovely."

Waffle the Wonder Dog is available on BBC iPlayer.

13. Julia Donaldson adaptations - Rob Brydon

BBC / Getty

The BBC is the home of the wonderful film adaptations of Julia Donaldson’s childrens’ novels, a collection which boasts a whole host of celebrity voices including Olivia Colman, David Walliams and Kit Harington. But one star is clearly a bigger fan than most, as Gavin & Stacey actor Rob Brydon has featured in all nine adaptations to date. Speaking to BT.com, the dad-of-five said: “I never thought that I'd end up being in every one of them. Each year I would sort of wonder if they would get in touch again this year. Is it going to happen? And then it started to become this regular thing.”

Julia Donaldson adaptations are available on BBC iPlayer.

14. The Adventures of Paddington - Ben Whishaw

Nickelodeon / Getty

James Bond star Ben Whishaw reprises his voice role as Paddington Bear from the acclaimed films in the animated pre-school series The Adventures of Paddington. It centres on a younger Paddington as he writes letters to his Aunt Lucy. Speaking to BBC Entertainment, he said that he often encounters disappointed children who can't comprehend that Paddington isn't real. He said: “Occasionally a parent will point me out to a child and I can see the bafflement on their faces, because how can I possibly be Paddington? It doesn't make any sense to them. And to try to explain that I'm the voice of Paddington is even more confusing for their minds. Bless them."

The Adventures of Paddington is available on Netflix, Nick Jr, and Channel 5.

15. JoJo & Gran Gran - Cathy Tyson

BBC / Getty

JoJo & Gran Gran centres on inquisitive four-year-old JoJo and her loving Gran Gran, and was the first animated series to focus on a Black British family when it premiered in 2020. Gran Gran is voiced by English actress Cathy Tyson, who was nominated for a Golden Globe and BAFTA for her role in the 1986 movie Mona Lisa. JoJo & Gran Gran producer Tom Cousins told online animation magazine Skwigly that Tyson really brings the character of Gran Gran to life: “When you hear her performing, you say ‘Oh! Of course this is going to work’”.

JoJo & Gran Gran is available on BBC iPlayer.