Actor Simon Shelton, best known for his work as Tinky Winky on Teletubbies, has died at the age of 52. Shelton reportedly passed away on January 17. The cause of death has not been revealed at this time. The news of his passing was confirmed by his niece, Emily Atack, via a post made to her personal Instagram account. Here's what she had to say.
"My wonderful uncle Simon Barnes has been taken from us all so suddenly. The kindest and most talented man you could ever wish to meet. Loved by all who knew him, and will be forever."
Simon Shelton was the second actor to play Tinky Winky on Teletubbies. He took over the role after original actor, Dave Thompson, was fired in 1997. Shelton then played the part on the popular children's show, which originally aired on the BBC in the U.K., from 1998 to 2001. Teletubbies has run for an impressive 425 episodes in total.
Teletubbies was a tremendously successful and even though the show's original run concluded in 2001, the series continues to be aired all around the world. Teletubbies has been aired in 120 countries and has been broadcast in 45 different languages. In 2014, 60 new episodes of the series were ordered, which currently air on CBeebies in the U.K. and on Nick Jr. in the U.S. In an interview, Simon Shelton was once asked if he knew the show would be such a massive hit. While he thought it was maybe going to do well, he admits he couldn't have predicted the level of success it would ultimately achieve.
"I didn't know it would be as big as it was, but I did know as soon as I started working on it that it had something special."
The British actor didn't have many other credits to his name, but he did star as The Dark Knight on a children's TV series titled Incredible Games from 1994 to 1995. He was also credited on Swing Kids and on the 1991 TV movie Prisoner of Honor. His last credited role was as Tinky Winky in Peter Kay's Animated All Star Band: The Official BBC Children in Need Medley in 2009. His Teletubbies co-star John Simmit, who voiced Dipsy in the series, took to social media to mourn the passing of Shelton.
"What a week ! RIP Simon Shelton aka Tinky Winky : remembering the many good times. Rest easy."
Tinky Winky has a somewhat checkered legacy when it comes to Teletubbies. The character was accused of spreading the gay agenda to young children. Though, the show's creators say the character isn't gay or straight and just carries a magical bag. As Variety notes, Tinky Winky has since become something of a gay icon. It was also recently revealed that the series is being rebooted and has already been picked up by more than 20 distributors worldwide. RIP Simon Shelton.