Children's programming "extremely important" to Tubridy ahead of his eighth Late Late Toy Show

The presenter is in his eighth year hosting the toy extravaganza

Tonight's the night every child in Ireland has been counting down, with the return of RTE's The Late Late Toy Show.

More than 300 children join host Ryan Tubridy for singing, dancing and toy-testing at Montrose, for what is Mr Tubridy's 8th Toy Show.

Revealing this year's theme as Disney musical The Jungle Book, Mr Tubridy said: "The opening sequence this year will be a big mammoth production - without the mammoth. But there will be an elephant ... It is the most colourful of all the openings that I can recall.

"I think the set is the most spectacular one we've had - it's magnificent. It's just getting bigger and bigger every year. It's out of control, in a good way."

Host Ryan Tubridy with participants Lauren McMahon (5) and Cillian Ryan (4)

Once again, the show faces competition from TV3, who look to poach young viewers with their own toy show hosted by Lucy Kennedy.

"I think it's great. Every toy is a great show. How could you knock a toy show?" Mr Tubridy said when asked about the rivalry.

Nearly a decade at the helm, he admits that he still finds it daunting hosting the show. However, it's the Toy Show's unpredictable nature that keeps Mr Tubridy's spring in his step.

"I love when the toys are broken, because that's real. Toys don't work on Christmas Day. Santa sometimes gets it wrong and the elves make the wrong toys ... I love when it goes a bit weird," he says, accepting "weird" as a job description.

The future of children's programming at RTÉ

RTÉ announced that it was to cease in-house production of its children's programmes earlier this month. Mr Tubridy said programming specifically aimed at children is "extremely important". 

The show's audience is primarily made up of children - grown up or otherwise. However, Mr Tubridy said he doesn't classify the show as a children's programme.

Clockwise L - R: Lauren McMahon (5), Emma McNally, (11), Ryan Tubridy, Niamh Mulvaney (11), Arda Destire (8), Cillian Ryan (4) and Molly Mcloughlin (11)

"It's an entertainment show, it's been going on for 30 years", he said. "But obviously, yes, children's audiences are very important. I was a kid once, and I've been involved in children's programming for so long."

Mr Tubridy's favourite toy show moments from years gone by include John Joe the horologist, Ed Sheeran singing karaoke with Amy and footballer Robbie Keane surprising a super-fan. However, he refused to comment on who this year's special guest would be.

The opening number will see the veteran host perform with over 70 young singers and dancers, both in and out of the studio.

Christmas spirit

The Toy Show has allowed Mr Tubridy to maintain the magic of Christmas within his own home, even as his children grow up.

"My girls are older now - nearly 18 and 12 - and when I'm hanging out with the younger ones on set, it brings me back to that gorgeous connection with childhood that I love so much. It allows me to be in touch with the next generation ... It's one of the bonuses of the job."

So, what does it take to make it on to the show? It's simple - you just need a twinkle behind your eyes.

"They've got to be enjoying things, they've got to be curious and keen," he said.