Noddy goes to the Trocadero

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Media Correspondent

Once they roamed the countryside drinking ginger beer and solving mysteries. Now the Famous Five have been condemned to London's entertainment palace, the Trocadero - serving out their copyright.

Enid Blyton's characters have been sold off in a move not even Timmy the dog's crime-busting skills could have prevented. For pounds 13m Trocadero plc has bought the remaining 43 years of copyright to all Blyton's books - more than 600 titles, of which some 8.5 million are sold worldwide every year.

The sale of Darrell Waters, the family company which owned all the rights, was agreed by descendants of the author who died in 1968. Yesterday Blyton's daughter Gillian Baverstock, who has run the business in recent years, admitted she had been unable to afford to keep it. "I did try to raise the finance to buy the company," she said. "But the money required was so great, and so many people were interested ... it was quite impossible."

The Trocadero at Piccadilly Circus, central London, which boasts shops and hi-tech computer games, is undergoing a pounds 45m refurbishment to create what its owners say will be the world's largest indoor urban theme park. Noddy, Big Ears, the Secret Seven and other Blyton favourites will find a new home inside the park in a pounds 1m "interactive store" selling books, videos, games and tapes. Children will interact with the characters, "meet Noddy, shake hands with Big Ears and buy the merchandise," said Nick Leslau, chief executive of Trocadero.

Mrs Baverstock said that her mother would have been happy to know her work was being taken into the next century. "She was very progressive ... way ahead of her time," she said.