WATCH: An emotional Ryan Tubridy reveals powerful message behind Late Late Toy Show theme
One of the biggest films of the year is the theme for tonight's highly anticipated Late Late Toy Show.
The spectacular RTE production is inspired by The Greatest Showman, with Late Late host Ryan Tubridy channelling Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum for the opening number.
"It's a total departure for us," he says of the theme. The presenter's youngest daughter persuaded him to watch the movie despite his prediction that it would be "awful" and the idea for the Toy Show was born from there, "From the moment it started, with the big staccato opening with the cane and top hat and jacket, I was just 'yes!' and for the hour and a half it was on I was just enthralled."
The show will be Tubridy's tenth at the helm, and he's stepping outside his comfort zone, he says, and feeling "pretty nervous" about singing live for the 1 million plus viewers who will be tuning in tonight.
"I've never sung. I've only just acted the maggot. But they've asked me to sing, so it's one thing singing in a karaoke booth after three drinks, it's quite another singing in front of over a million people," he says.
Speaking about the 'key message' of The Greatest Showman, Tubridy becomes emotional. "It is for the child who didn't get picked for the team, who isn't involved in the Snapchat group, who just gets a little bit left out, but who isn't a sad child. This isn't a sympathy head tilt to those children, it's simply a recognition to say, 'You're as important as all the other ones'.
"So, when you go to a school and see everyone trying to wear the same clothes and look the same, the show isn't about them. It's for them too but it's for the other kid who decides to wear their hair differently, or wears a hat when no one else is wearing a hat, or decides to go to the bookshop when everyone else is buying make-up, or decides they're not ready to get to that point in their life, who just wants to be a child."
Having spent the morning on set with children from around the country who are dealing with difficulties in their lives, he is acutely aware of the positive impact both he and the show can have.
"It's humbling and heartbreaking because they come to you and they hug you like you're their relative or something," he reveals.
"You've got this strange Santa power that I don't... it's hard to understand, because they come up to you straight away as if you can do things for them and make things better, which of course I can't. But we can do a picture together and we can smile and we can make a promise we'll be friends forever and that seems to do a job."
The issue of homelessness was touched upon last year and he says it's still an issue and that "one of the joys of the Toy Show is that it allows people who don't have great cause to smile to smile".
Over the years, the Toy Show has been visited by several celebrity guests including Girls Aloud, Ed Sheeran, Liam Neeson, and an array of homegrown TV personalities from Met Eireann meteorologist Evelyn Cusack to architect Dermot Bannon.
Speaking about potential celebrity guests this year, however, Tubridy dismisses the idea of the Spice Girls ("We said five or nothing") and, asked about Boyzone possibly returning following their Late Late appearance last weekend during which Shane Lynch swore on live TV, he laughs, "Been there, done that!" and adds, "There's no issue".
It is not so much about the celebrity guests, he says, as the real life surprises and he references the emotional moment on last year's show when Sergeant Graham Burke surprised his three children by popping out of a box after a six month stint in Mali.
"There's some gold waiting to happen tomorrow night, I can assure you," he says of those poignant moments. "I don't know how I'm going to keep it together. I seem to be quite emotional about this year. I don't know what it is but it's gotten right under my skin."
On a lighter note, he has revealed that he will wear just one Christmas jumper during the show this year, as well as a pair of Yellow Submarine socks which were gifted to him by a young girl. There will be a computer game segment and the book segment will be back, but Tubridy's own children's book, The First Christmas Jumper (and the Sheep Who Changed Everything) will not feature "in the interest of fairness".
"I think that would be a little bit unfair, not right, so definitely not. It's on the top of my Christmas list obviously, signed copy, but no," he says.
"The book section is very much alive and well because now more than ever we need to get them and put books in their hands because, as I always say to the kids, if you put words in your brain it's like putting water on a plant and it'll grow and get bigger and better so it's so important."
The Late Late Toy Show kicks off on RTE One at 9.35pm. It will be available to watch worldwide for free on RTE Player. Doireann Garrihy will be taking a look behind the scenes in the run up to the show on the RTE One Facebook page. A list of toys featured will be available on www.rte.ie/tv/latelate following broadcast.