Henry wasn’t the only train to receive a death sentence.
September 28, 2017 9:21 AM   Subscribe

The Repressive, Authoritarian Soul of “Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends” [SLNewYorker] Realizing that the day’s workflow is irrevocably disrupted, Fat Controller decides that Henry must be punished—for life. “We shall take away your rails, and leave you here for always and always,” he tells Henry. As Henry’s face contorts into anguish and the background music toots a series of Oompa Loompa faux-glum flourishes, railway employees build a brick prison around Henry, leaving only half of his face visible.
posted by quaking fajita (81 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
man, fuck the Fat Controller
posted by stinkfoot at 9:29 AM on September 28 [8 favorites]




On a brighter note: Engine with autism on track for new Thomas The Tank Engine blockbuster film

Ian McCue, Senior Producer of Thomas & Friends, said: “With the characteristics of Theo, there is an intentional nod to autism, albeit a subtle one for our autistic fan base, some of who have become good friends.”

And

Another “experimental engine”, Lexi, nods towards a more fluid approach to gender. She is “cab forward”, even though she is convinced this this makes her “an un-useful engine.” Lexi likes to “experiment with how she presents herself, often trying out different voices and how she phrases her expressions just to see which one she thinks works best.”
posted by chavenet at 9:34 AM on September 28 [6 favorites]


It wasn't a part of my youth, so I didn't have strong feelings, but my kids loved Thomas. Then I started noticing the anti-diesel prejudice on the island and immediately wondered what racist Luddite came up with that idea, and the charm started to wear off.

Later I learned (I think through the old books) of an reference to Percy or one of the other engines getting in serious trouble in the past for trying to unionize the trains. Everyone seemed to agree that it was a bad idea and he had deserved his punishment.

That was around the time my kids moved on to Transformers: Rescue Bots, for which I was grateful. The first season of that show is wonderful.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:39 AM on September 28 [4 favorites]


If you haven't hung around with little kids and therefore haven't had this inflicted on you, I strongly recommended the madcap dumpster fire that is Thomas and the Magic Railroad with ... Alec Baldwin and ... Peter Fonda?
posted by lagomorphius at 9:42 AM on September 28 [2 favorites]


That's nothing. Try living in a world where all the emergency services staff are fired and replaced by talking dogs, commanded by a sinister child called "Ryder".
posted by w0mbat at 9:42 AM on September 28 [26 favorites]


The Patrol (cybernetic, uplifted) is clearly an offshoot of the Weapon X program.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:47 AM on September 28 [5 favorites]


Thomas the Tank Engine is authoritarian. Barney is conformist. Callou is just EVIL.

I suggest you replace all other childen's shows with Octonauts. It's Typechip's new favorite, it's adorable, it's educational, it's very sweet, there are almost no real villains - the closest they get is hungry sea creatures or confused sea creatures or well-meaning overly friendly sea creatures, it's at least kind of culturally diverse, there's a ton of support for vegetarian diets among the Octonauts crew (including the polar bear) (the gender-neutral Vegemals do most of the cooking/baking for the crew, and mostly make vegetarian food) but there's no shaming at all of the creatures who eat meat/fish, and there are gender-neutral characters (the Vegimals. Vegemals. ... They're half fish half vegetable, okay, I don't even know but they seem to use gender-neutral pronouns)
posted by FritoKAL at 9:51 AM on September 28 [14 favorites]


lagomorphius: "If you haven't hung around with little kids and therefore haven't had this inflicted on you, I strongly recommended the madcap dumpster fire that is Thomas and the Magic Railroad with ... Alec Baldwin and ... Peter Fonda?"

There is _a lot_ of "magic gold dust" in the air in that film
posted by chavenet at 9:51 AM on September 28 [2 favorites]


The Child Who Is Three is starting to outgrow Daniel Tiger (a little preachy but at least it has a soul) and Puffin Rock, which I adored. I worry the talking rescue dogs are next
posted by not_the_water at 10:01 AM on September 28 [3 favorites]


If I ever meet the writers of Caillou I will lock them in a clsoet with an autistic child who learned to wail from that little inhuman monster. Then straight to digging their own graves.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:07 AM on September 28 [8 favorites]


There's also Thomas and the Great Discovery, with Pierce Brosnan as the narrator. He uses all of his different accents, often in the same line of dialogue. I'm not entirely sure he read the script before he stepped into the recording booth and just went for it. This is also the film where we learn that steam engines can float.
posted by YoungStencil at 10:09 AM on September 28 [3 favorites]


replace all other childen's shows with Octonauts

That one is pretty good. Dinosaur Train is also good if your kid needs trains but you can't even Thomas.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:20 AM on September 28 [5 favorites]


This is also the film where we learn that steam engines can float.

Well steam is lighter than water. Seems logical.

And barely worse than what I learned from Daffy Duck and shotguns.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:22 AM on September 28 [2 favorites]


Yaaas Octonauts! It's like an undersea, educational, Star Trek.
posted by hot_monster at 10:52 AM on September 28 [3 favorites]


I really like it when people take kids' popculture seriously enough to think through the implications of its message and world. One of these days I'll write up my theory about how Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is a depiction of our post-human future.
posted by Kattullus at 10:57 AM on September 28 [6 favorites]


I'm surprised by the pickup of this piece on Twitter. It's completely accurate, but only news to anyone who hasn't watched even part of one episode. The show wears it's authoritarianism very very openly. It's creepy as hell.

Also, there are very few female engines.
posted by OmieWise at 10:59 AM on September 28 [9 favorites]


I always think of Calliou as that kid in the Twilight Zone episode who can kill with his mind, so everyone else has to be super accommodating
posted by gottabefunky at 11:02 AM on September 28 [23 favorites]


" One of these days I'll write up my theory about how Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is a depiction of our post-human future."

Be sure to include an explanation of why Daniel and Mr. Tiger wear pants with their pajamas, but just go freeballin' during the daytime. It really bothers me.

I also have a lot of really important questions about how King Friday runs the neighborhood and his bizarre budget priorities, and why Prince Tuesday has to work like six jobs, but I'm pretty sure it's because Prince Wednesday is like that kid in the sci-fi story who banishes people into non-existence with his mind when they displease him, which is why he is constantly having inappropriate tantrums and his parents never do anything about it or, like, hire a shrink for him, and everyone around him has to appease him so King Friday spends money on absurdly stupid shit but can only afford a swing OR a slide for the playground and Prince Tuesday has to work six jobs just to keep the family in food.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:10 AM on September 28 [7 favorites]


My two year old son adores Thomas so I have had the misfortune to watch dozens of episodes. Early on I thought the dynamic between the "Steamies" and the Diesels was troubling. The Diesels are second class citizens; they're "dirty" and "stinky." The engine works where they stay is in a state of disrepair. Sir Topham Hatt clearly prefers the steam engines. They get the best assignments and they're housed in a well maintained facility. The steam engines are warned to not to trust the diesel
engines.

I don't know much about trains, but I would think that diesel engines would be superior to steam engines in regard to speed and horsepower. Why are the "steamies" preferred then?

The engines are named according to their power source. What color would you say steam is? What color is diesel oil?
posted by blairsyprofane at 11:35 AM on September 28 [5 favorites]


Yeah, but what colour is coal?
posted by Segundus at 11:48 AM on September 28 [3 favorites]


Dinosaur Train is also good if your kid needs trains but you can't even Thomas.

Also if you enjoy both dinosaurs and rockabilly and have always wondered what if dinosaurs could play rockabilly.

Dinosaur Train jumpstarted my children's respective careers in correcting people when at the age of 5 my oldest corrected a grownup's pronunciation of "giganotosaurus".
posted by middleclasstool at 11:49 AM on September 28 [5 favorites]


Dinosaur Train is also good if your kid needs trains but you can't even Thomas.

My main problem with Dinosaur Train is Pteranodons aren't dinosaurs!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by mr_roboto at 11:58 AM on September 28 [4 favorites]


I also have a lot of really important questions about how King Friday runs the neighborhood

I'm pretty sure King Friday adds "or I shall have one of you peasants killed" to the end of some of his various proclamations but they edit it out because it's a kids show. And if there are princes Tuesday and Wednesday, what happened to Prince Monday? Why does no one ever mention him?
posted by not_the_water at 12:00 PM on September 28 [6 favorites]


the silicon chip inside his head got switched to overload
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:04 PM on September 28 [15 favorites]


My main problem with Dinosaur Train is Pteranodons aren't dinosaurs!!!!!!!!!!!

They fuckin love Elvis tho
posted by middleclasstool at 12:04 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]


This exact piece has been written about 200 thousand times. Underwhelmed.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:07 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


Everybody remembers Henry's fate. Nobody remembers Smudger, who was turned into a generator.
posted by clawsoon at 12:24 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


Everybody remembers Henry's fate. Nobody remembers Smudger, who was turned into a generator.

From TFA:
Henry wasn’t the only train to receive a death sentence. In one episode, a manager tells a showoff engine named Smudger that he’s going to “make him useful at last,” and then turns Smudger into a generator, never to move again. (There are several “R.I.P. Smudger” tribute videos on YouTube.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 12:27 PM on September 28 [5 favorites]


Is this the place to vent about cartoon illogic? Good!

Why the fuck do the Bubbleguppies need a ladder to get a catfish out of a tree when they can swim vertically the rest of the goddamn time?

On the other hand, hat tip to an actually good portrayal of an autism-spectrum kid in the form of Nonnie on that show.

Also hat tip to Mr Grouper, 'cause he's awesome. "Line up, everybody! Line up, Line up!"
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 12:47 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


We were gifted the original Thomas books which I dutifully read to my child. We both agreed that we would never ever read them again. Preachy, awkwardly weird, anti-unionist, unpleasantly authoritarian and needlessly cruel.

The dauphin liked the Octonauts despite their using a slave race of lab created vegetable animal hybrids and the implausibility of carnivorous land mammals surviving on vegetable proteins. Peppa Pig however was a firm favorite.
posted by Ashwagandha at 12:48 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


Henry was eventually rehabilitated. Just as Winston learned to love Big Brother, Henry learned to work in the rain.
posted by Hactar at 12:53 PM on September 28 [10 favorites]


The vegemals are Captain Barnacles' illegitimate children.
posted by stowaway at 1:02 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


Preachy, awkwardly weird, anti-unionist, unpleasantly authoritarian and needlessly cruel.

Just your bog-standard Victorian British children's tales.
posted by briank at 1:08 PM on September 28 [9 favorites]


Hooray! Now I get to yell about children's television.

What follows is an entirely incoherent series of strongly held opinions about what I have watched over the past two years with my almost-four year old daughter.


Bubble Guppies: My favorite show. Her favorite show, at different times. The music is awesome, the mer-kids have fun personalities, Mr Grouper was voiced by Tino Insana who was also awesome. We had house sitters one weekend and all 79 episodes of Bubble Guppies got erased from our DVR and replaced with five hours of pay-per-view MMA and I came completely unhinged. It's taken us a year to recover, but now we are once again able to Come To Our Senses, dance the Spring Chicken, and worship his holiness Humunga-truck. You also need to ignore the whole how-can-you-get-wet-underwater and other physics based contradictions on the show.

PAW Patrol: This show is a warning about privatizing basic public services. I don't know why Adventure Bay has outsourced everything to a juvenile delinquent and a bunch of idiot dogs, but I have a feeling it involves Chickoletta, the mayor's chicken. Avoid if possible.

Tickety Tock: Some surprisingly philosophical stuff happening here. They inhabit a world inside a cuckoo clock, and the entire driving premise of every show is that they're going to be late for Chime Time, so it's essentially Three's Company in that every episode is the same. However, if you start looking at some details, especially the episode where they have their 1 millionth chime time, you realize they've been doing this whole routine for OVER A HUNDRED YEARS. Also, who keeps winding the clock? It's like Groundhog Day but far more sinister.

Caillou: Everyone is right. I thought that it couldn't be that bad, but yeah, it totally is. Don't let anyone watch this.

Mike The Knight: The episodes of Mike The Knight break down like this:

Mike: I'm going to do something, but not think it through!
Someone Else: Uhh, you should probably do it this way, or not at all.
Mike: Fuck that, let's do this!
Everything goes, predictably, to shit.
Mike: Wow, I sure learned my lesson.
The next episode will confirm that no, he did not. He's also kind of just a dick. Probably grows up to vape.

Chuggington: This is short attention span Thomas, more or less. The trains spend their entire time bouncing around excitedly expressing the following thought in different ways each episode: 'I have no fucking idea how to do my job.'. Rinse, repeat. Not really that bad, honestly. Will prepare children for a life of working in technology.

Super Why: Gets points for being about books, although for adults the whole thing is a bit tedious. The only reason I bring it up is that because of the pronunciation or phrasing or SOMETHING, when the main character says 'TO THE BOOK CLUB!' to rally all of the kids to solve the book-related mystery of the day, the first time I heard it I swear to god he said 'TO THE BUTT PLUG'. Some googling revealed I'm not the only one who heard this.

Shimmer & Shine: This show sucked when it was called I Dream of Jeannie. Barbara Eden even guest stars at some point. I think there must be some pretty dark moments for Lacey Chabert when she thinks 'God, has my career come to this?'

PJ Masks: Not too bad a show, kind of neat the cat superhero is played by a boy and the girl character isn't mostly usless like in PAW Patrol. Has one of the same kid voice actors that does Zuma in PAW Patrol and for some reason his inability to pronounce R sounds drives me insane.

Doc McStuffins: I like it well enough, but for some reason even after not having heard it for weeks I will bump around the kitchen in the morning with the theme song running through my head while I attempt to become human.

Peppa Pig: Awesome. I love the voices. Simple and fun. Plus I love it when Peppa hangs up on her friend for knowing how to whistle. Sometimes I read random bedtime stories in Daddy Pig's voice just for fun.

Team Umizoomi: While Geo can make 'any shape', I propose that Dot with her pattern power is superior because she has the power of repetition. Also, if you watch, notice that there are patterns in _every background color_ - everything has a subtle texture to it. They are really enthusiastic about counting.

Wallykazaam: Great show. Lots of fun letter and wordplay, lots of different characters, and good music. No mistaken butt plug slogans.

Mutt & Stuff": Dog Abuser Cesar Milan's son, combined with the unholy machinations of Sid & Marty Krofft, has produced something that inexplicably is still on television.

Max & Ruby: Judgmental, pissy rabbits.

Dora, and Dora Into The City: A decent amount of Spanish, lots of repetitive little songs and catchphrases, and a good message overall.

Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom: Same voices as Peppa Pig, another really cute show. One of the teachers on it has a voice that reminds me of 'Computer Says No...' from Little Britain, and that makes me laugh even more than buttplug references.

Ku Ku Harajuku: This is just awful. From Gwen Stefani, who keeps getting away with this shit somehow?

Blaze & The Monster Machines: I'm glad they're encouraging math and physics and stuff but some of the voices on this aren't worth enduring. Also, why is Blaze the only one with a driver?

As to the article, Thomas is pretty horrible in a lot of ways, but if a kid is into trains at all, Thomas is the 800lb gorilla of that whole space. If you want an entirely out-of-body-crazy experience, go look at the prices in a toy store for Thomas stuff. It's.... astronomical.
posted by Skrubly at 1:51 PM on September 28 [30 favorites]


I really hate Peppa Pig. Especially Grandpa. It's so over the top aspirational English middle class, even down to Grandpa Pig obviously having an amazing pension while probably having voted for Brexit.

Also why is everyone else in Peppa an animal but the queen is human?
posted by hfnuala at 2:06 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]


that snorting they do on Peppa Pig is like nails on a chalkboard x1000 for me. I would rather have Caillou shriek unceasingly in my face for hours than listen to voice actors imitate pig noises.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:19 PM on September 28 [3 favorites]


The vegemals are actually Dr. Shellington Sea Otter's adopted kids. He -found- their eggs. They're also valued and respected equal members of the team, as evidenced in quite a few episodes. There is no indication they're salaried - but there's no indication any of the other Octonauts are either. At worst, they're refugees or rescued lab creations.

(in the hopes that your comment was serious because that's better than it being a particularly unfunny joke)
posted by FritoKAL at 2:21 PM on September 28 [3 favorites]


Max & Ruby: Judgmental, pissy rabbits.

I'd have to strongly disagree with this. Ruby's the only one who's pissy, but her pissiness is understandable because she's Max's sole caregiver, since their parents went out for a pack of smokes and never came back. Other than being pissy, her heart is in the right place. She's trying to balance being a carefree teen and the stress of being a single mother.

Max is the pure chaos of a 4 year old, with the added twist that his post-toddler chaos usually works out in the end. Unrealistic, but my own four year old niece loved that. On top of that, Max always had the best toys. The wind-up lobster was the greatest.

I have no idea why I loved this show. It's at times cloying and over-cute. The storylines are simple with little variation. But it was also quiet, peaceful, not flashy. There was a calm about it that was really welcome at that time in my life when I was taking care of my niece.

And I made sure my niece had a balanced diet of television. 30 minutes of Max & Ruby. Followed by 30 minutes of Spongebob. And then 30 minutes of Dino Dan: the show that revealed the horrors of Canada. Fortunately, Thomas was never part of our daily routine.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 2:24 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]


These are some of the shows we used to watch before we found Sean the Sheep.
posted by BeeDo at 2:44 PM on September 28


The only good Thomas book ever is Railway Rhymes. Thomas stories and characters in variety of poetic forms - haiku (troublesome trucks), iambic pentameter (so many), and the Ballad of Henry for this delightful story. It's actually fun to read to your train lover and I suspect the authors had fun writing it.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 2:55 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


Odd Squad is the best children's show.
posted by sleeping bear at 3:10 PM on September 28 [8 favorites]


Kipper. The best children's show ever is Kipper and if anyone tries to tell me that it has undertones of devil worshipping child kidnapping whatever, I will find you and erase you from existence because being snuggled up on the couch watching Kipper with my then-four-year-old-and-one-year-old (who are now almost 21 and 18) was one of the most wonderful times in my entire life.
posted by cooker girl at 3:25 PM on September 28 [5 favorites]


I did not enjoy Beloved Offspring's extended Thomas phase - worst of all were the books: not just the authoritarianism but the horrible sneering characters being horrible to one another.

I'm a little surprised nobody has mentioned Sarah and Duck yet, which is BRILLIANT, although Beloved Offspring is still some years away from understanding why his parents keep giggling at the episode where Sarah and Duck drink some special "rainbow lemon water" then sit tensely in the park for a bit before suddenly joyously finding a rainbow which talks to them.
posted by doop at 3:56 PM on September 28 [8 favorites]


Odd Squad! (Airport wifi or I'd say more, but even the two minute OddTube episodes are great.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 4:07 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


Of course Shellington is the vegemal's adoptive father, and loving one at that. But where did the eggs come from? I'm telling you, Captain Barnacles is Tunip's biological father. The resemblance, plus the Christmas dream sequence?
posted by stowaway at 4:35 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


The first thing to realize about Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is that everyone in it is basically human. The way to know this is that all the animal-form bipeds eat human food. Daniel doesn't eat tigerfood for breakfast, he eats oatmeal with blueberries. The same is true of all the other animal-form bipeds. They eat the same kind of food humans eat, therefore they clearly have human innards. But it's not merely skin, as the owls are capable of at least limited flight, indicating that the musculature is different. That indicates that this is set in a future world with a technology that can substantially modify a human being to resemble an animal.

Now you might be thinking, but why do the children look like their parents? They have also been modified, either at an early stage or as babies, since Daniel's kid sister is tiger-form as soon as she's brought home. But that's not all, because clearly at least some adults have been modified once they're adults. Given that all the bonded animal-form couples have the same animal-form exterior, they presumably modify themselves at some point after they start being together. There's no taboo about relationships between people that look dissimilar. Everyone treats Prince Wednesday's crush on Katerina Kittycat as adorable. As to how exactly it's decided what animal-form couples take, I can't say. There is indication that families stick to one animal-form for generations, X and O are uncle and nephew, and both owls. Also, Daniel's grandpere is a tiger. This suggests to me that in coupledom people join other's families. I don't know if that means people reject their birth families or are rejected by them, but nothing's been shown to contradict that.

There doesn't seem to be any overt hierarchy connected with outward appearance. The human-form and animal-form people seem to interact normally and there's no obvious pattern in what jobs people have. Of course, the rejoinder to that is that the royal family is human-form, but without more data it's hard to say whether that's a coincidence or an indicator of deeper social structures. It is clear, however, that King Friday is a monarch. He is the ultimate decision maker, though he does put things up for a vote, though usually they are not very meaningful things (e.g. what kind of equipment to put up in the playground). Interestingly, the focus after an election is always put on the kids who lose, as if to cement the experience in their memory. It's possible they're being brought up to think that democracy always results in emotional pain. Alternately, they are being trained for a future time in which humanity can again be governed by democratic means.

The technology on show is impressive. The AI trolleys are the most obvious, but there are some other quite impressive features. For a start there's Mr. McFeely. Whenever something's needed he arrives immediately, seemingly without needing any kind of travel-time. He can bring anything, seemingly. It's clear that there's some kind of replicator in the neighborhood which allows him to deliver anything at anytime. Possible he is himself made by the replicator. There could also be some kind of Star Trek style transporter involved.

Finally, there's the environment itself. What kind of place is this? I'm not sure, but it's almost certainly a closed-off, artificial environment. No one but Grandpere Tiger ever seems to come to town from elsewhere, and he lives relatively nearby. No one travels to other towns. My first thought was that it's some kind of vault or arcology in a post-apocalyptic hellscape, but the more I watch the more I'm convinced that the people live on a generation ship. I'm guessing they left only a few years ago as all the children, Prince Tuesday aside, seem to be no more than five years old. I don't know whether Earth has been destroyed, but it's clear that they are far beyond where meaningful communication can be had. The characters keep addressing someone through the camera, but never receive an answer. Possibly, of course, these messages could be meant for someone who will watch them many generations down the line, as a record of what life was like on the ship that brought people to colonize a new planet in a different star system.
posted by Kattullus at 4:46 PM on September 28 [12 favorites]


Skrubly: Dora, and Dora Into The City: A decent amount of Spanish, lots of repetitive little songs and catchphrases, and a good message overall.

A good message? Which Dora are you watching?

Messages of Dora: To get what you need, yell the same thing loudly over and over. Trust a map who is trying to kill you multiple times each episode.

Coincidentally, I'm currently at the studio which is making the next season of Daniel Tiger's Neighbourhood. I haven't watched any of it, but we're pulling old assets from the database and giving Flash CS5.5 one more once more.

My daughter loves Thomas. We have watched all of the first 19 seasons and many of the specials repeatedly. Like most of society, its attitudes have slowly improved over the years. I like that it's not cloying. And Victor says Yes is the most accurate depiction of a modern workplace ever presented in children's television, perhaps in all of television.
posted by clawsoon at 5:14 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


in the hopes that your comment was serious because that's better than it being a particularly unfunny joke

Hey don't get me wrong I fully support my formerly carnivorous mammalian overlords and their asexual vegetable/animals helpers.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:25 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


I really hate Peppa Pig. Especially Grandpa.

I was luke warm on Peppa until I discovered that Brian Blessed does the voice of Grampy Rabbit. After that it won me over.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:34 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


Speaking of kids' TV with which I am loosely associated, the Magic School Bus reboot starts tomorrow on Netflix. I learned in a "mini-mortem" today that the hardest scientific concept to illustrate in the half of the season that's been completed - the concept that had to go back and forth to the scientific advisors more times than anything else - was how magnets work.

It was all I could do not to pipe up that the Insane Clown Posse could've told them that.
posted by clawsoon at 5:51 PM on September 28 [8 favorites]


No-one's mentioned Bob the Builder yet.

In a post-human society, intelligent construction robots pretend incompetence, in an attempt to bolster the egos of the last few humans, in the hopes they will continue to breed. Sadly, Bob and Wendy just aren't into that kind of thing, and remain affably asexual despite the presence of a anthropomorphic surrogate child (Spud).

Wait, Wikipedia says Wendy is Bob's "business partner and later his girlfriend" so maybe the robots are finally getting somewhere and human extinction can be postponed just a little longer.

In one episode, Bob gives a half-hour monologue on the structural and acoustic properties of cork, although I'd taken rather a lot of pseudoephedrine cold medication that day so my memories may be exaggerated. On the upside, I learned quite a lot about cork. I think they make a house out of rendered straw bales too, but perhaps I fell asleep and woke up during Grand Designs or something.

Bob, Wendy and Spud would make great hosts for the next season of Top Gear.
posted by nickzoic at 5:51 PM on September 28 [9 favorites]


"And if there are princes Tuesday and Wednesday, what happened to Prince Monday? Why does no one ever mention him?"

HE WAS SENT BEYOND THE NEIGHBORHOOD BY PRINCE WEDNESDAY for thwarting Prince Wednesday in one of his inappropriate tantrums and that's why Prince Tuesday works six jobs and does whatever Wednesday says!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:16 PM on September 28 [3 favorites]


Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is clearly The Culture.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:27 PM on September 28 [3 favorites]


All this time I'd thought that the Fat Controller was a Freudian/MartinAmisian figment of Will Self's subconscious, wow.
posted by ovvl at 6:32 PM on September 28


I used to read the books as a kid, and I've just finished reading the complete series to my son.

We did have to stop for a while. I thought he'd be OK with it since he was fine with Henry being stuck in the tunnel, and Godred being confined to the shed and used for parts for the other engines; but he got upset after Scruffey the Truck was torn apart for the heinous crime of singing a song mocking one of the engines. I think that's the worst because it's all on the page, including the engines grinning over his shattered body. "That made me sad Daddy" was my kid's comment.

But a lot of old children's literature is horrific by modern standards. "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" mentions casually at the start that Peter's father ended up in a pie after he ventured into Mr McGregor's garden.

Also the class implications of the diesels' voices is confined to the TV series. In the books the diesels are "smooth" and "modern" and don't drop their H's: if anything they sound more upper class than the steam engines.

Otherwise the series tones things down: Scruffey I think is even put back together.

The original stories Awdry sent to the publisher just had Henry stuck in the tunnel. One of the conditions they set for publication was that he had to come out eventually.

Ultimately I think it's a difficult balance what you let your children see (while you still have some control). I don't want him to be upset, but I don't want things to be too sanitized and too cosy. Eventually he will have to deal with the real world after all.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:59 PM on September 28 [3 favorites]


Can someone explain or point to a primer on why Caillou is terrible?
posted by jojo and the benjamins at 10:03 PM on September 28


Why has nobody yet mentioned Hey Duggee? Visually inventive, funny, and warm.
posted by Stark at 2:14 AM on September 29 [2 favorites]


Caillou never. stops. whining.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:17 AM on September 29 [4 favorites]




Trigger warning: No way to say this without coming off at least somewhat overstuffed, but I'm going to mention it anyway, because it's relevant in a thread about children and their favourite television programmes.

I love animation. I love cartoons. I love movies. But when my kids were born my wife and I disposed of the television.

I know a lot are you are thinking something along the lines of "what a self-congratulatory so and so" right about now. Whatever. Get past that, if you can, and focus on this: life is better without TV, for you and your kids. (I said it, I'm sorry for how I sound, you can slap me if it makes you feel better.)

My kids are not better than your kids. I'm not bragging that they read newspapers and critique opera and wiggle to the Victrola and reap corn and whatever the heck else old fashioned people cling to, and are therefore more culturally enriched than your babies and their preferred brands. My kids are just kids.

They were not harmed by lacking televisual awareness. TV is not an essential nutrient. Their bone density and reflexes and ability to form words are all okay.

I'm also not strenuously arguing that TV will do something bad to your kids. Just that it isn't a requirement, and you may find being without gives you more time to do more satisfying things -- like falling down a Wikipedia hole, or coding up a kite that reacts to simulated physics, or drawing fart jokes on the sidewalk with chalk.

Getting used to regularly sitting back to passively absorb entertainment is diligently training your kids for what, again?

Anyway, there certainly are some fine cartoons out there to see! Very, very fine work going on in the industry. I'm glad they make the kids giggle and think. More power to them, etc. I'm not a judgemental wanker, and so on.

(Probably time for caffeine. Am I coming off uncaffeinated?)
posted by Construction Concern at 4:14 AM on September 29 [2 favorites]




ctrl+f pingu

"No results found"

I'm not angry Metafilter, I'm just disappointed.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 7:06 AM on September 29 [3 favorites]



There are many cartoons which make no sense and so really require headcanon to clear up some of the problems.

Bing, for example at no point explains why the carers are all tiny ragdolls or how they can possibly hope to raise toddlers who are significantly more massive than them without regular, brutal, tantrum related death.
My attempt at an explanation is here.

Go-Jetters, which is some form of ersatz geography related Octonauts falls into the problem that we tend to identify with the supposed villain, Grandmaster glitch. The Go-Jetters are self righteous, interventionist jerks whose instinct is to physically resolve the problem rather than engage in dialogue, outreach or education.
Their commander being Ubercorn is particularly worrying, given his domineering, hegemonic attitudes.
They are more likely to cause the problem in the first place. Glitch seemingly has been ejected from the Go-Jetter collective and has had to develop his own technology, which includes sentient AI but does not include the same kind of pollutionless propulsion used by the go-jetters. Seeing as many MANY episodes revolve around GLitch causing pollution this could easily be resolved by the Go-Jetters sharing that tech. But that of course would reduce their military advantages. Sinister.

Sarah and Duck and Hey Duggee are of course basically perfect. Octonauts is pretty great too.
Peppa Pig is forbidden. Strictly. She's a terrible creature in a terrible world. "Oh George always wants to play dinosaurs" whines the beast, her voice dripping with condescension and entitlement.
"Daddy's such a useless fat moron, we hate him so". Terrible. Her name will not even be spoken in this house!
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:21 AM on September 29 [2 favorites]


Even if Mrs. Example and I had children, Peppa Pig would be a no-go, because much like every small British child she eloooooooongaaaaaaates her voweeeeeeeeeeels. I can only take that in very small doses.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:35 AM on September 29


My now ten year old was bigly into Thomas way back, and we hated it, it's so fascist. Many (most) episodes revolve around the silly workers (trains) who refuse to follow the orders of the bosses (Fat & Thin Controllers) and dire events unfold, which end with the workers recognizing how silly they were to disobey or doubt their masters in the first place and returning to work like good little indentured servants.
Fuck it. I honestly don't see how Ringo could have associated himself with it.
posted by signal at 8:16 AM on September 29 [4 favorites]


This thread combined with a tweet earlier on has reminded me to go and check out whether they still have In the Night Garden on iPlayer. It’s weird and funny and beautifully made (I usually compare it to David Lynch) and I still haven’t seen them all. I don’t have any children, I just like In the Night Garden.
posted by Grangousier at 8:50 AM on September 29 [1 favorite]


It's actually fun to read to your train lover

save it for Thomas The Tank Engine After Dark
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:04 AM on September 29 [1 favorite]


Just this guy your explanation of Bing (murdering, thieving little sod that he is) is wonderful. Although my personal head-canon is that Flop, Amma and Padget are high as kites all day, which enables them to be so chill in the face of relentless child-rearing.

Grangouiser- yep. Still on at 6.30 every single night despite not having made any new ones since 2009. It's that well-made.
posted by threetwentytwo at 9:29 AM on September 29 [1 favorite]


Oh and the new Clangers is also lovely and does the old one justice.
posted by threetwentytwo at 9:32 AM on September 29


I haven't seen any of y'all mention Storybots but if you haven't seen it, have kids, and Netflix, you need to check it out.
posted by waitingtoderail at 11:21 AM on September 29


And Yo Gabba Gabba! I suggest you watch even if you don't have kids. I mean, Mark Mothersbaugh is on it, fer Christ's sake.
posted by waitingtoderail at 11:25 AM on September 29 [1 favorite]


We used to be a no Thomas household, but then the kids picked out a Thomas book at the library. It was all about how Duke Whatthefuck had a crisis when he had to take a present to Lord Anotherfuckingone's birthday party, but the trains and trucks kept breaking down and he might miss the party. He was finally transported by emergency rescue helicopter to the goddamn birthday party.

I was like, you have got to be fucking kidding me if you think this is appropriate for kids.
posted by medusa at 11:51 AM on September 29 [2 favorites]


That's nothing. Try living in a world where all the emergency services staff are fired and replaced by talking dogs, commanded by a sinister child called "Ryder".

Not in my goddamned house. If it has a "rockin'" theme song it goes in the bin.

how King Friday runs the neighborhood and his bizarre budget priorities

I really like Daniel Tiger and will miss it when our girl outgrows it, but I get unaccountably worked up over the one where King Friday presides over an election to choose playground equipment. I'm not saying they should use the swingset as a make-shift gallows, but WAKE UP SHEEPLE.

Loooaaathe Max & Ruby, especially the new ones where Max is voiced by a kid who ruined Napkin Man for me with his spunky/squeaky schtick but the girl really enjoys it. I was going to say it was gentle, which is generally my criteria for kids shows, but it's passive-aggressive AF with Ruby and especially her asshole crony Louise being condescending shits all the time. And they are always wrong. I assume Ruby goes on to a long career as a political pundit and columnist.

Didn't like Peppa Pig either, but actively started hating it in an episode where she pulled some 'Well, I'm not your friend anymore!' bullshit. I realize that Peppa'll learn her lesson in the end, but I have a half-assed theory that kids latch onto the modeled negative behavior because narrative puts the dramatic emphasis on that, making it more attractive than the resolution, which is mostly just a 'Oh, everything's fine' afterthought. Like I said, half-assed, but that's how I parent. Similar sorts of things happen in Daniel Tiger, but I feel like they deal with it a lot more thoughtfully and Peppa Pig already had two strikes for being inane and annoying.

a lot of old children's literature is horrific by modern standards

Yeah, I never read Beatrix Potter as a kid, and thought I scored when I picked up a bunch of pristine copies at the Nearly New. They are still pristine, as they have been read once, in a panicked flurry of improvised bowdlerization "Uh, the goose is in the sack because the fox doesn't want it to get the sniffles!"

My wife has a bunch of Veggie Tales stuff from when she worked in childcare. I knew it was God-bothery, but I tried one once, and it got turned off when they did the story of Solomon, Bathsheba, and Uriah, but about coveting rubber ducks. I was actually more pissed off and offended as an owner and former reader of several Children's Bibles that kept the sugar-coating to a minimum.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:05 PM on September 29 [3 favorites]


only news to anyone who hasn't watched even part of one episode.

I watched a bunch of Shining Time Station when I was little but remember it very poorly. Mostly I remember the jukebox with tiny people inside, and the trick coin the guy would use to start it. I'm pretty unclear on how that related to the trains, but I'm pretty sure it was part of the same show.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:06 PM on September 29


Sarah and Duck is the actual best, I often have scarf lady as my avatar as I am basically her without a past as a former bobsleigh Olympian.
posted by hfnuala at 1:52 PM on September 29 [4 favorites]


save it for Thomas The Tank Engine After Dark

"My desires are...extremely useful."
posted by middleclasstool at 5:03 PM on September 29 [6 favorites]




I don't know much about trains, but I would think that diesel engines would be superior to steam engines in regard to speed and horsepower. Why are the "steamies" preferred then?

Connected to the racial aspect is the nostalgia factor. Make trains great again, when "traditional" trains were dominant. Not sullied by these... NEW trains.
posted by brundlefly at 4:30 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]


hfnuala: Sarah and Duck is the actual best

Until yesterday I was firmly in the Sarah and Duck camp, but then I watched an episode with my son where there was a world map in the background. Iceland was absent from the map. Now Sarah and Duck are dead to me.

Well, not really. I still think it's the actual best but I was mighty disappoint.
posted by Kattullus at 8:49 AM on October 3


Perhaps on the show Iceland has been destroyed? Are there any world-conquering supervillains in the Sarah and Duck universe?
posted by Chrysostom at 9:37 AM on October 3


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