As far as anyone knows, I’m the Internet’s Leading Expert on Vehicular Anthropomorphization; it must be true, because it says so, right there, 20 words or so to the left. I take this position very seriously, because I know that many, many people look to me for guidance when they encounter an anthropomorphized vehicle. They know that I have preferences, say, about how eyes are portrayed on automotive faces, or how faces should be applied and adapted to trains. They also know that I like – no, need – to know about developments, innovations, and atrocities in the vehicular anthropomorphization space, which is why this tweet proved to be so important: it revealed to me the unspeakable horror of Bilakuten, a Swedish children’s show whose name translates to “Car Emergency.” In that aspect, I suppose it’s kind of right. In every other aspect of how it makes vehicles appear to be living beings, it is very, very, possibly dangerously wrong. I suggest laying down a dropcloth before continuing, because there will be many terror-induced spit-takes and unplanned emissions of urine.
Bilakuten is described like this on SIMKL, which I think is some Swedish video site:
Fantastic vehicles get vital assignments. Fires must be extinguished, cats must be rescued, houses must be built, thieves must be caught, trees must be harvested. To their aid, the fantastic vehicles have the equally fantastic children. Together they create a slightly better world.
Now, I don’t hate this description; a show about vehicles, fantastic ones, even, helping to rescue cats and build houses is great. I also like that expectations are kept nice and low, ad the machine/children partnerships are described as resulting in a “slightly better” world. No need to get any kid’s hopes up too high – it’s just going to end up slightly better.
My problem is with the bizarre and alarming way the vehicles are granted life. Just look at this lineup:
Dear god why? This is what they’re showing Swedish children? Has any Swedish child managed to sleep through a whole night without waking up and screaming bork bork bork or whatever sweet little Swedes scream in terror? Let’s look at one of these up close:
Gaaahh! Shit, I even knew I was going to put this here and it still made me spit Yoo-Hoo-and-gin all over my screen. Who decided to use this method of making a face on a vehicle? The headlights and grille are right there to use to make a face, like this, which took me 91 seconds to make:
But no, someone decided it was a better idea to split the head open at the windshield and make that a colossal gaping maw filled with denture-like human teeth the size of fire hydrants and a vast, pulpy tongue, and then let a pair of massive, glistening eyes erupt from a painful-looking swell of oddly flexible metal. This fucking truck looks like all it has ever wanted to do is find you and eat you, delighting in the feeling of your bones grinding to paste between those massive molars.
Hey! Maybe I’m not being fair; maybe it all makes sense when you see it animated? Okay, that’s reasonable. Let’s look at a clip from an episode:
(Violent spray of liquid) Aaaaaaaaauuughhh! What the hell! Why didn’t I warn me? Why are they so freakishly flexible? Why do they dart about like insects or lizards or some unholy hybrid of both? And is that a weird variant of Axel F they’re playing for the song? Should I be concerned for that little Fiat 500-beast? And why the hell does this have to exist?:
Why? Why have you forsaken us, oh lord? Why does a gelatinous garbage truck with what feels like a hungry, toothed anus with eyes exist? Why are its teeth like that? Why does it have teeth? Or eyes? Is it another being inside the truck, or is it just another head and mouth on the other end of the truck? Make it go away! Now! Please!
Hey! Who put that here? No, no no no god no nope nope nope.
It’s simultaneously lazy anthropomorphization and terrifying. They’re just slapping eyeballs onto windshields and then making the whole front end of the car open into some kind of mutant crocodile mouth with massive human teeth? Why was this path chosen? Do they not love their children in Sweden?
Are these Ariel Atom-like race cars supposed to look like dragons? Maybe? I suppose that could be cool if they, you know, weren’t so fucking slithery and serpentine and disturbing?
This is sort of an achievement, I suppose. They’ve managed to make boats and planes and excavators and cars and trucks and buses all new previously-unconsidered nightmares, which I suppose is an achievement? Maybe the Swedes are training a generation of super-children, unable to be scared or even phased by any sort of nightmarish semi-mechanical beasts. Is this a warning? A harbinger of a world dominated by Swedish lizard-big-rig cyborgs, built by Scania and with an unquenchable thirst for human blood?
Maybe? And maybe this is a warning.
God help us all.
I feel like most kid’s TV shows have an element of tramadol-induced fever dreams, but this is quite something. What were they smoking?!?
I Have No Horn and I Must Honk
Truly upsetting animation, and all the more so for how well done it is! The compositing with the real footage, shadows/water wake/ etc. I’ve seen waaaaaaay lazier children’s animation. This may be a legitimately charming, educational show for Swedish children when understood – but WHOA.
I like them, real humans are scarier.
I think it’s one of those cases where kids just take them for what they are but adults put too much into it.
It gets worse with every frame! Those massive, round, forward-facing eyes clearly indicate that they’re predatory beings that hunt in the dark, and the way the pupils contract and dilate multiple times per second CONSTANTLY fills my body with a deep, deep dread.
The airplane coming at the screen with that massive smiling maw, like it doesn’t think even for a moment that what it’s about to do to me might be wrong, it’s just delighted to get a snack in the morning.
And let’s not get started on the car crusher, taking pleasure in trying to squash the smaller, doubtlessly equally murderous machine. Cannibalism is clearly fair game to them.
They have no principles, no rules and no morals. It’s all just a meal to them. And that’s probably why their eyes dilate so often – they go into hunting mode like a house cat every time they fix their horrid stare upon a fleshy little human child, or cameraman, or a smaller vehicle, bird, dog, tree, maybe even their own reflection triggers predatory instincts.
Maybe it’s a Scandinavian thing (if Iceland qualifies as Scandinavian)? Time for more terrifying transports with teeth
We’re often more laid back about things and don’t put too much into it if it isn’t meant to.
Being traumatized by articles like this is why I paid my membership fee.
It’s off-putting, but I wasn’t freaked out until I noticed the Season 3 Cargo Helicopter has fangs! FANGS, MAN! I get that not every vehicle can afford orthodontics, but there’s no reason for that. #MaximumOverdrive
Pure nightmare fuel. Massive teeth paired with overly eager, hungry eyes.
These anthropomorphic vehicle articles by Torch are my favorite thing on the internet. Thank the heavens for those who continue to make these batshit crazy kids shows with bizarre animation choices. Very few things incite laughter at work in me like this. It’s like I’m 7 watching Bob Saget presenting me endless nut shots in here. Just dying.
Oh dear. I am Swedish but I live in NYC, and I try to have my kids watch Swedish shows sometimes in the hope that they will pick up a smidgeon of my language. I have a car-obsessed two-year-old, but I will NEVER try to show him this absolute horror. Dear god.
I don’t know what’s worse, the teeth or the tongues.
This is what happens when you get too much sun in the summer and too little in the winter.
Add many (oh so many) generous glasses of Aquavit (Akvavit?) consumed over those dark winter nights and I thing you’re on to something.
You can spell it either way, but “aqua” implies that you’re either a bit of a snob or 110 years old. I think these guys were drinking Bäsk; cheaper and has mild hallucinogenic qualities due to being infused with wormwood.
Apparently they drink this in Chicago, too, where it is called Malört (“moth weed”, because supposedly moths won’t eat your clothes if you place some wormwood amongst them).
Thank you, Jason, I’m now sitting in my cubicle with tears of laughter flowing. I hope I don’t have any imminent face-to-face interactions.
Looks like someone was inspired by the old Dow powdered bathroom cleaner commercials with the animated scrubbers. I wonder if that fine powdered shit and my mother’s obsessive cleaning led to her early demise from lung disease. So much kids’ programming is lazy garbage. I can’t speak to content, but the animation style looks like it fits right into that category.
Did they make powdered shit? Like Comet or Ajax? I had to deal with those scrubbing bubbles yesterday. They did not try very hard though.
Yeah, it was a dry powder, almost like talc or something. IIRC, it turned blue and dissolved when water was added, but it it worked like pumice soap until it completely dissolved. My mother would sprinkle that shit all over the tub or sink or whatever and add a little water so it was like sandpaper, I guess. It was never quite enough to scrub away what her life had become with my shithead father, though.
That green helicopter looked like a grasshopper to me
The rapidly dilating pupils is what freaked me out about that one
Huh? There’s nothing scary about these! They’re cute and friendly looking.
So it looks like the terrifying mechanical monsters are only on screen briefly,and then kids actually visit the real machines at work? That’s actually really cool.
My only regret is a didnt find the tree harvesting episode.I want to see a kid use that machine! lol
I think this is fine, not at all scary and why bother with where the eyes are? you got monster trucks with ears and all that shit 🙂
My own kids are too old for this but they are raised on early generations of Oggy and the cockroaches and swedish classics like skrotnisse och hans vänner with scenes like this gem.
For more video of this scapyard based kids show follow this link.
//93773R from Sweden.
Just watched those videos as I’m about to go to bed. I think I may opt to sit in my wife’s rocking chair all night mumbling about how the bad truck needs to leave me alone, yeah that sounds better… thanks Jason!
As someone who grew up traumatized by “The Brave Little Toaster,” I am deeply unnerved by the scene of the jolly wrecking crane toying with the Fiat 500 like a cat with a mouse.
Thanks for the nightmares.
Also weird: The kids’ jumpsuits look like the ones from “Teenagers from Outer Space”
Bravo, Joseph. Bravo!
Maybe they saw the South Park how to eat with your butt stuff?