It's tough making movies for kids. As adults, it's easy to forget how things that seem mildly strange to us might be earth-shatteringly horrific to a young child. But it works the other way, too, because kids' shows are full of characters that kids seem to love (or at least be indifferent to) that make us want to sleep with a nightlight on. Like ...
Put that lunch away, it's not getting better from here.
Fofao, a mop-topped escapee from the Island of Dr. Moreau, has been a beloved entertainer of Brazilian children since the 1980s, because the body horror genre has apparently not made its way into South America yet. He dresses like a police sketch of a pedophile and has the singing voice of a cartel assassin, but the kids in this video are completely unfazed by his presence.
"There's a giant pig werewolf behind us?! Oh no! Somebody warn Fofao!"
We were pretty sure "Fofao" was Brazilian for "melting wax scrotum cheeks and eyes that have seen the inside of a prison." However, Fofao is actually a magical alien from the planet Fofaolandia who came down to Earth to form a band called Balloon Magic with a quartet of grade school children, which is a sentence that seems to have been lifted directly from the carefully rehearsed speech of an elaborately theatrical kidnapper.
We're not saying that Fofao steals children. He merely looks like he was specifically designed to push legislation requiring armed guards at all school bus stops. But watching his television show is like being transported into an episode of The Twilight Zone where you're the only person who realizes everything around you has gone totally insane.
Most of us are familiar with the kind and lovable characters of Jim Henson's Sesame Street. Gentle Big Bird, curious little Elmo, best pals Bert and Ernie, and even that ornery bastard Oscar the Grouch were all carefully conceived to be as non-threatening as possible to amuse young children with entertaining lessons about spelling and friendship. Which makes the inclusion of the Nobody, a bodiless alien phantasm from a parallel universe of screaming impotent terror, all the more baffling.
Nobody seems like he was specifically engineered as nightmare fuel, and for some reason, the producers of Sesame Street thought it would be appropriate to have Nobody use his twitchy, disembodied facial features to deliver counting exercises to preschoolers. He also speaks with the terrifyingly dulcet tones of a serial killer patiently assuring us that there is no escape from his basement, because a man with a bachelor's degree in home economics thought that was a good idea.
Phasing in and out of being, Nobody occupies some incomprehensible realm of chaotic oblivion, seeping through the cracks in our reality like one of Kevin Bacon's visions in Stir of Echoes. Unsurprisingly, Jim Henson originally created this character for an entirely different purpose -- to narrate a surreal short film about the human subconscious.
Apparently, Mr. Henson's brain supplied its own acid.
The film, Limbo, the Organized Mind, stars the Nobody as a mental homunculus adrift through a purgatory of his own thoughts, overlaid with images of leaky pipes, scurrying cockroaches, and foggy, alien landscapes.
Don't worry, kids, God isn't dead. He's just hunting you.
At some point during the preproduction of his children's television show, following a line of logic that will never be understood, Jim Henson revisited this nightmare and said, "Yes. This should be the monster that teaches human babies how to count."
According to a French Wikipedia entry loosely translated by Google, Telechat is a bizarre satirical news program starring anthropomorphic animal puppets discussing topics that are instantly relatable to all children, such as the pressures of inter-office politics and economics on broadcast journalism, and the undeniable hijinks of "professional misconduct."
All of that explanation is irrelevant, however, because none of us can hear anything over the shrieking madness of Ostrich Boobs and Personface McTelephone.
Somehow, somewhere Guillermo del Toro is smiling.
Or did you miss the human cleavage on the ostrich puppet up there? Here, let's zoom in:
Just ... just wow.
It doesn't matter what these characters are talking about -- a close-up shot of a frothy glass of milk resting gingerly between a pair of ballooned puppet breasts transforms every word of dialogue into a form of "professional misconduct," regardless of what is actually being spoken.
Beyond that, the entire program plays out like some fever dream a child would have staring at their stuffed animals while bedridden with typhus. The characters wobble around like stroke victims, rapidly twitching out the palsied facial expressions of a person shuddering into brain death, while their delicately gloved human hands make the refined but eerily purposed gestures of an aristocratic spree killer. Also, after the end credits of this particular episode, we are treated to a brief scene of the ostrich putting on lipstick and barely avoiding molestation at the hands of a sleazy cat with a broken arm who apparently hides cigarette lighters in his cast. By the way, that cat is a recurring character, and his arm is in a cast every single time we see him.
Either he's not drinking enough of that milk, or milk isn't what he's drinking.
And just in case you thought that horror phone was Telechat's sole representative in the sentient appliance department, here's a corpse-faced microphone with a giant cloned science ear typically reserved for the backs of laboratory mice:
He is understandably excited to be getting out of that sewer.
Every glazed-eyed stare in Telechat has the subtle stench of dread looming behind it. It is like a nightmare we cannot decode yet are powerless to look away from for fear of what those characters might do while we aren't watching.
Oobi is a show on Nick Jr. (Nickelodeon's sister channel for all their preschool-targeted programming) about a family of bug-eyed naked hand puppets speaking in sentence fragments and molesting everything in sight like a colony of blind sexual predators.
Which is to say, these are all just hands with big eyes glued to them, which you wouldn't think would be unsettling until you find yourself asking the crucial question: In that universe, what would we see if we panned down?
Nothing but another fist.
The one on the right is Uma, Oobi's sister (all of these characters were apparently named by Bjork and the guys from Sigur Ros). You can tell because she has a pinky ring, which is apparently the universal sign of feminism in the Oobi universe. Then there's Angus, who wears a hat and has a pair of skinless eyeballs growing down from the roof of his mouth like stalactites.
In other words, he looks a little like Channing Tatum.
The characters don't have separate puppet arms or anything, because gluing arms to arms would be too horrifying even for this show. No, instead the characters merely use their faces to grab everything, at which point the show devolves from "puppet theater" into "filming people as they juggle and play piano with eyeballs glued to their fingers." Seriously, each episode feels like a video that a serial killer would leave for the police.
"Don't even bother with the SWAT team, we're just going to need a coroner."
The anatomy of Oobi is made even more confusing by the fact that the characters talk and eat with the exact same set of appendages they use to manipulate objects. Watching Uma struggle with a pair of chopsticks in a Chinese restaurant is the most Sisyphean task you will ever see on a Nickelodeon channel, because even if she finally manages to hold the chopsticks correctly, how is she then supposed to eat with them?
Best not to ponder. That way lies madness.
Meanwhile, Oobi's father watches patiently, his mouth fingers curled up like an angry spider.
Ready to devour his young, fingernails and all.
And how do these beings masturbate? OK, we actually know the answer to that one.