The 5 Craziest Children's Cartoons from North Korea
No matter where in the world a child is raised, odds are cartoons feature heavily in their upbringing. North Korean kids are no exception, except instead of Scooby Doo they get a state-issued peek in the mouth of madness.
Take a look at the most insane Saturday morning line-up in history:
Learn Geometry so You Can Defeat America
First of all, if you think North Korea's children's cartoons are all about destroying the evil Americans, well ... you're mostly right.
That was pretty low-hanging fruit.
For instance, this cartoon stars a young boy who, like every other young boy in history, doesn't want to do his geometry homework. So instead of studying, he doodles an American army helmet and pretends to shoot it with his compass until he falls asleep. He promptly finds himself having every North Korean child's government-sanctioned worst nightmare: an invasion of anthropomorphic American ships.
Led by the infamous USS Jerkface.
It's up to him and his friends to fight the Americans -- which they do with missile batteries made from school supplies.
Granted, they are probably more effective than North Korea's actual missile batteries.
At first, the defense of the Homeland goes well, with the children blowing up large numbers of American Naval, uh ... tanks?
Whatever they are, they're no match for giant exploding pencils.
Between the flashy missiles, the patriotic music and the impressive explosions, things are all inspirational and it looks like the day is won ... until. The main character is way too inaccurate to hit the ships closing in on him. He frantically tries to calibrate his shots, but since he can't use his giant protractor properly his aim is off and American missiles get through.
Although to be fair, America is using Bullet Bills, which can be a real pain.
One of them hits him, and the music turns grim as American vessels close in. His friends come to his aid (as shown with a Batman-esque red star wipe), but -- gasp -- it looks to be too late. Then, the dream ends and our protagonist awakes with a newfound desire to study. He's going to get those Americans next time!
There's a fine line between folksy and half-assed.
The moral of the story:
"Do your homework, or enemy forces will kill your ass."
Better math could have prevented this.
An effective message, to be sure, but you can see right away how far behind America North Korea is when it comes to entertainment propaganda. When an American high school got attacked by the Russians in Red Dawn, we didn't write some convoluted plot where the students won the war with math. They flung their textbooks to the floor and raided the nearest gun store, bitch! Good luck with your pencil bombs, nerds!
North Korea's VeggieTales
You may be familiar with VeggieTales, the American cartoon show about the adventures of talking Christian vegetables. This cartoon is like that, except with fewer speeches about how awesome Jesus is and more potatoes that know martial arts.
It begins with a couple of young corn cobs out for a bike ride.
One of which kind of looks stoned.
They watch a parade, then go check out the local farmland. There, they meet some potatoes who are the soldier class of this vegetable world. Everything seems idyllic, but there's trouble brewing underground.
It's like looking into a mirror on our own decadent, capitalist lives.
Said trouble comes in the form of anthropomorphic smuts and blights, which are basically diseases that affect corn and potatoes. They hatch a plan to attack the surface, and when they emerge and start devouring plants, it's up to the potatoes to defend the crops.
With kung fu.
Yes, those potatoes are doing backflips. Yes, it is rad.
In what must be the single most ridiculous fight scene ever animated, the potatoes jump kick the shit out of everything in sight, and aren't slowed down a bit by bullets or gas attacks. The smuts and blights promptly get their asses handed to them in a fight more one-sided than a My Little Pony / Wolverine crossover.
The people's revolution is adorable.
To celebrate their flawless victory, the vegetables put on a big song and dance number, which is what you'd expect. Then things take a turn for the distinctly North Korean when this celebration includes the hero potatoes being happily harvested, killed and turned into food.
The moral of the story:
"If you work your hardest and battle your mightiest, you'll one day be worthy of sacrificing your life for your Country."
Hooray for civil virtue!
"Wait," says one little child, watching this cartoon on his state-issued TV. "If these potatoes have extraordinary kung-fu abilities, can't society find a better use for them than to just skin them and chop them up along with all of the other nonsentient potatoes?" "No, dear. All of us must eventually be butchered and fried in burning oil. That is why this country is great!"
"Mommy, what's a 'potato chip'?"
America's Army of Evil Insects
As we mentioned, America is a recurring villain in North Korean cartoons. They tend to follow the same scenario you know from all your favorites from Inspector Gadget to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: there's a megalomaniacal head bad guy, his incompetent lackeys and their latest, needlessly complicated scheme to destroy the plucky heroes.
Generic Evil American General #2 even has a bit of a Dr. Claw thing going on here.
This setup offers us the interesting opportunity to see how the world looks from the bad guy's vantage point. In this episode, America's (that's us! Woo!) evil master plan is to drop canisters full of trained insects on North Korea to spread disease and famine. We're not sure why we go through all the trouble of training insects when we could just drop bombs. But we guess that's just us silly Americans for you, eh?
"These are probably better than nukes."
The American henchman takes to the skies but is promptly shot down, as he's too busy daydreaming about the riches he'll receive to pay attention to his flying. But he manages to release his payload before he crashes.
Who wouldn't be distracted by dreams of shiny skull jackets and giant coins?
OK, we think we've got this thing figured out. Those cute little bugs are the heroes here, right? Any minute now, they'll probably bump into Kim Jong-il in all his glorious leadershipness and defect on the spot. That would make sense.
Then again, "sense" is not a concept North Korean animators are familiar with. So instead, they bring out the North Korean Exterminator -- looking for all the world like he (it?) has wandered in from a totally different show -- who unceremoniously starts gassing the shit out of Ameribugs with his friends.
Seriously, dude looks like a cross between a fire hydrant and a sex toy.
Surprise! North Korea was well prepared for a sentient bug attack all along! Their defense force is on the scene in seconds and starts hosing down the bugs -- which of course flee at the first sign of trouble, being cowardly Americans.
You've got our number, North Korea.
After the bugs have been taken care of, what follows can only be described as a three minute death run (it's worth noting that the total length of the cartoon is only 10:21) of the terrified and whimpering American pilot, who has survived the crash only to get scared by his own bugs and run off a cliff. Yes, of course we see him land face first after the drop. The pilot barely survives that, but is promptly infected by the last remaining bug and dies a horrific, agonizing death.
Because the children must see the infidel perish twice.
And see a bug spit in his dead mouth.
The moral of the story:
"America is a foolish, cowardly country, and its plans can easily be thwarted by Lego men with gas guns."
Also: "Everything bad that happens in your life is due to something secretly dropped out of an American plane."
Ninja Cat Puppets
This cartoon/puppet show reiterates the theme of defending food from invaders. This time it's a cat, tasked with protecting a granary from mice. We probably won't need to tell you that the puppets look creepy as hell:
It's all too easy to imagine this thing vomiting green bile and screaming profanities about your mom.
Despite its horror movie prop looks, the cat-thing isn't much of a fighter. The mice almost get away with the food, but then a soldier cat shows up to save the day.
No real cats were harmed during the production of this film. Probably.
This cat, unlike the first one, is fucking hardcore -- he zooms around at lightning speed and kicks all sorts of ass, finally unleashing a special stun move that looks like it belongs in Dragon Ball Z.
He uses a lens flare to blind his victims, a technique later perfected by J.J. Abrams.
The ranks of the mice are taken apart. Literally. They're stabbed with claws and smashed against walls, and it's shown in no uncertain terms that the few mice that do survive are reduced to little more than empty shells that face a lifetime of nightmares and therapy sessions.
The granary now appears safe, but the soldier cat decides to train the younger cat in case the mice return. The few viewers that are not at this point huddling behind the couch are treated to a Rocky-style training montage.
Some people think the United States and North Korea will never be on friendly terms, but we believe there's always hope for two countries that both understand the power of a montage.
But instead of focusing on his training, the cat daydreams about being tough and scary. The mice, discovering his willingness to take the easy way, trick him into putting on a lion costume. The cat thinks he looks like hot shit, but the fake paws ruin his ability to fight.
It's the exact same strategy Ali used to defeat George Foreman.
With the cat incapacitated, the mice run wild ... until the soldier cat returns to 1) save the day again and 2) traumatize the rest of the viewers.
With extreme prejudice.
The younger cat is humbled, but learns the valuable lesson that training hard is more important than taking shortcuts. Also, if your greatest enemy gives you free stuff, it might not be the best idea to use it.
Behold, the power of socialism!
The moral of the story:
"We must reject capitalism's lazy, decadent culture, and their furries."
North Korean Frogs Are Badass
The importance of agriculture and defending the homeland from invaders are two common themes in North Korean cartoons, which of course makes sense when your country is isolated and constantly on the brink of famine. But how do you stress the need to keep your land free of pests and parasites in a way that's accessible to kids?
If your answer is "With utter insanity, of course," step forward and claim your prize.
"With a frog that can kick your ass!" would also have been acceptable.
Meet the creature we're just going to go ahead and call the North Korean Superfrog. This cute little guy has an adorable red uniform, an adorable water bottle made out of a lemon and an adorable gigantic gun that can shoot lasers and darts. Also, he has a praying mantis girlfriend who drives an itty-bitty motorcycle. Superfrog's got it all, man! And he doesn't mess around either -- in the opening 10 seconds he graphically guns down a dozen or so insects who are trying to eat his plants.
And leaves their bodies as a warning to the others.
But the insects soon come up with a cunning plan: a moth blinds the Superfrog, and the bugs move in and start devouring the crops while he's incapacitated. It looks like a disaster, but the frog calmly remembers his training and sounds the alarm. Cue the mantis girlfriend, who instantly jumps the bugs and starts chopping through them with a freaking sword.
We guess that makes her a preying mantis. Anyone?
Meanwhile, the Superfrog manages to rinse his eyes and, using his superior North Korean marksmanship, goes on a rampage that Rambo would plea for him to dial back.
Thus marking the first time in military history where a frog was effective in combat.
The bugs panic and try to flee, but get mercilessly slaughtered anyway. And we mean slaughtered -- this cartoon's body count easily reaches triple digits. It doesn't skimp on the on-screen violence either -- this bug, for instance, gets shot in the back so hard its head pops off:
Where were scenes like this in ThunderCats?
The aftermath is not unlike a scene from 300, except instead of a melodramatic soundtrack it's the same happy goofy kids' music that seems to play in all of these cartoons.
Above: More disturbing then anything in Fritz the Cat.
Somehow, this makes it so much worse.
The moral of the story:
"The crops will not be safe until absolutely everyone else is dead."
You can read more from Mark at Zug, where he experiments with ridiculous beliefs and remedies the Internet thinks are real.
For more insane cartoons, check out 5 Classic Cartoons They Don't Want You To See and The 6 Creepiest Things Ever Slipped Into Children's Cartoons.