A look at the awful children’s programming you’re forced to endure before you can finally kick the kids out of the TV room to watch sports for eight hours. GIF by Jim Cooke.
The Theme Song
Chuggggggggggington! Chugga chugga chugga Chuggington! Chuggggggggggington! Chugga chugga chugga Chugga chugga chugga Chugga chugga chugga Chuggington! Chuggington! Clappity clap!
Chuggington is a cartoon that Disney Channel imported from Britain to better torture American parents. The original show uses British voices, but since this is ‘MERICA and we can’t abide by filthy English accents, the show has been re-dubbed using proper, shrill, annoying American voices. I’m not saying a bunch of little British twats screaming out the theme song is any better (thanks to “Another Brick in the Wall” and “The Living Years,” I am firmly against using British boy choirs in rock songs), I’m just saying that the producers felt compelled to dumb down what was already a dumb British show.
The fictional town of Chuggington is a training depot for young train engines who are eager to prove themselves Really Useful. And yes, that’s also the gist of every Thomas the Tank Engine story. Chuggington exists because one corporation saw another corporation making a mint from anthropomorphic train cartoons and train merchandise and had to get a taste of the action. Thus, you get pretty much the exact same characters and plots as a Thomas cartoon, only using cheap, shitty, Korean CGI animation (which Thomas also now uses). EVERYONE WINS! When I go to the bookstore now, I see the Chuggington crap slowly invading the territory where all the Thomas crap is. Somewhere, there’s a deranged sales executive wielding a HAPPY TRAIN MARKET SHARE PowerPoint slide who could not be more excited about this development. The age 3-5 demo is theirs for the taking!
The trainees on Chuggington are asked to handle any number of random tasks: shipping freight, pulling the ice cream car (named Frostini, complete with comical Italian accent), or starring as an extra in Action Chugger’s shitty action movie. The trainees fuck up ALL THE TIME. If this were a real railroad, 10,000 people would be killed every week thanks to runaway engines, crashing cars, and milk floods. These trains are as bad at training as the Grey’s Anatomy doctors are at practicing medicine. But since this is Chuggington, such catastrophic errors serve merely as life lessons for the little engines as they aspire to a future of endless, motorized toil. One day, you little fuckers will all grow up to haul my grain. Lucky you.
Every episode of Chuggington consists of two vignettes (“Rolling Reporter Wilson,” etc.) and a BADGE QUEST segment, in which a shrill loudspeaker named Vee (controlled by aliens?!) hands down tasks to the trainees so that they can get a stupid badge. The trainees then all assume that they can handle this task easily, with no thought or deliberation whatsoever. They’re just so damn eager to get on that turntable. Inevitably, their callowness leads to them fuck up horribly, presumably killing 700 civilians in an engine fire. Then they decide to finally LISTEN, and complete the task properly. Then Vee gives them their badge even though they totally didn’t earn it. If I fucked up that badly in Driver’s Ed, I would get six years for manslaughter before they gave me a temp permit.
Wilson: Trainee. He’s the red one. He’s the prince of impatient railroad fuckups.
Brewster: Trainee. The blue one. If I’m not looking at the TV, I honestly can’t tell the difference between him and Wilson. The writers clearly need to give Brewster some advanced form of alcoholism to make him stand out more.
Koko: Trainee. Sassy girl engine. Sometimes Koko teases Brewster by calling him a “slow coach.” WHAT A BITCH.
Action Chugger: Movie star train. Only stars in brainless Hollywood train action movies like Unstoppable 2: Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. Can fly. Yeah, that’s right. He can fucking FLY. Just like Astrotrain in the old Transformers cartoons. Why can’t REAL trains fly? Because the world is shit, that’s why. Anyway, Action Chugger is clearly gay and overplaying his masculinity to compensate for his insecurities. You can see that he’s taken an unnatural liking to the two boy trainees.
M’tambo: He’s the African engine and he talks with an African accent. THAT IS RAYCESS!
Dunbar: Boss of the trainees. EXTREMELY DEEP COUNTRY VOICE. Makes every order sound like a command to start square-dancin’. Calls all the trainees “chuggers,” which is understandable but no less grating.
Emery: According to Wikipedia, Emery is “based on the Urban Transportation Development CorporationIntermediate Capacity Transit System Scarborough RT-type electric train.” OK, then.
Harrison: One of the older chuggers. Has a deep, soft baritone that can be used to seduce all the lady trains and get their axles wet.
Old Puffer Pete: The oldest engine in Chuggington. Will die one day.
Frostini: The aforementioned ice cream car. Though if here were really Italian, he’d demand you call it “gelato” and make sure to NEVER include a piece of chocolate when handing you a sample of stracciatella.
Eddie: The handyman. Human. No idea why he’s hanging out talking to a bunch of trains. He must get around at night.
There are also other chuggers like Zephie, Olwin, Piper, and more. I do not care about these chuggers.
“Wilson Gets A Wash.” Wilson gets muddy and won’t use the new chugwash. My children would like to subscribe to Wilson’s “refuse to bathe” newsletter.
“Lights Camera Action Chugger.” The trainees are basically hired as pissboys on Action Chugger’s movie set. He’s abusing those young children for cheap labor. The Slumdog Millionaire guy approves.
Apart from the title sequence, there are no songs on Chuggington, which is nice. With a few exceptions, music makes any children’s show 70 times worse.
That fucking air horn. Every two minutes during an episode of Chuggington, a shrill horn will blast: doo-DOO-doo-DOODOODOO! It’s loud as shit. As always, I grade kiddie shows strictly according to my ability to ignore them. Chuggington fails miserably in this regard. Horns go off. Bells ring. Trains crash. Action Chugger has his own stupid entrance chimes. Watching Chuggington is like having a monkey orchestra playing on top of your head. And there are cuts every half a second. You ricochet between 50 different characters with barely any sense of forward narrative momentum. This must be what watching Downton Abbey is like. I don’t trust the British to edit things properly.
Also, this is a Disney Channel show, which means there’s no bullshit pretense that your kid is watching something good for them, like what you get with Nick Jr. There’s no airy fairy “ecological” development to be had here. The people at BIG DISNEY are just trying to get you to buy more train shit, poisoning your child’s mind in the process. HONKING HORNS, THAT’S TRAINTASTIC EVILDOING!
Drew Magary writes for Deadspin and Gawker. He’s also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter @drewmagary and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also order Drew’s new book, “Someone Could Get Hurt,” through his homepage.