Toons terrify tots


“Leave it to a psychologist to take the fun out of watching a cartoon.” That was my first thought when I read the news account.

According to the Mail, Dr. Brian Young, a psychologist at Exeter University in the UK, asserts that kiddies who watch the make-believe adventures of Thomas The Tank Engine on the telly “could end up absolutely terrified of going on a train.” Dr. Young purports that the many scenes of railway accidents in the cartoon series can scare the bejeebers out of kids.

But now that I’ve thought about it for a while, it seems that Dr. Young may be on to something quite useful to us travelers who selfishly seek shelter from screamers while on the road. Indeed, if the viewing of the adventures of Thomas The Tank Engine can prevent small fry from taking to the rails, perhaps this scheme could be extended to other travel modalities and venues.

Consider a whole series of cartoons to spook little tikes and keep them away from me and you while we are out trying to earn a buck or to get in some relaxation time. Here are my concepts for some animated TV shows along the lines of Thomas. (Warner Brothers, are you listening?)

Peter The Pilot Airplane
Very little fiction would have to be introduced into this cartoon character. Indeed, it would be tough to think of a scarier character than a real pilot packin’ a .40-caliber semiautomatic up there in the front of the airplane—as is now authorized.

But it gets even more frightening: According to the Associated Press, some pilots are complaining about the psychological tests they would have to undergo to participate in the pistol-packing program—not because such testing might weed out some trigger-happy airplane drivers, but because it might eliminate pilots who could have second thoughts about plugging somebody. Now that’s frightening.

Ronald The Room Hotel
Perhaps the single biggest threat to hotel guests is fire. Yet most guests will ignore alarms until it becomes obvious that their lives are in danger. By then it is often too late to flee.

Now enter Ronald the Room, whose calling is to encourage reticent guests to take action during a hotel fire. But it is the wrong kind of action. He persuades guests to leap from their hotel room windows.

Just like watching Wily Coyote, kids will be terribly entertained and (hopefully) freaked-out by seeing victims falling—ker-spalt!—onto the pavement below. Who wouldn’t be?

Edward The Entrée Restaurant
Edward The Entrée can be served up as both entertainment and as a public service. (Heck, funding for its production may even be available from the government.)

To give you a sense of this cartoon series, here’s the story line for the pilot: Some nippers at Edward’s restaurant are served up a “Kid’s Meal” prepared under less than sanitary conditions and bingo! Hepatitis A. Watching the typically symptoms of fever, malaise, anorexia, nausea, and abdominal discomfort, followed by fatigue and lack of appetite (something anyone is likely to have while viewing these cartoons) will give these little shavers a head’s-up as to what may be in store for them if developing countries are on their future travel itineraries.

Expose enough children to a few episodes of Peter or Ronald or Edward (or for that matter, Thomas) and we adults can once again begin to enjoy our time on the road. Ahhh.