I am writing to you today to discuss what I hope is a rumor. Before we get into everything, I would like to formally introduce myself. My name is Janet Jonas, but most people just call me Ms. Jonas. I am a 3rd grade English and writing teacher at Charles Baggage Elementary School. I have worked a total of five years at the school, three as a student teacher during my college career and two as full time. Compared to the other faculty at the school I’m pretty young, however I believe I’m just as qualified as my peers. I graduated from school at the top of my class, earning a 3.8 gpa. If you have any other questions related to my background, I would be more than happy to answer them.
With all I would like to move on to the main point of this email. I’m unaware if anyone else has written to you about this topic but I would like to talk about a new cartoon show that has been a popular subject of conversation. It’s called “The Incredible Journeys of the Wonderland Heroes,” however I often hear it mentioned as just simply “Incredible Journeys.” During the last few weeks my classes have been filled with students talking about how great the show is. When the obsession originally started, I was honestly very excited. It’s quite rare these days to see kids show any kind of interest in network television shows, instead they tend to prefer content that can be found online. Personally, I have never liked this. It has always been a belief of mine that kids should watch media that was specifically made for them, educational cartoons, animated movies, etc. The world of the internet lacks content like these allowing kids to watch whatever they want, no matter how harmful it is to their growing brains.
My interest in the show quickly grew the more I heard about it. I started to seek out all the information I could find about the show, which wasn’t much. Every time I would search up the show’s name, I would be greeted with a blank page telling me a show of that name didn’t exist. This of course came as a surprise. The only real piece of information I learned was when the show aired and what channel it was on. It’s on every day between the hours of 7:00 p.m and 9:00 p.m. on channel 956, the city’s public access channel.
I know that in the grand scheme of things I’m new to the city so I can’t properly comment on the topic. However, this is the first time I’m hearing of a kids show airing on a public network, even more so an animated show. As confused as I was by all this, I would be lying if I said this didn’t increase my desire to watch the show. To better understand why the cartoon was so beloved among my students I decided that I would sit down and watch the entirety of the two-hour block in which it aired. I even promised them that we would set aside 10 minutes at the end of class time and discuss our favorite moments from the episodes. I deeply enjoy talking to my students about their interests, seeing the eyes light up as they talk about something they love is truly a wonderful sight. My hopes were high for the program. As silly as it sounds, I was excited to watch a children’s cartoon.
I spent the entire day after school getting ready for the show, finishing my work and daily errands early to make sure I could pay as much attention as possible to the show. It finally came time for the show to air and, well, I was shocked to see what it was. The show opened up with a short, crudely drawn intro featuring what I assume are the main characters. A young boy with blue hair wearing a suit of knight armor, a pink haired girl dressed as a pirate, and a red racoon wearing a yellow scarf greet the viewer with a wave, with no words being said. This lasts for about ten seconds before the show’s admittedly poor looking title card appears on the screen. While on the subject I would like to take a moment to talk about the show’s name, “The Incredible Journeys of the Wonderland Heroes.” Speaking of which, I don’t know about you, but I find this to be an extremely bizarre title. Not only is it lengthy but the name seems to just be a series of random buzzwords. I know that children’s media tends to be a little bit more creative in terms of visuals and story content but still, this was unlike anything I have ever seen.
As strange as this all was, nothing could prepare me for the actual episode. The title faded away, leaving a blank black screen. It stayed like that for a few seconds until a singular red square appeared at the top left of my television. Soon after that a painfully annoying humming sound started playing, quickly followed by a series of beeps. The screen then flashes blue, and a green triangle appears. A variety of similar events would follow suit, different sounds and brightly colored shapes would fill the rest of the thirty-minute broadcast time. After the episode ended another one started, with everything I previously explained happening all over again.
As you can imagine I was deeply confused when I walked into school the next day and heard my class talking about how great the new episodes were. When I asked what their favorite moments where I was faced with many different answers. I rather not share my students’ names but if I must for the sake of proving this is all real then I will. One kid said, “I liked it when they fought that dragon,” another one said, “Danny using his sword against those zombies was the coolest thing ever.” I had no idea what they were talking about.
I couldn’t understand for the life of me how we could’ve watched the same show. The way they were describing the characters matched their appearance in the intro, so I knew we watched the right show, and yet everything else was so different. After a few minutes of swapping fantastic stories, it was finally my turn. I didn’t really know what to say, we obviously were seeing different things. After some internal debating I decided that I would just tell them the truth. “I liked it when the blue circle showed up.” Yes, I’m aware that was a silly thing to say, and so did my students. They all laughed believing that I was telling a joke, however I couldn’t have been more honest.
Later in the day during dismissal I decided I would go around and ask some of the parents and guardians what they thought about the show. Surprisingly it seems like the show is well liked from the few conversations I had. They seemingly like it as much as their kids do, mainly due to how absorbed their kids get into the show, giving them a few hours of peace. I disagree with that way of looking but that’s a topic for another day. One thing I did like hearing however was that I’m thankfully not the only person who doesn’t see what the children see. It’s common for adults to witness simple visuals and noises. As glad as I was to learn that I wasn’t crazy, it was still shocking to hear that the show’s content changes depending on the viewer’s age.
Honestly, I grew a little angry upon hearing all of this, it was almost as if everyone was in on a joke except for me. I spent the rest of my day constantly thinking about the show. So many questions bounced around my mind, none of which had any good answers. So, to put my mind at ease I decided to call the local broadcast studio the next morning and see what was truly going on with the show.
After a lengthy chat with the studio’s manager, only one question of my remains, why wasn’t I told about this show earlier? First, I find it to be incredibly strange that artificial intelligence created this entire show. While the basic characters were designed by a real people, everything else from the episodes plots, music, locations, and voice acting is all feigned. Which is differently interesting. The use of AI isn’t something I have a problem with, however the way in which it is used is horrible.
Now, I don’t have a full understanding of how it all works but from what I could gather I have to say I do agree with it at all. The show appears as just mindless nonsense to us adults because our brains are fully mature. The unique sounds and images of the show are used to generate stories featuring the characters inside the underdeveloped minds of children. However, I’m sure you’re aware of all of this. In fact, you probably know more than me. I was shocked to discover that this was all an experiment being conducted by some scientists, and that the local school district is helping fund it.
I know I’m just a teacher, a new one at that, but I must advise against this decision. I know the idea of easy children’s entertainment is interesting, but this isn’t the way of doing it. We don’t know what AI is showing the children, there’s a chance they could be seeing potential harmful and inappropriate ideas. Please rethink supporting this program.
Lynn, Susan. “How AI-powered tech can harm children.” Time. https://time.com/6216722/how-ai-tech-harms-children/
My story is about a teacher stumbling across a kids tv show that is entirely created by AI. In this article the author talks about how AI tends to show kids misinformation and tends to end up being harmful. The article lists homophobia and sexism as being some of the harmful ideals. I’ll probably play with some of the same ideas, but I do tend to introduce some new ones such as graphic visuals.
Undertale. Stream. 2015.
I based Ms. Jonas off of Toriel from Undertale/ Deltarune is a kind soft spoken individual. She cares deeply for her adopted kids and tries her best to make sure they’re always doing well. She serves as the main inspiration for Jonas and is the reason I made her a teacher in the first place.
Bug Hunter. “Dear McCracken.” The Rough Draft. Bug Hunter. 2018.
The story is written from the point of view of an email. I based this off the song “Dear McCracken” by Bug Hunter. In the song the narrator is watching someone write an email to a loved one on a plane. I thought this was extremely unique and would be a fun way to read a story. Ms. Jonas does mention the school, her home, a message board, and her office as location but she does so just to mention where she heard specific pieces of information.