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I was wrong. I visited the Oogieloves website ("From the marketing visionary that brought you Teletubbies and Thomas the Tank Engine!" it boasts) and found nothing that was morally suspect—or, for that matter, digestible. These puppets are not parodies of tasteless children's entertainment but the genuine article, complete with a "Hey kids!" narrator whose gravelly voice comes off as the sonic equivalent of someone poking you in the ribs. (He reads each tab on the Web page when you pass your cursor across it, surely to the misery of parents everywhere.) Some of their songs are about balloons and how fun it is to get up in the morning; the others I heard are even more inane. Their movie received a G rating.
I don't think I was cynical in my original assumption. Who, in the 21st century, names a group of characters "the Oogieloves" in earnest? I thought today's children were media-savvy world-beaters by the age of four, and that subjecting them to the content-free cuteness of the Teletubbies variety now constituted a form of abuse. Anyone who really cared about stimulating children's imaginations (as opposed to convincing their parents to buy toys) would recognize this, right? I'd like to imagine that there is a NC-17 version somewhere of Big Balloon Adventure, in which the Oogieloves shoot up heroin and curse about how hard it is to live with themselves.