Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Jay Jay the Jet Plane

When you keyword search the TV Guide on "airplanes" you get some weird selections. I will subject you to my latest. Jay Jay the Jet Plane (caution: web page plays voices) is a television programme intended for very young children. Like any kids' show it features bright colours, forcibly cheerful overacting, and simple morals. This one features anthropomorphic aircraft (no pilots, just self-aware airplanes) and little "science and nature moments."

The airplanes look very weird at first, as each has a human face grafted onto the front such that the nose is the radome. The single-engine prop planes even have their propellers right on their noses. The facial features move as the airplanes speak, and even twist a little from side to side. They're almost all conventional fixed gear airplanes, which I suppose is to make their faces turn up as they sit around in the hangar and chat. There's also a little helicopter, a retractable prop twin, and a few others that come to visit from time to time.

My first point of fascination is trying to identify what inspired the features on the various airplanes. The designers obviously had some pictures to work from, but didn't necessarily know what the features they were drawing were. For example, Savanna is a delta wing supersonic jet. She has one engine, mounted in the vertical stabilizer like on a DC10. And she has a little engine-like pod just over where her left ear would be, if she had ears. At first I thought it was an oddly situated APU, and then I noticed that all the airplanes have some sort of vent in that position. (In the cast pictures page sometimes it appears to be over the right side, but they're always on the left in the show: the website designers appear to have flipped the pictures left to right in some places). On the old biplane, and the pink twin jet it's clearly a venturi.

Once the weirdness of the airplanes wears off, you can get to the drinking game. It only needs two rules: drink every time they violate a new air law, or violate the laws of physics during a "science moment."

For example, one of the jet planes, Tracy, decides to go and practice fast flying, to see if she can make a sonic boom. She explicitly selects for this purpose to overfly a national park. The fast flying goes well, until she encounters a tailwind which pushes her supersonic, at which point she tumbles from the sky and ends up stuck on her back like a turtle. No one knows where she's gone, but when they realize no one has seen her in a while, and she doesn't answer the radio, they split up and go to look for her. The supersonic jet is the one who spots her, so elects to make a low pass over the park, such that her sonic boom flips Tracy right side up. Tracy flies home and the mechanic polishes her up good as new.

Are you drunk yet?


Anonymous said...

OMG I *saw that one* where Tracy goes for the sound barrier. Too funny, and miseducational!

No, I haven't seen many of these... but sometimes, hotel rooms & boredom do odd things.

Nearly as painful to watch after a few minutes as their "train" one, featuring I think, "Thomas the tank engine".

Matt said...

oh my... this could be bad... lol

nec Timide said...

Drunk, I think my kidneys failed just reading the last paragraph ;-)

I've seen it on air a couple of times, but not lately.

Dagny said...


and I love that show.


Lord Hutton said...

Why do TV producers think it is OK to patronise children? The Thomas the Tank engine vids are nearly as bad.
And as for Jay Jay's voice. *vomit

dpierce said...

As a kid living in Japan, I always admired the little "science moments" they'd inject in kids' shows. A very serious narrator would briefly explain cutaways of the futuristic equipment shown in the previous scene, and often explain what was "real science" and what was embellished for the show.

I particularly remember something like, "A number of you have written in to say the wings on [insert name of hardware here] are too short to be useful! You are right! Those are actually antennae!"

I respected the effort put into the whole thing, and wish more venues took kids' entertainment so seriously.

Anonymous said...

Well, 'Trix, I'll have to admit that I have run across these things once in a while while changing channels, but I never stopped to watch them. But, as for a drinking game, would anyone make it all the way through an episode without passing out?

Tina Marie said...

I love that show! The old, wise biplane (I used to know his name!), Big Jake (who I think is supposed to be a DC-3), the fact that the mechanic is female, and, honestly, the aviation could be a lot worse.

My favorite thing about the show are the risk-management-type discussions. You never see that in kid's shows - most cartoons either kids run around doing what they want with no consequences, or the adults lay down rules that they have to follow. On this show, there are actually discussions where the planes talk among themselves about what's safe and what isn't - and why - and what could me more important then teaching a kid to think about that?

Anonymous said...

You're right Tina, I think I was a bit more harsh than I meant to be. I've enjoyed them as rare tidbits of aviation story thrown out into the media. Kids love planes too.

Anonymous said...

Oh crikey, now....what was that show in the train station that had a laconic Canadian Indian ("Native Canadian"?) and George Carlin (GEORGE CARLIN!!??)and Ringo Starr (RINGO FLIPPIN" STARRRRR!?)? I'll have to go look now.

Anonymous said...

OKOK, I ought o be drunk but not. Two different shows, but SDatrr was a voice on Thomas the Tank Engine, and Carlin was on Shining Time Station.
So who'll be on "Early Bird Airport"...Howard Stern? Peewee Herman? Pamela Sue Anderson?

Anonymous said...

Yeah! "Shining Time Station" was cool.
Ringo *and* Carlin. And another mechanic
who happens to be a woman.