Dirtgirlworld Horrors

Dirtgirlworld Horrors

Though this probably doesn’t apply to most of you readers, some of you have kids. And some of those kids from time to time watch shows from the gigantic cesspool of kids programming oozing from any of the number of kid-focused channels on cable. While some kid shows are watchable, and a few shows are superfun, most of the kid’s programming however is full of shoestring budgeted productions that continuously find the most bizarre new ways to be ugly. Normally I don’t go out of my way to call something out for just being a bad kid’s show. But recently I was watching a show with my son on PBS and an ad came on for this horrifying new show called Dirtgirlworld. I couldn’t believe the ugliness. It went beyond ugly into a sort of scary place, with these live-action eyes and mouths pasted onto rigid heads which are in turn pasted onto live-action bodies in Ronald McDonald suits. This production is definitely toying with the uncanny valley in a new, hideous way. (Check out this swell, mutated robot slideshow on the subject here, which that last photo still is from).

When will people understand that when you produce images with certain realistic human-like characteristics mashed up with distorted proportions or features, you are liable to trigger gut reactions of revulsion in viewers? (See our previous Sexy Robot Advertisement Failures post here for more eyeball pain.)

EDIT: I love this subject. So:

I understand that the Uncanny Valley theory is just a theory. The above linked article (with the slideshow) sheds some light on the debatable usefulness of the theory to roboticists as it is now typically referenced in pop culture circles (such as here in this post). The problem of designing appealing humanoid robots appears to be more complex than a single graph can illustrate. What these scientists should do is get together with puppet makers, cartoonists, character designers, CG modelers, and Hollywood special effects makers and work on an advanced study on human empathy towards non-human things as it relates to their appearance and movements. Cartoonists have been studying that for decades in relation to their character designs, that’s why new cartoons that dump in the face of any kind of basic appeal really get me riled. And I have a really, really wide personal definition of appeal. (See my previous most hated kid’s show design here. PBS is also guilty in that case).

25 replies on “Dirtgirlworld Horrors”

Thanks for the link, Nick. I see the resemblance and yet Leigh’s work is way more appealing at the same time that she is actually aiming for creepiness in some of her work! The Dirtgirl eyes and mouth combination is what really makes the design ugly. Also there are those skeevy man-faces on the bug and scarecrow, but that is a separate design problem.

These look mighty rough indeed.

PBS has a few that took some time to grow on me. I’ve avoided Caillou like leprosy but I did ignore all the blaring warning bells and gave the “new” Eletric Company a try. It made me cry inside.

Ever since I saw DirtGirlWorld for the first time on BBC I’ve been simultaneously fascinated and disgusted by it. It’s like a car crash, so horrifying, yet so hard to look away from!
I think the Australian voices should be replaced by intense organ music to complete the illusion of HORROR.

Well, my 3-year old daughter just loves it! She’s very imaginative, and very precise on what she likes or not.
My wife thinks its odd and Scrap boy reminds her of Michael Jackson :-))

Thanks for the opposing view, Aleksandar!

They simply would have avoided repulsing half their potential audience and saved some production time too if they just had their main characters as live action adults in kid clothes acting like kids with normal sized heads, etc. as there is a long precedent of in kid’s programming. Then they could act much more naturally and turn their heads more than 5 degrees.

Alternately, they could have embraced their concept but executed it better by fully animating large cartoon heads on live action bodies, and used the skills and knowledge of 2D or 3D cartoon animators to deliver appealing characters that could act and do anything with their simple, friendly, well-designed faces.

In this video the co-creator reasons that “Real eyes can look straight to the hearts” of children. Yes, real eyes on real heads work rather well. In cartoons however, the simplified and well-designed drawing of an eye and cartoon face can produce a magnified effect of familiarity and empathy in viewers. People love cartoons and identify with them all over the world. Examine the most popular, enduring cartoon character designs and judge how realistic the eyes are on them in comparison to DirtGirl.

Besides the design problem, there is the movement problem. The way it is now, the eyes keep on blinking and twitching and DirtGirl keeps twisting and opening her mouth constantly. Sticking all that focused attention on these live-action parts on top of a mostly stationary head shape is a bad idea because it magnifies the contrast between them. It just doesn’t work.

The above linked work in comment #1 of Leigh Hodgkinson’s is an example of how to use this approach well. She takes her animated eye assets and only animates her eye blinks and movements deliberately. She has total control over the facial features.

As a mom, here are my 2 cents.
My daughter and I love this show. It has a fabulous message and is told in a unique way. Sure they could have used adults dressed as kids like Luna and Big Comfy Couch, or fully animated like most of the other shows out there (yawn). They may have avoided repulsing people but it would also fade into the hundreds of other shows out there. If you can get past the “creepy” factor and appreciate the quirkiness from a less technical perspective, it is truly enjoyable to watch. I can’t imagine enjoying this as a cartoon or live action nearly as much. The visual imagery on the show is half the fun. Not once has my 5 year old used the words “creepy” or “ugly” to describe this show so I think they have hit thier target market.

i was just telling my wife that grubby is actually quite pretty so i understand what you are saying jebus…bob the builder and thomas the train are way creepier..i mean spud is really creepy..his head is a sack freakin potatoes!and on thomas they all just whine and complain about each other..i’ll take dirtgirlworld anyday

I saw DirtGirl today for the first time, and I have to say the strangeness is strangely wonderful. . .I couldn’t look away! My 4 year old was mesmerized as well. I gotta say, the characters were fun and the songs were very good. I can see how it could freak someone out, but you have to admit the animation is very imaginative!

DirtGirlWorld is just plain freaky. What’s with the left (technically her right) squinty eye? It’s so distracting that when I watch with my son, I completely miss the story out of fascination – just wondering what that eye is going to do next. Bizarre.

Most of you sound horribly unimaginative and must have forgotten what it is to be a child with an unfettered take on reality and what is fun to watch. Being “horrified” by DirtGirlWorld is something akin to worrying about a small creak you hear as your house settles in the middle of the night. Lighten up and enjoy this show for the creativity involved and the great soundtrack. If you want safe watch Barney. If you want something really impressive and fun for kids and adults alike watch DirtGirlWorld.

DirtGirl World is Imaginative and the real expressive features that the characters display is what makes the show, along with the endearing storyline on how to care for your environment and all the fun things you can do. For those that perceive dirtgirlworld as creepy just shows that your mind is very small. I love this show!…and glad that my 5 year old likes the sprout channel or else we would have never viewed the show!

I find DG oddly sensual probably because the live features and Aussie accent remind me a little Kylie Minogue. The message is pretty positive: respect the natural world, etc.. Nothing to get too shook up about really.

I think DirtGirl World is one of the greatest children’s shows available right now. It teaches all of things that my family finds important and the music is very good for a kids show. It’s my sons (he’s 2 1/2) favorite show, ever.

listen everybody. Dirtgirlworld is a very stupid show it is not good it is plain stupid and creepy so dont say its a good show

My 14m has loved this Dirtgirlworld since he was tiny. When he would start screaming we would play the intro song, he would imedietly stop crying and start laughing. Now he goes around calling to watch the show 🙂

As an animator this show captures exactly what kids are looking for exaggerated expression which is amplified by excluding all but the most important facial features.

As a Male iv come looking online to see if anyone else has noticed just how provocative Dirt Girls expressions come across. To my surprise the reaction to the show seems to be overwhelming sense of outrage for its art direction…

grow up guys, kids entertainment has scared people with the “uncanny valley” effect since the earliest puppets, clowns and make up. Just because something unsettles you doesn’t give you the right to act as if you know better then those producing it.

You know what? Let it be ugly. Our children are exposed to ‘beautiful’ and ‘normal’ constantly through things like Disney movies. And even from that young age it can have a dangerous effect. My 5 year old daughter thinks her face doesn’t look nice. HER WORDS! But maybe if we expose our kids to more unconventional and not normal looking. Images, they will grow up with a greater self confidence knowing that not everyone grows up to look like a Disney Princess or a brats doll or prince charming etc…. Maybe the kid in their class who has down syndrome wouldnt be wierd looking but just….different. In the way blue eyes are different from brown. We need to expose our kids to everything that is out there. Weather it’s beautiful or strange, or creepy….so they learn to accept people’s differences and not be afraid of them.

I just saw an episode for the first time with my 23 month old. All I could think of is “creepy “.

I randomly found this on On Demand. I watched an episode and i cringed. Dirt girl and scrap boy look like ancestors of jeff the killer, and scrap boy looks like diego from dora, also whats the yellow caterpillar looking thing? its hideous!

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