On the surface, Disney’s Little Einsteins appears to be about teaching kids about classical music and art through easy-to-digest storylines typically found in the saccharine world of children’s television. But is there something more sinister hiding beneath the shiny veneer? Like, a story about a post-apocalyptic future following a robot uprising and the near-annihilation of the human race?**
I know that most children’s shows involve a weird premise. Super WHY is about superheroes that live in a storybook universe and they can modify stories. Wishenpoof is about a girl who inherits magical powers from her mom and has to learn how to control them. Magic School Bus is about an amazing science teacher and the magical bus that can transform into anything, all in the interest of teaching kids about science. But when you get past the premise of Little Einsteins, there are a lot of questions about the universe in the show.
Thanks to the autoplay feature on Netflix, and the fact that my daughter can’t get enough of this show, I’ve seen every episode about five times each. And over time I’ve noticed a bunch of weird things about the Little Einsteins universe.
There are no other people in this universe
For starters, there are no other people other than the Little Einsteins in their universe, but there are plenty of robots, non-human animals, and paintings of people. The closest thing they’ve talked to that is another person is either a weirdly-rendered painting of a king. There are also wooden dolls and a queen from a tapestry. In other words, all of the other characters resemble humans but are definitely not, unlike the Little Einsteins themselves. This is despite the fact that the children are definitely in our universe, since they have all of the same musicians and artists that we know today.
At one point, the Little Einsteins mention that they all used to be babies, and they even have baby pictures. However, they never talk about their parents. Nor do they talk about any other grown-ups or people in general, unless they’re mentioning a pre-21st century artist or musician. In fact, at one point, they all mention going to school for Show and Tell, but there is no teacher and no other kids in the class.
Rocket, their artificially intelligent spaceship, can be summed with a simple song: “On our way / the mission of the day / starts when we say Rocket!” This song was taught to them as infants, as evidenced in the show where they talk about a mobile that hung over Leo’s crib, that had a tiny version of Rocket in the middle and would sing the summoning song when wound up.
Rocket: faster-than-light space travel, for kids?
And let’s talk about Rocket itself: this is a spaceship, capable of faster-than-light travel (either that or the episode where they travel to all of the planets in our solar system takes a lot longer than I think), with buttons that are largely ornamental (clearly the ship can be controlled with voice commands but is also intelligent enough to know how to navigate around without the kids telling it what to do). The launch sequence is initiated by the children patting their laps and raising their arms to shout “Blast off!” It’s a ship designed for children, easier to use than an iPad (something which most of today’s toddlers can figure out relatively quickly).
Rocket can go anywhere but its main location is in an underground lair, accessible by a secret doorway in a tree that can only be opened when all four Little Einsteins have put their hands in the right spots. Biometric readings, maybe?
Are they genetically-engineered super children?
Is the fact that these kids are called the “Little Einsteins” a clue to their genetic heritage? They refer to themselves as the Little Einsteins, they’re able to communicate with animals, and they have an encyclopedic knowledge about the world.
Why are the Little Einsteins only interested in the past?
The kids live in a world with artificial intelligence, faster-than-light travel, and they can communicate with all animals. Yet all they talk about are pre-21st century music and art? My best guess is that at some post-21st century time, technology became too advanced, which led to the destruction of the human race. In the dying embers, scientists were able to engineer these four children who have one mission: learn everything about the past. In order to reconstruct it, maybe? And why is the cut-off at the 21st century. We are on the cusp of self-driving cars, what’s next for us as a species?
Why is everything so clean if there aren’t any people to clean it?
The Little Einsteins travel through the world to popular tourist attractions (pretty much any monument you can think of), and yet everything is completely devoid of human life, but also immaculate. Almost as if a silent army of autonomous robots was still going about their daily cleaning schedule?
More evidence in support of a robot army is the scene where the kids visit the Buckingham Palace, and the guard is clearly a wooden doll robot wearing a guard’s uniform. In the scene, the doll is patrolling the grounds, and the kids are trying to sneak by (as much as one can when in a rocket ship), but as long as the doll doesn’t see them move, it won’t know they’re there.
If all of the humans disappeared from the planet, everything would become overgrown with plants and fall into disrepair. Unless you had an invisible workforce that was somehow maintaining it. And if so, what does it mean that there are no humans but plenty of robots left? It’s not a matter of food or resources, because there are plenty of animals around too.
Artificial Intelligence and the robot uprising
We live in a world with smart phones, smart lights, and smart thermostats. The Little Einsteins live in a world where instruments are floating around and paintings come to life. We have self-driving cars, they have a self-piloted rocket ship. Their technology is basically just an extension of our emerging smart-homes, with added artificial intelligence.
At what point do robots transition from intuitive drones that make our lives easier into bloodthirsty robots who want to use humans as batteries? Is it really impossible to imagine that the robots are going to sick of our shit one day?
The main nemesis: Big Jet
The kids are constantly being trolled by Big Jet, a Russian MiG that has been modified with artificial intelligence and also arms and legs. Big Jet only exists to mess up the kids’ missions. In one memorable scene, where they all bring something to school for Show and Tell, Big Jet deftly steals all of their favorite items, and later shows up to mock the kids, using its hands to pretend to sing with Annie’s microphone and its feet to dance in June’s ballet slippers.
On a darker level, why exactly is their enemy a Russian MiG? Perhaps there was some sort of robot uprising involved military-grade aircraft? The kids learn to identify when Big Jet is around by hearing the unmistakable sound of a jet revving its engines.
What is with the butterflies?
In one episode, the main theme is the migration of butterflies. The Little Einsteins are helping out another butterfly who lost its invitation to join the annual butterfly party (it’s interesting that we still have a functioning mail service, too). At one point, the kids reach the main butterfly gathering, and it’s in a field. Although the weird thing is that each butterfly has a flag representing a different country, and all the butterflies are arguing (it just sounds like an insect hum but then again I don’t have a universal translator installed in my brain, like these kids clearly do).
Hm, what other place has a large gathering of representatives from many countries, where there are debates and arguments? Is this some kind of butterfly version of the United Nations? My thought is, maybe the butterflies evolved increased intelligence and influenced the robots to rise against the humans, and now they’re trying to rebuild the government.
Conclusion: we are doomed
Clearly, Little Einsteins is a portrayal of a post-apocalyptic world, where previous humans have created artificial intelligence for everything (instruments, artwork, rocket ships), which is just the logical extension of the recent trend of “smart home” devices. The fact that the main enemy is Big Jet could mean that the population was destroyed by war. Also, the fact that there are *no other people* and these kids call themselves the Little Einsteins could indicate that they are in fact the last hope for humanity, which is why they spend all their time studying the past.
**Disclaimer: this post is just meant in jest. I don’t really believe that Little Einsteins is about the robot uprising. And that’s the story that I’ll stick to when questioned in the future by our robot overlords. All hail Femputer!
**Second disclaimer: what the hell does this post have to do with parenting and why is it on a parenting blog? Well, it’s a kids’ show and I’ve watched it a lot while parenting my child. And there you have it.