In November of 2003, Cartoon Network had to take the show “Whatever Happened To... Robot Jones?” off the air. After a thirteen episode run, it was canceled abruptly. Why, you might ask? The truth is that there was a special episode that was supposed to be the season two finale, but it never made it's way out of production. I, one of the workers on this project, remember it clearly.
After the release of episode thirteen of the series, the production team wanted to do something special to end the season. This episode would focus on the spirit of Christmas, as most cartoon episodes at this time of year would start doing. We worked tirelessly to make the storyboard, get the script made, and the animation for the episode in working order. One of my co-workers, a not-so-well respected member of the team who handled the primary animation, suggested we use a certain idea that would be sure to captivate the audience. He was dead set on the fact that the youth of today were more interested in violence than the story, which, given the nature of most of the video games out, I was tempted to agree with him. After pitching his idea, we were mortified by his description of the events.
He was told that we couldn't run his idea, due to its graphic nature. With a scoff he walked out, cursing our existence under his breath. As he stopped in the doorway, he looked back and said that we were too soft and needed the right incentive. We all looked at each other as he took his leave. While this was a set back, I quickly took up the reigns and worked on animating the episode. I worked for hours on end to get the animation done. During this time, I grew to wonder what had happened to our colleague, as we hadn't heard from him in days.
One night, I stayed at the studio to try to finish production on the animation. When I finally was satisfied with my progress, I walked out. When I reached the halfway point home, I realized that I had left my laptop at the studio. When I returned to the studio, I looked around, finding my laptop on the desk where I had left it; although the USB key was missing. Breathing a sigh of relief that no one had taken my laptop, but confused on why the USB was missing, I walked out and made the trip home. When I got home, I decided to work a little more. When I opened my laptop, the animation wasn't on the screen.
I searched for it, unable to find it before a notification of an email. I checked the email, seeing it was from the colleague that had walked out. He said he found my USB key in the conference room when he return to grab his stuff, and that he helped finalize the episode, which he sent in an attachment. With a moment's hesitation, I clicked the attachment and the episode started playing. It ran pretty much as I animated it for the intro animation; but when the title card came up, it didn't read what I had put in. Instead, it read: “A Robot Jones Christmas”.
Finding this odd, I figured that I could fix that title card before showing it the next day and continued. The episode opened up normally, with Robot Jones getting ready for school. On his way to school, his best friend, Timothy, caught up with him. Timothy asked what he was doing for Christmas, to which Robot Jones replied with curiosity as he always does. Timothy tells him about Christmas and the meaning of good will and peace towards your fellow man as they get to school. This was where it started to get weird.
As the next scene started, Robot Jones was walking in the hallway as the usual antagonists, the Yogman twins, approached him. The usual insults were hurled at Jones, but unlike his normal character, Jones grabbed their shirts and pulled them close to his face and saying in a deep voice they need to stop before he made them regret it. I didn't remember animating that, and felt that my colleague had edited it with his idea. I had to see the damage done, so I continued watching. As the Yogman twins ran away, the scene cut to footage of a dark house. The camera's footage looked like its holder was walking through the house, careful not to touch anything or make a noise.
After a few minutes of this, the animation returned to Jones, who was in the lunchroom when his friend returned to the episode. As Timothy approached, Jones turned around quickly and stopped his robotic hand inches from his friend's neck; recognizing that it was his friend and not the Yogman twins. He apologized and they continued the scene, talking more about Christmas. I thought that, finally, the animation would be normal again. However, when they were talking, it sounded as if there was faint whispering going on in the back ground. I couldn't make it out at first, but after putting head phones in, I heard a “You cannot escape”.
I stopped the episode there, replaying this to see if I could recognize the voice as I knew the voices of all the voice actors by heart. Sadly, I could not detect who's voice it was, and sighed. I continued on and hoped it would make sense as the episode went on. After I restarted the animation, it cut to more footage from the camera from earlier. This time, it just stayed there, watching the door as an almost silent whistle was heard. After two minutes of this, the next scene started. As the next scene opened up, it showed Jones walking home from school. While he was walking, the whispering continued as a female's voice was heard saying “Please let me go..”. I could have sworn I had heard that voice before, but I couldn't place it right away.
As Jones walked into his house in the next part of the scene, he found his parents, Mom-Unit and Dad-Unit, dismantled with their parts scattered all over the floor. Robot Jones fell to his knees, and began to cry for about thirty seconds as a maniacal laughter began to sound. As the crying continued, it got louder and louder until Robot Jones stopped and his hands left his eyes. As they slowly fell from his face, his eyes were red with a small dot for a pupil. His words haunt me to this very day. I listened as the words “I will murder the ones who did this to my family”.
As the scene ended, more footage was shown, but of a young woman in her late twenties and a young boy no older than five tied to two chairs back to back. I couldn't make out their faces as they both had bags placed over their heads. I watched as the whistling sounded once more and the camera slowly moved towards the two. Slowly, a knife came into the frame and rubbed against the woman's bag, who whimpered and tried to recoil. This angered the person who was holding the camera, as they slapped the woman and said in a deep voice “I will not tolerate any misbehavior”. The voice sounded as if the person used a voice changer to alter his voice in an attempt to hide their identity.
I watched as the woman just let her head fall and the knife moved towards the boy. The boy shook and whimpered as he cowered at the touch of the knife on what i believe was his cheek. The voice started singing the lullaby “Hush Little Baby” at an eerie, slow tempo as the knife slowly started to press further into the bag. Shaking, I tried to look away but I couldn't. As the footage started to come to an end and the next scene began, the voice said “Time for the grand finale”. The next scene showed Jones walking down the sidewalk with an angry expression on his face.
As he walked, his face began to get angrier and his eyes got redder and redder until they looked completely red with no pupil. Robot Jones arrived at a house and knocked on the door, which is when the Yogman twins opened the door and the scene went silent. In an instant, it showed Jones, with an evil look on his face, slowly and sadistically ripping off the limbs of the twins as they screamed. Each blood curdling, gut wrenching scream sounded like the two victims in the footage. As the two laid there, slowly dying and staring up at Jones, Jones simply collected their limbs and walked out of the house. Another bit of footage now started as it showed only the heads on the two victims who were tied up. As the camera got closer and closer, the rest of their bodies were revealed. What I saw sickened me to my core. The two victims were now missing the same limbs the Yogman twins were missing, and they looked as if they were cut in the exact same manner. An evil laugh came from the holder of the camera as the footage faded to black. I was unable to hold it back any more, and vomited on the floor. Recollecting myself, I looked at the screen, which showed the final scene with Jones standing in front of Mom-Unit and Dad-Unit. Jones had a sadistic smile on his face as the camera slowly began to show the two parents. Each had human limbs attached to their respective areas.
The ending screen came up and I sat there, mortified at what I had seen. This must have been a sick joke, it had to be. As I closed the laptop, I remembered that my deadline was tomorrow. I panicked and called my boss, telling him what had happened to my episode and that I had to show him. As I showed him the sickening episode when he arrived at my house, his eyes widened and he backed up scared. He looked at me, and said that we should turn the video into the authorities; given the graphic footage shown in the videos. As they arrived, they looked at the time stamp, seeing that the footage was added a half hour before I grabbed my laptop from the studio. What they said next startled me. They watched the footage, and saw something I couldn't. In my worry and state of shock throughout the viewing of the episode, I did not realise that there was a time stamp on the footage. Each time the footage showed, the date was found on the bottom right. My eyes widened as I read the date. It was from this afternoon, when my colleague was not at work.
I fell back onto a nearby chair. I couldn't believe what I had watched, nor could I believe that my co-worker would do such a thing. Failing to muster up a sentence, I looked at the screen which was paused on the room with the woman and boy. One of the authorities suggested we do a reverse IP track to locate where the email cane from. We learned that the email in question was sent from a computer in an internet cafe in town. When we arrived, we saw a vacant computer and approached, seeing the same image that was left on my computer of the two victims. Whoever sent the footage was watching it, and recently too, due to the warmth of the seat. My boss, looking closer at the surroundings that the victims were in, realised that the room looked familiar, stating that the room was from our colleague's house. We hurried to his house and busted in, hurrying upstairs. When we came to the room, we approached the door slowly; allowing the door to steadily creak open. When we saw no one was in the room, we moved in; the officers holding their guns at the ready. We approached the woman and child, looking in sadness as we allowed a moment of silence. I looked at the woman's neck, seeing a necklace on it with three diamond hearts. I then came to a startling realisation, and reached out slowly to take the bag off her head. When I removed it, I was met with the dead face of my wife. Unable to take the shock, I fell to my knees, screaming out and falling to my side. The officers unveiled the boy, who turned out to be my son. I broke, I couldn't tell what was going on anymore. Tears welled up in my eyes as I started to lose the last of my sanity left.
I now sit here in a hospital bed, not even making a sound as I simply stare at the wall across from me. Every now and then, my boss comes to visit me, and tell me of the continuing search for our missing colleague. Rumor has it that he is still out there, awaiting to find another animation job, and his next victim.