On June 1st, 2016, Youtube user penguinz0, better known as Cr1TiKaL, posted a video to his channel entitled “Finger Family Mystery”. In it, he detailed a series of videos posted by multiple accounts that used variations of a children’s song, combined with basic, uncanny animation. Cr1TiKaL: “…It’s absolutely wild, and then what I found, is every related channel that is on Toys in Japan, has their own version of Finger Family, almost exactly the same, spoken in very broken english, and usually has a gorilla, here’s an angel gorilla fighting a dragon…” These videos often included popular licensed characters, such as Spiderman and Peppa Pig, alongside generic gorillas and skeletons. What was more noteworthy, however, were the viewcounts: These videos, despite their rudamentary nature, would inexplicably have millions of views, sometimes hundreds of millions, while numbering comparatively few comments and reaction counts. Every day, even more of these videos are created. Despite the fascination, Cr1TiKaL was at a loss to explain them. Since then, these videos have attained a wider interest, especially after Pewdiepie and Ethan from H3H3 made a video about them. Pewdiepie: “Why am I singing all of a sudden!? I want to see ca- Oh my god, stop! No! No!” So where did these animations and songs come from, and how did they amass so many views? On Youtube, there are numerous channels that cater to very young children. These channels, such as MuffinSongs and LuluKids, will typically use common, recognizable children’s songs, in combination with simple animation to hold their attention. Following in this trend, a channel appeared entitled “Kiddy Moon Songs”, which uploaded it’s first video on December 3rd, 2012. This video was a short piece of animation, featuring a young Ganesha, a god from the hindu religion, riding a mouse to his parents, Parvati and Shiva, with whom he sits while the camera frantically zooms in and out. Three days later, on December 6th, this channel uploaded its first children’s song, “Wheels on the Bus”. It featured heavily recycled and rudimentary animation, while a man sings in notably accented english, but is otherwise unremarkable. Over the next few months, this channel would release only 4 more videos. Two were of confusingly animated New Years’ messages, but the other two were of a lesser known nursery rhyme called “The Finger Family Song”. These latter two videos featured passably mixed instrumentals, but the vocals were clearly recorded with low-quality microphones that crackled loudly when peaking, and each video used the same audio track. In lieu of lipsyncing, the mouth animations were simply on a loop of disorganized speech. Inexplicably, and despite their low production value, the Finger Family videos began to amass an incredible number of views. According to SocialBlade, the views on the channel spiked to 3 million per month between February and March. Despite the channel’s success, the uploader would wait 5 months to upload a new video, this one entitled “ONE, TWO, BUCKLE MY SHOE” in all capital letters. The production value on this video was even lower, with vocals that sported an even stronger accent and crackled louder and more frequently. After this point, the channel consistently released poorly produced videos, with recycled animations. But for this anonymous person, it was only the beginning… On August 7th, 2013, the creator of Kiddy Moon Songs created a second channel, entitled “KidsTVTimes”, but their first video wasn’t uploaded until the 2nd of September, nearly a month later. This first video, however, wasn’t a children’s song, but a slideshow of images entitled “Vinayaka”. This name is a variation on the name for the hindu god Ganesha, the same god featured in the first video of the Kiddy Moon Songs channel. The slideshow consists of multiple poorly compressed images of the god. Nine days later, the channel uploaded it’s first video, entitled “Finger Family – Daddy Finger”, which recycled animations from the original Finger Family videos, from Kiddy Moon Songs. Perhaps even more remarkable, however, was the audio. Again, the instrumental track seemed fine, but the vocal tracks were even worse than they were on the first channel, with the voices noticeably off pitch and crackling louder than before. Four days later, on September 15th, another video, entitled “Finger Family – Tarzan Family” was released, following the same formula and using the same music track with crackling vocals. Over the next few months, KidsTVTimes would upload numerous other animations with similarly low prodution values. After the first 2 videos, they began to branch out to other nursery rhymes, but these videos exhibited new problems while existing issues only grew worse. For example, the vocals became even more off pitch, and the english more broken. For example, in a video entitled “I Am a Little Teapot Nursery Rhyme”, one of the lines has been mangled. Instead of the normal lyrics, it says this: Of note is the inclusion of the non-word “sleves” in the subtitles. This second channel would recieve significantly fewer views; though they were still considerable, this new channel wouldn’t reach even half the number of views per month that Kiddy Moon Songs would. Of the videos on either channel, the Finger Family ones would recieve the most views, and so, on December 2nd, 2013, the same person created a third channel, entitled “My Finger Family”, on which they would almost exclusively upload videos using this song. On that same day, the Vinayaka slideshow was uploaded to the new channel, with two annotations over it that both read “subscribe here for more funny rhyms”. Presumably, they meant “rhymes”. A few days later, on December 6th, the channel’s creator began uploading Finger Family videos, using just a few versions of the Finger Family song, but this time fixing some of the crackling on the vocals. They would use the design of popular comic book and movie characters, usually omitting their names in favor of obtuse references to them, such as “X-Woman Family”, “Spiderwoman Family” or “Blue Man Family”. Other times, they would blatantly use the name of whatever superhero or character they were using, such as Little Mermaid, Angry Birds, and The Incredibles. Of note, one of the videos features a character that looks remarkably like Hitler. This channel quickly outstripped the viewcounts of the other channels, drawing in over 5 million views every month shortly after its creation. The popularity of these videos did not go unnoticed, and soon, other channels began following in the pattern of the My Finger Family channel. One of the first copycats was “My Nursery Rhyme”, which used even more rudamentary animation than Kiddy Moon Songs and it’s spinoff channels. This channel’s copyright infringement was even more egregious, taking characters from Disney movies and other popular licenses, sometimes sprinkling hashtags in the titles. Unlike the first channel, this uploader would flagrantly use the names of these licenses. Much like the original Kiddy Moon Songs channel, the creator began with a Wheels on the Bus video, and recycled the same music track over and over, ocasionally adding an extra instrument or two to theme the music. But by far, the channel that would gain the most notoriety online would be “Toys in Japan”, which was far more perplexing. The creator of this particular channel began by doing japanese toy unboxings, but after the first 3 videos recieved very few views, they shifted to making Finger Family videos. Apparently aping off of the My Nursery Rhyme channel, this one also created “Jumping on the Bed” videos. This channel’s content, however, took on a uniquely uncanny quality… Rather than using two-dimensional animation, they used 3-D rendering, utilizing premade assets and swapping out models for each new video, sometimes going so far as to simply swap color palletes for the models. Coupled with this was even more simplistic music, featuring a man mumbling heavily accented, off pitch and distorted vocals. This pattern yielded strange results, with videos including models such as: Doctor Kleiner from the Half Life 2 games, Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise, and Chuck Norris. Most surprising, however, was the series of videos blatantly involving Hitler, and even going so far as to include his name in the titles. As of the time of this writing, this channel has accrued nearly 260 million views on 1329 videos over the past two and a half years. Another channel, named “Rhymes World”, did a very similar thing as Toys in Japan, reusing animations, songs, and 3-D models, though their videos were far less prolific. Soon, these channels began to spread, all producing different permutations of the Finger Family formula. The most succesful channel by far, however, is “Finger Family Songs” who use the original two-dimensional animation method. Across 207 uploads, they have managed to gain nearly 2 billion views. Despite all of this history, one question is left unanswered: Why are these channels so successful? There are a few characteristics about these videos that stand out: First, almost all of them have between a 2-1 and a 1-1 like to dislike ratio, with surprisingly few votes for how many views they have accrued. The viewcounts between videos vary widely. Some of them have tens of thousands of views, while others have tens of millions, with no consistent pattern. Those videos that do recieve millions of views will often have numerous, nonsensical comments consisting of apparently random letters, numbers, words and emojis, though again this number is proportionally small. The videos with many fewer views are mostly devoid of these comments. However, upon further inspection, these traits are not actually abnormal. Looking at other Youtube videos targeted towards children, they all show these same traits. A 2-1 like to dislike ratio, relatively few comments, and nonsense comments on the most popular ones. Looking at the profiles of the people making the nonsense comments ocasionally shows videos of babies or young children playing, among other mundane things. Though there is no concrete explanation for the number of views on the videos, there is one very likely possibility, given the evidence. Parents will hand their tablets, laptops, or phones to their children to entertain them, allowing Youtube’s algorythms to choose video after video. Eventually, it will take them to these odd, exploitative channels, whereafter the algorythm shows them even more videos like it, especially since the parents are not there to curate the content. The lack of parental supervision would also explain the nonsense comments. The more views a video has, the more Youtube’s algorythm favors them, meaning that the videos with millions of views get played more often, piling all of the views onto a smaller number of videos. Since the nonsense comments and like to dislike ratios are common across high quality and low quality content, it’s probable that they are written by children who get lost in Youtube’s interface, accidentally commenting and liking or disliking. When they type full words, it’s probably from a phone or tablet’s autocomplete or word suggest function. Some viewers interested in these videos have suggested that the viewcounts, comments, likes and dislikes stem from illicit programs designed to cheat Youtube out of advertising revenue, but the evidence would suggest otherwise. Similarly, people have suggested that software was designed to automatically generate videos, citing their uncanny qualities, but it likely would be more work to code a program than to simply swap out models and animations on preexisting templates. And so, for now, videos are continuing to be churned out, some old channels have slowed the rate of their uploads, while others have come in to take their place. With the newest Finger Family videos such as “Gummy Bear Crying Eating Lollipop Fidget Spinner Finger Family Rhymes For Kid Gummy Bear Toys Fun” achieving millions of views in only a few days, it doesn’t look like they’ll be going anywhere anytime soon.