Animation inherently lends itself to humor better than any medium. Any cartoon not including the occasional joke better be damn good or is missing the point. When Public Service Announcements overtook television, every show, regardless of tone, had a ‘special episode.’ Captain Planet is a mix of both; a cartoon that misses the point where every episode is special, insomuch that it beats you over the head with its message for every second of its 22 weekly minutes.
Created by Ted Turner, and a bunch of other people, the show features five “special young people” from different backgrounds such as Africa, Asia, or Brooklyn (because generalizing other continents is fine). Each of these Planteers had a power ring with powers of Earth (Kwame), wind (Linka), fire (Wheeler), water (Gi), and heart (Ma-Ti). Yes, heart, like empathy. Yes, it was stupid on the show. With their powers combined they’d summon the titular hero, Captain Planet, to fight pollution, which was his only weakness. Logic. The Earth spirit Gaia selected the Planteers and sends them on missions with their solar powered jet. If it was really solar powered, they’d be lucky to roll it down the street, let alone take off. What happens on a rainy day? Bad guys win?
Speaking of the villains, the puns were strong with this one. There’s Dr. Blight, Verminous Scum, Duke Nukem (not sure of any relation to the game), Hoggish Greedly, and my favorite Looten Plunder. Batman rouges, eat your hears out. These eco-terrorists were set on polluting the Earth for profit. The underpants gnomes a more sound business strategy. The villains would enact their plan, the Planteers would become overwhelmed, needing to summon
Voltron Captain Planet, he’d fight, get hit with toxic waste, they’d hose him off, he’d win, the end. That’s every episode. All of them. Except that one about the kid with AIDS. I swear I’m not making it up. This show beat it’s viewers over the head with environmentalism.
The most amazing, or curious element of the show was the star power behind it. Good voice acting could make or break a show, but this went above securing seasoned voice actors, though there were a few of those. LeVar Burton voiced Kwame, with Malcolm McDowell as Zarm, Ed Asner as Hoggish Greedly, Whoopi Goldberg and Margot Kidder as Gaia (changed half through the series), Martin Sheen as Sly Sludge, Meg Ryan as Dr. Blight, and Jeff freaking Goldblum as Verminous Scum. Martion Sheen? Jeff Goldblum? On Captain freaking Planet?
Aside from the overbearing corniness, the most well known component was the catchphrases, uttered every episode. “Let our powers combine” was said by the Planteers before summoning Planet, followed by calling out their various elements, usually in the same order, I think. As he appeared, Planet would say “By your powers combined, I am Captain Planet!” Brief side note: I am the only one who found his design odd? Not the colors, I get that, but the attire. There’s always something vaguely sexual about a man baring mid-drift. Combined with the speedo, go-go boots, and gloves, his general design is unsettling. Regardless, his battle won, Planet would return to the Earth to work on his mullet exclaiming “The power is yours!”
Captain Planet ran from 1990 to 1996, relaunching in 1993. The original title of Captain Planet and the Planeteers changed to The New Adventures of Captain Planet, along with the animation studio, from DIC to Hanna-Barbera. Hence the cast change. It’s hard to believe this ran for 7 years, and spawned 113 episodes. What made the show entertaining was how straight laced everything was played. The multicultural pals trotted the globe to stop
Jeff Goldblum pollution, calling on a hippie go-go dancer when things got to hairy, who was weakened whenever his spray tanned was tarnished. Captain Planet ya’ll.
Is Captain Planet a hero? Will he take pollution down to zero? Comment below!
In addition to THN’s Saturday Morning Cartoons and Nerd at the Movies, Tony writes for his own site, thecredhulk.com, about comics, video games, movies, TV and more, six days a week. You can follow his updates on Facebook or Twitter. Drop by and tell ‘em hi.
The Planeteers were totally on The Magic School Bus.