Saturday, June 16, 2012

SMCS Companion Piece #21: Captain Planet and the Planeteers


It’s been a while since I’ve done a Saturday Morning Cartoon Show Companion Piece. Last weekend we did Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Based on an idea from Billionaire Ted Turner this cartoon was about a superhero that battled eco-villains for the sake of the environment. In theory the show’s purpose was to teach kids to help the environment and there’s nothing terribly wrong with that at all. In fact this show isn’t technically bad, but I think it’s the lowest end of watchable shows from the 90s. It’s a series that isn’t so awful it’s can’t be watched but it’s also not quite on the list of Best Cartoon of that decade.

It began airing on TBS (Of course) in 1990 and ran until 1993. Due to various cast members leaving the series it was retooled as The New Adventures of Captain Planet which continued on from 1993 to 1996. The show had a total of six seasons. It's also what Lavar Burton and Whoopi Goldberg did during their downtime from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

More on the Captain after the jump.


The Multicultural Pals The Planeteers!
So the plot of Captain Planet is actually fairly epic. Basically Gaia, who is the spirit of the Earth with a whole heck of a lot of power, is awakened from her slumber by POLLUTION! Angry that these no good human have wrecked her goddamn Earth while she was in cryosleep or whatever she decides to hire five teenagers to save the planet, otherwise known as “The Zordon Stratagem”. Looking back on this show it seems rather irresponsible to bestow immense power to a group of people who are mostly made up of moody assholes with sociopathic tendencies. Luckily I guess Gaia managed to recruit four kids from the 15% of teenagers that happen to be overachieving do-gooders (And she also recruited Wheeler).

Because Gaia is an equal opportunity employer when it comes to exploiting kids she recruits her team from all over the world. From Africa is Kwame who may have also recommended a book to me once or twice as well as worked as the chief engineer on a prominent starship. He got a ring that controls Earth. Next, Linka from the Soviet Union Eastern Europe because American children in 1994 apparently didn’t know what the Soviet Union after it fell. Linka got the ring that controlled Wind. Next was Gi from Asia, who according to Wikipedia is from Thailand (I don’t recall the show actually getting specific) but seeing as her actress is Japanese-America I feel like I need to call bullshit on that. Gi’s ring controls Water. Next was Ma-Ti who I don’t really remember anything about him other than he was from South America, had a pet monkey (voiced by Frank Welker) and controller the power of Heart, which powers included CONTROLLING THE MINDS OF PEOPLE AND ANIMALS obviously making him the most powerful of the team.

Also Wheeler who is the only member of the group who can be described as “Dumb as Shit”. I suspect the person who was really supposed to get the ring was too far out of Gaia’s reach so the ring made do with the closet dude around. It’s just as well though because the real ring bearer would eventually suffer brain damage and become an even bigger asshole than Wheeler could hope to be.

Three seconds before Linka punches him out for being a prick
When they let their powers combine they summon Captain Planet whose superhuman abilities include…er, pretty much anything the plot calls for. He’s like the Silver Age Superman except that despite his immense power he’s pretty much the worst superhero ever (Yes, worse than Aquaman. In fact Aquaman is actually an awesome superhero, jerk). Not taking into account his costume (which is part of a whole different rant altogether) Captain Planet is mostly known for his horrible, horrible puns. Yeah, there are a lot of superhero shows where the hero spouts a lot of terrible one-liners but I swear to God that Captain Planet was by far the worst. Even as a young kid, maybe six or seven at the time, I hated him based almost solely on the puns. Aside from that with all his power what is the good captain’s one weakness? Pollution. That’s right; the one thing that can kill him is THE VERY GODDAMN THING HE’S SUPPOSED TO BE FIGHTING!!!!

Captain Kirk is embarrassed for you
And if you thought the word “pollution was kind of vague of a weakness" you’re right. Any kind of pollution can mess up Captain Planet’s day, including “noise pollution” and f**king “emotional pollution”. Meaning that if he stands next to some dude with a strong hatred of the Jewish people (like, say, Hitler for example) it will sap him of his strength. Seriously. To put this into prospective this is like a guy who is specifically immune to all forms of damage except from intense heat trying to become the world’s premier firefighter. I mean, yeah, his super powers could come in handy for certain parts of the job but all that fire still kind of makes him the wrong person to send into the burning building first. Also he had a mullet.

Anyway Captain Planet and his gang of violent youths constantly fought so-called “eco-villains”. As corny as Captain Planet himself was his enemies were probably worse. Pretty much all of them were pure evil terrorist who liked nothing more than to pollute the Earth and destroy the environment because, hell, what else are they going to do on a Thursday night? Also they all had puny names that couldn’t be less subtle, like “Hoggish Greedly”. Technically most of their motivations were making money and messing up the Earth was just a gleeful bonus. Well except Dr. Blight whose’ main motivation apparently was to "see if she could" because she’s represented science run amok. Because, you know, technology is bad. I did kind of liked Duke Nukem, whose a radiation powered mutant who could actually fight Captain Planet on somewhat equal footing, and Verminous Skumm, who’s a hideous rat-man monster whose main goal seems to be to disrupt as much society as possible.

SCIENCE!!
 Like I said the show lasted for six seasons but the original show actually ended after three seasons. It was brought back the following year as The New Adventures of Captain Planet and, if I’m recalling it right, I don’t think there was too much difference between the two aside from some cast changes. But there was one huge addition. Now if you ask someone about this show likely they’ll start singing the words to the extremely memorable and catchy ending theme song.


However sometime after The New Adventures of Captain Planet began they added a new opening song; a rap that featured Fred Schneider from the B-52’s and the worst lyrics in the history of cartoons. This is the worst exposition spouting rap theme song ever, worse than Hammerman, worse than every Pokémon theme song that tried to follow the first season theme song, worse than the damn 4Kids One-Piece English theme. Because I hate the world and want to lash out at society here it is.


Goddamn it, it’s like poison! Who thought this was a good idea? What moron producer heard this song and was like “This is it! This is the theme song that will bring in the kids!” There may have been a point behind the scenes when some asshole executive said something and declared he wanted a Hip-Hop theme because “that’s what the kids like” but didn’t actually know what the hell Hip-Hop was. And we all suffer as a result. To this day.

Anyway I’m hard on this show but while it was annoying it did have some really interesting points. It would periodically deal with taboo subjects including cultural hatred and racism, drug use, and AIDS. Yes, that’s right: Captain Planet once had an episode where he educated kids on the truth about AIDS. I can’t think of any cartoon that even comes close to broaching this topic. So we need to give it props for that. And also even though I think Captain Planet himself is the worst superhero ever and his cartoon is more than a little goofy and lame but it’s not bad. In fact watching it today is a great source of amusement. Why not turn it not some sort of drinking game? That’d be fun.

"Hobos are people too, so you shouldn't film them fighting in alleys"
"Remember kids: THE POWER IS YOURS!"
 For more on Captain Planet and the Planeteers click here. The Saturday Morning Cartoon Show broadcasts every Saturday morning at 9am EST on WIDR 89.1 FM Kalamazoo. But you can listen to it streaming live and catch up with the podcast on widr.org.

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