Ted Turner created the Superstation TBS, won the America’s Cup, owned the Atlanta Braves, married Jane Fonda and hired Larry King. But nothing on his resume compares to creating his own animated cartoon. When Turner bought Hanna-Barbera, he wasn’t another clueless telecommunication businessman purchasing a content provider. He knew what it took to make a series of pictures turn into quality children’s programming. He was the father of Captain Planet and the Planeteers. The cartoon came out of his love for the people of the world, his concern over the environment and his desire to entertain. Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Season One unleashes green action better than that Al Gore documentary.
Gaia, the Spirit of the Earth (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg) is ticked off at what humans are doing on her planet. Unlike an Old Testament God, this spiritual woman isn’t merely going to smite those that wrong her. Instead she gathers five kids from around the globe to act as her agents of change. The Planeteers get magic rings and matching vest jackets. Each gets to use a special power of either air, water, land, fire and heart. But do they get any other benefits like a retirement plan or dental insurance? They do get free use of the Geo-Cruiser which flies using only solar power. They have zero carbon footprint when they zip around the globe attacking evildoers. Can Al Gore make that claim? Sometimes the five kids can’t win using their individual power thus they unit and bring forth Captain Planet. That’s when the beating begins. Now you might wonder why he doesn’t just appear and solve everything? Turns out the superhero can’t handle exposure to pollution. He has to be used as a last resort since he can’t last long. All this is covered in “A Hero for Earth.”
While the only big name voice in the Planeteers is LeVar Burton (Reading Rainbow), the stars come out to play the Eco-villains. Hoggish Greedly is a pigman who wants people to waste. Before he went Pixar, John Ratzenberger voiced Hoggish’s henchman Rigger. Looten Plunder sounds tough cause he’s James Coburn (In Like Flint). He poaches as a hobby. Sly Sludge gets warmed up by eco-lover Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now). He has no problem dumping stuff across the globe in sensitive locations. Duke Nukem ticks of radioactivity thanks to Dean Stockwell (Blue Velvet). For only this first season we get Jeff Goldblum behind the lips of Verminous Skumm. Remember Meg Ryan? Well you’ll get flashbacks when you hear Dr. Blight preach unchecked scientific experiments. The big get of this eco-cartoon is the largest eco-superstar: Sting! Instead of playing an angelic recycler, the Police singer is Zarm, the ex-bad spirt of the Earth. He’s sick of clean water and air.
The episodes of Captain Planet and the Planteers: Season One do a good job of mixing the preachy nature of green ideals with the head knocking found on He-Man. You don’t have to be a Whole Foods shopper to enjoy the series. The one bad part is that so much seems to be the fault of American consumers that are gullible. “Smog Hog” has Hoggish Greedly getting us to buy a giant car that barely gets any miles to the gallon. This aired before the introduction of the consumer Hummer SUV. Maybe there is a reason why they run a marathon of episode on Boomerang during Earth Day. Ted Turner’s dream to get people to be environmentally conscious via a cartoon might not be fully realized. But it probably inspired a few viewers to bring their own bags to the supermarket. Isn’t it about small differences to make major changes?
“A Hero for Earth,” “Rain of Terror,” “Beast of the Temple,” “Skumm Lord,” “Deadly Ransom,” “The Conqueror,” “The Last of Her Kind,” “The Dead Seas,” “Tree of Life,” “Volcano’s Wrath,” “Littlest Planeteer.” “A World Below Us,” “Plunder Dam,” “Meltdown Syndrome,” “Smog Hog,” “Polluting by Computer,” “Don’t Drink the Water,” “Kwame’s Crisis,” “The Ozone Hole,” “The Ultimate Pollution,” “Population Bomb,” “Misson to Save Earth” (two-parter), “Two Futures” (two-parter) and “Heat Wave.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The picture looks fine since it appears the show was mastered on videotape instead of going back to 35mm film. The audio is mono. The levels will have you dancing to the catchy title tune that reminds us that “the power is yours!”
Your Powers Combined: The Story of Captain Planet (20:06) lets Ted Turner talk about what inspired him to get into the cartoon business.
Concept Art Galleries displays the rough ideas for Captain Planet, Gaia, Kwame, Wheeler, Linka, Gi and Ma-Ti.
The Captain Planet Foundation (0:54) let you know about the program that educates kids about the environment.
Captain Planet and the Planteers: Season One introduces viewers to a world that brings excitement to being green. This isn’t merely another Power Point presentation from Al Gore. There’s Eco-Villains that must be destroyed before they ruin the Earth. This isn’t merely about good intentions. It’s more exciting than most of the other cartoons from this era. The boxset is made with recycled cardboard so it’s a little bit environmentally conscious.
Shout! Factory presents Captain Planet and the Planteers: Season One. Starring: Whoopi Goldberg, Sting, LeVar Burton and Ed Asner. Boxset Contents: 26 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released on DVD: April 19, 2011.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.