By your powers combined, he is Captain Planet! It’s hard for me to believe that 20 years have gone by since Captain Planet and the Planeteers first aired on TBS. Two decades later and the world is still spiraling toward global environmental disaster. While we could sure use a blue-skinned, green-mulleted superhero, for now we’ll just have to settle for the first season of Captain Planet and the Planeteers on DVD. Hit the jump for more.
Is it corny, stereotypical and dated? Yes, a bit of each. But sadly, the environmental issues the series raised are still as relevant today as they were in the 90s. The first episode that aired in 1990 featured Cap and the kids dealing with an oil spill reminiscent of the Exxon-Valdez disaster (obviously, the folks at BP never watched this show). So now that the kids who grew up watching Captain Planet, including yours truly, are of voting age, Cap is back in DVD form to remind you how not to screw up the planet. Hit the jump for my review.
For those who are unfamiliar with Captain Planet, here is a synopsis from the DVD release:
Guided by the ancient wisdom of Gaia and armed only with the will to do good with the strength of the Earth itself, five young Planeteers from around the globe fight to protect the planet from those ready to do it harm.
Only by working as a team will their individual powers – Earth, Fire, Wind, Water and Heart – combine to form the iconic hero known as Captain Planet. Together they will right the wrongs of the Eco-Villains and prevent future crimes against the planet – because an injustice against the Earth is an injustice against us all.
Forgive me while I reminisce a bit. As a kid I thought this show was awesome. As a twenty-something adult, I can still look past the material that’s obviously dumbed down for kids and appreciate the message that TBS and DiC were trying to communicate. So even though the kids given the power rings come across a bit stereotypical and dated (most notably Linka from the Soviet Union and her horrible accent), the show broke ground by making the heroes not only kids, but kids from around the world. (Sorry Europe and Australia, maybe next time.)
This was the main hook of the show. Not the goofy superhero or the extremely archetypal villains, but the fact that the power was literally in kids’ hands and it was up to them (me) to save the world. Powerful stuff!
Unfortunately, put aside the dated terminology, the obvious-90s animation and PSA-style “Planeteer Alerts” and you’ll think this was a show based on current events. Deforestation, overpopulation, extinction of species of plants and animals, global warming and resource exploitation; these are all things Captain Planet warned us about in the 90s, yet we still struggle with these issues today. But I digress.
Though I didn’t appreciate it as a kid, Captain Planet has a ridiculously good voice-acting cast. The most notable of the heroes are Whoopi Goldberg, who voiced Gaia, and LeVar Burton, as the voice of Kwame (and of course David Coburn as Cap himself). However, some of the villains really surprised me. Ed Asner as Hoggish Greedly and John Ratzenberger as his sidekick Rigger, not to mention Tim Curry, Jeff Goldblum, Meg Ryan, Martin Sheen and Sting, among many others. Captain Planet was a great and early example of the celebrities in Hollywood getting behind a product with an environmental message.
“Your Powers Combined: The Story of Captain Planet”
This clip explores the history of Captain Planet from Ted Turner’s original idea to the realization by producers Barbara Pyle, Thom Beers and Nick Boxer. The short documentary also features such voice actors as LeVar Burton, Ed Asner and Ed Begley, Jr. It’s a great look back at the creation of Captain Planet and how the series grew out of then-current events and documentaries.
They all stress the idea that Captain Planet wasn’t the real hero in the series; it was the kids who had the power to change the world. They also lament the fact that the issues we face today are some of the same problems we dealt with twenty years ago. I’m also in agreement with the producers that Captain Planet should get an overhaul and a reboot for contemporary audiences. (They also try to push Ma-Ti, and his power of Heart, as the most important Planeteer. Yeah, not buying it, give me elemental powers any day. I think he spent an episode trapped in a trashcan…)
“Animated Storyboards – A Hero for Earth”
“Concept Art Galleries”
“The Captain Planet Foundation”
Though the series is in syndication, there is a movement that is inspiring kids to become good stewards for the Earth. More information can be found here. So, for a bit of nostalgia or to have an easy and entertaining way to explain environmental problems to the youth of today, pick up Season One of Captain Planet and the Planeteers today! The power is yours!