Returning to a TV screen near you, here to help save the earth from environmental terrorists, Shout! Factory and Cartoon Network Enterprises have released Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Season One, the early 90’s cartoon series that follows the adventures of ecological super hero, Captain Planet, and his teenage wards. Packaged in 100% recycled paper, Shout! Factory has once again produced a lovely DVD set that not only looks good on your television, but also on the book shelf. Although some of the animation feels a little dated, the show sustains its energy 20 years after its initial release.
The series was based on an idea by Ted Turner and Robert Larkin III. Turner realized the potential of cartoons reaching children and the potential of educating them on important issues. Long before the green movement really took hold of the world, the media mogul was doing his part to teach important lessons about how to preserve and save the environment. Is it too far fetched to think that some of the 6-11 year kids who watched Captain Planet and the Planeteers retained the message of the show and carried it with them into adulthood? I don’t think so.
As developed by Andy Heyward, Robby London, Barbara Pyle and Nicholas Boxer, this isn’t your typical action adventure show. In fact, Captain Planet, the actual super hero, only shows up when situations get so dire that he needs to step in and prevent disaster. Instead, the series really focuses on the Planeteers, five teens from five different countries, chosen by Gaia, the spirit of the earth. When Gaia is awakened from a long slumber after humans threaten the ecosystem, she sends out five magic rings, each with the power to control an element of nature, to the five chosen youths.
They are: Kwame, from Africa, bestowed with the power of earth; Wheeler, from Brooklyn, NY, given the power of fire; Linka, of the Soviet Union, who can control the wind; Gi, from southeast Asia, who has the power of water; and Ma-Ti, the youngest of the group, who receives the power of heart. Ma-Ti is from Brazil. Together, the Planeteers are sent on missions to combat terrible super villains out to destroy the earth. These villains are wiping out forests, polluting the air and water and massacring defenseless animals. The Planeteers rely on each other, using their special rings to do battle. When things get too tough, when their individual powers and teamwork are just not enough, they can combine their power rings and summon Captain Planet to help them.
On paper is sounds a little hokey, especially of you’re a 41-year-old dude sitting down to watch it for the first time. I was in college when the show first premiered and I wasn’t as big of a fan of animation as I am now (12 years in that cartoon business changes you). Once you look past the limitations of late 80’s television animation, the stories are easy to get into. What’s more, Captain Planet and The Planeteers is rich with some of the best voice talent in animation, along with a deep pool of Hollywood guest stars. Kath Soucie (Rugrats), Janice Kawaye (Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi), Scott Menville (Teen Titans) are joined by LeVar Burton (Star Trek: Next Generation) as the leads. Throughout the course of the season, actors such as Ed Asner, Meg Ryan, Martin Sheen, Dean Stockwell and Jeff Goldblum all appear. Sting makes an appearance as a villain (this was at the height of his popularity, remember) and Whoopi Goldberg voices Gaia.
That’s an impressive list of performers. Still, kids could care less about the man or woman doing the speaking. All they care about is whether the stories are exciting and whether they can relate to the characters. So, as usual, I put this video release to the Jake test. My 9-year-old son is an enormous super hero and animation fan. He’ll give any show a chance, no matter how old it is, if it involves do- gooders and action. I had him sit down and watch Captain Planet and the Planeteers to get his assessment.
He enthusiastically liked it. One of the first comments he made was how he appreciated that the show was trying to teach him about making the world a better place by saving the environment. The character he liked the best was Ma-Ti (heart) and Jake thought the kids having to act together as a team was really cool. I would rate Jake as your average 9-year-old super hero kid. He’s seen enough cartoons to tell the good from the bad and when I asked him if he would watch Captain Planet again, he nodded and said “yes!.” Can’t ask for a better review than that!
The DVD collection has some nice bonus for fans of he show. Most interesting is the featurette, “Your Powers Combined: The Story of Captain Planet,” which tells the origin of the show from all of the people involved.