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Saturday, 12 March 2016

Retro Review/What Did I Just Watch?: Captain Planet and the Planeteers

Duration: 1990 - 1993 DIC Entertainment/Turner, 1993 - 1996 Hanna Barbera 
country of origin: United States of America
Seasons: 6 
Original network: TBS

As much as I love classic cartoons, particularly from the 1980s and 1990s that I grew up with, there was one show which to this day I still feel indifferent towards. Let me explain what that cartoon was, and why this show is still cringe-worthy to me:

Captain Planet and the Planeteers lasted for 6 years and was (ill)conceived by a guy named Ted Turner (who owns CNN) and produced by TBS. It tried to combine action adventure elements from other action adventure cartoons with environmental messages. As for the plot, 5 teenagers who were all summoned by a high priestess or whatever she is supposed to be named Gaia, are the protagonists of the show. Each teenager possessed a magical ring, which granted them special powers, based on the 5 elements - water, wind, fire, earth. And lastly, Heart but of which according to the creators of Captain Planet, it surely is useful when in actuality it does practically next to nothing. When these 5 elements are combined, they unleash a sky blue- skinned androgynous looking male superhero, with an 80s green mullet, whose face sort of resembles British pop star Nik Kershaw and dons red underwear, named Captain Planet. 

Despite the environmental message being still relevant today, the manner in which serious issues such as drug addiction, Aids and racial violence were addressed on the series was in poor taste that at times it went too far. Characterization-wise, it is a mess: the characters - but for say, 1 or 2 of the villains - were typically bland with no personalities to speak of whatsoever, they were all negative racial stereotypes; with Wheeler being the worst culprit - painted as the stereotypical Yank acting like a dummy, who is more obsessed in ogling Linka and who is presented as if he couldn't string a sentence properly and coherently. I could only imagine what would have happened if one of the Planeteers was British: they'd probably give them an annoying posh or cockney sounding accent too. 

And take Gi - even though she is supposed to hail from Thailand, others would assume she is Chinese just by the design of the character. I know I was. The designers should have looked at images of Thai people and based Gi's design on that. Oh well. The protagonist characters are presented as useless, ineffective and who can't fight evil, without Captain Planet.  

But if it were not for the constant environmental messages that propped up every 5, 10 secs during the show, as well as the cheesy nature of protagonist, Captain Planet and had it been less PC (politically correct) this would've been a better animated series. Not to mention I would have enjoyed it more. If the creators and writers just toned down the seriousness of some of the storylines, making the messages less in-yer-face and made it less corny and banal and made the characters more interesting and likable, and the show edgier, then more people would get into it. 

How it managed to last 6 years is beyond me, Captain Planet should have had 3 seasons at most; I think what killed this show was the overriding environmental messages, awful characterisations and ham-fisted nature of Captain Planet that ruined what could have potentially been a good show; it should have taken a leaf out of Ferngully: The Last Rainforest

Make each of the Planeteer characters more formidable, that they can hold their own against the opposition with and without Captain Planet. Rather than to always have them resort to combining their powers to summon his help. 

Final Verdict:

I cringed whenever this show was on TV - and I still cringe about it today whenever I see it, and cringe when I hear the theme tune; Captain Planet and the Planeteers was a terribly cheesy and preachy animated show, filled with some cliched characters, some weird storylines and awful writing and is led by dull protagonists.

And of all the captains in popular culture and entertainment, Captain Planet can do with having a personality, which he (and the other 5 Planeteers) lack. 

Overall Rating Out Of 10: 3

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