One time, when I was 10, I camped in the woods behind my suburban
Tennessee home in a pup tent. Tucked away in my He-man sleeping bag, I
began to slowly sense that I was starving to death. Out of desperation,
I used my Boy Scout pocket knife to rip open my Stretch Armstrong and
consumed the bitter corn syrup inside for survival. Remembering
afterwards that I was in my backyard only served to sharpen the edge on
the intense feeling of stupidity that ensued as I rushed into the
kitchen and called the nearest poison control center.
Looking back on that event, Iím surprised that other childrenís
toys, ones far more dangerous than Stretch Armstrong, havenít taken me
out by now. How Iíve survived the attacks of a pizza-slinging Teenage
Mutant Ninja Turtles vehicle is beyond me.
But another, more in-depth look into a little-celebrated aspect of
yesteryear proved even more surprising and interesting: My study an
overblown public relations move that spun horribly out of control,
taking on a mind (and grotesquely blackened heart) of its own, Captain
Planet and the Planeteers.
Out of curiosity, I checked up on the Captain Planet website to
see how all the eco-friends were doing, and the results were startling.
For the time being, weíre only going to look at a few characters:
(Note: All quotes and pictures taken from the Official Captain Planet
Captain Planet website states:
is an impulsive, street-wise teenager from Brooklyn, always ready with a
flip remark. He loves to provide comic relief to his fellow Planeteers
and to goad the villains.
is the least knowledgeable Planeteer when it comes to ecology. Although
he sometimes fails to understand the issues at hand, his heart is in the
right place. He fancies himself the "ladies' man" and flirts
incessantly with Linka, the Planeteer from Eastern Europe.
That's right, they take the cockiest, most hormonally-driven, and
"least knowledgeable" Planeteer and give him the power to
incinerate things on command. That way, when he's not too busy tossing
fireballs at random objects to impress Linka, he can launch some flames
at Sly Sludge (voiced by Martin Sheen) and his giant oil tankers,
ceremoniously consuming half the Earth in chemical-induced burning.
But like all Planeteers, Wheeler picks the least logical way to use his
ring. Usually, he waits until someone evil captures them and uses his
ring to melt the locks on their prison cell, allowing them to escape. If
you were an eco-villain, and every time you attempted to capture the
Planeteers you found their cells empty and the locks melted, wouldn't
you eventually figure out that maybe you should buy some melt-proof
locks, or at least take away their rings?
No, you wouldn't. If you were that intelligent, you would've disabled
the Planeteers instead of locking them up, and you would've realized
that trying to base your life on a business that's going to attract
Captain Planet's wrath is a fruitless undertaking, since the Captain has
the power of teamwork and nature to foil your fiendish schemes.
Captain Planet has an encyclopedic knowledge of the universe;
emotionally, he is a blend of the five disparate personalities and
imaginations of the Planeteers. He is the combination of their hearts
and souls, and a metaphor for their teamwork and cooperation."
if Captain Planet is an equal mix of the Planeteers, his own inner
contrasts should cause him to self-destruct. Look at it this way:
Wheeler's outspoken brashness is combined with Linka's quiet sensibility
somewhere within the Captain's personality. His fickle emotional state
should cause him to slowly degenerate into some insanely evil creature.
I guess somewhere in his encyclopedic knowledge of the universe he found
a way to circumvent this. Imagine what a time David Coburn
(right), the man who voiced the Captain, must have had attempting to get
Captain Planet only appears in his Captain Planet garb. These are not clothes but elements of the Earth that are integral to his composition. He is able to rearrange his molecular structure to transform himself into the various powers and elements of nature, e.g., water, wind, fire, ice, etc. Captain Planet's outfit does not represent a specific culture. He has grass-green hair, sky-blue skin, earthy brown eyes, blood-red chest, gloves and boots, and sunlight-yellow insignia/globe. The globe on his chest sometimes flickers and turns gray when he is losing power or is exposed to high levels of pollution.
Planetís clothes have long been a topic of intense conversation. In an
apparently futile attempt to look as cool as Captain Planet, I tried to
locate some of his clothes for myself, but succeeded only in
belt, which I didnít purchase.
by none other than LeVar Burton, of Reading Rainbow.)
element is Earth.
He can create small, localized earthquakes; move rocks in the earth;
cause holes or furrows in the earth for planting; create tiny islands by
raising rocks from the shallows of the ocean; and turn mud into solid
his "green thumb," Kwame can grow almost anything, and his
earthy wisdom provides a firm foundation for the other Planeteers. He is
quiet but firm in his convictions and often assumes a leadership role.
Though fundamentally serious, he has an impish sense of humor and often
delivers off-the-wall lines in perfect deadpan.
Comments like these were digging this show an early grave long before
Season 2, simply because they built up unrealistic expectations for the
show. When I watch, I spend the whole time waiting for Kwame to unleash
a side-splitting deadpan one liner, but he's always too busy solidifying
mud to pull it off. And if by some fluke he's not doing that, he's
making furrows in the earth for planting. Combined with Gi's watering
powers, large amounts of time, and Ma-ti's special heart ability, which
allows him to buy seeds at a Gardening store, the Planeteers can grow
crops large and healthy enough to dominate any city fair.
are several so-called (but often misunderstood) "bad guys"
fighting against Captain
Planet, but none compare to the evil that is Zarm, an alien being
defeated by Gaia long ago. But what has no doubt drawn your attention is
that Zarm is voiced by Sting. In fact, as you may have noticed,
countless legitimate celebrities were acquired for Season One of the
show. The following may surprise you:
Whoopi Goldberg, Edward Asner, and Dean Stockwell all had parts in Captain
Planet. There were other actors who are mysteriously not pictured
with their cartoon counterparts, however: Meg Ryan was Dr. Blight,
Jeff Goldblum was Verminous Skumm, and James Coburn was Looten Plunder.
If youíre still reading this, youíve likely noted that, up until
this point, I havenít covered everyoneís favorite planeteer, the
(voiced by Scott Menville, left), even when I was in 3rd
grade, was mocked on a fairly regular basis. In the intro to the show,
while the theme song plays, each of the planeteers demonstrates their
special abilities, reminding the viewer of exactly who they are. Kwame
shouts "EARTH!" and a monstrous jutting rock would
spring forth from the ground. When Linkaís bad Russian-accented
"WIND!" is shouted, a tornado tears into a pile of trash,
nonsensically flinging it everywhere. But when Ma-ti shouts
"HEART," his pet monkey comically runs across the screen.
Nothing else. That monkey, by the way, is voiced by Frank Welker, to the
right, who also doubles as Apuís voice on Alladin.
as I walked to my first period class, the crinkling of foil interrupted
one of my footsteps. I looked down at the trash Iíd stepped on,
frowning, and picked it up. And as I remembered Captain Planet, I
laughed, and returned it to its position on the ground. Perhaps the
power really is mine, but regardless, I choose not to exercise it.