Western Animation: Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue
"All our favorite cartoon characters that we grew up with are coming together to talk to us about... drugs."Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue is a truly epic Drugs Are Bad special that was originally simulcast commercial-free on Saturday morning, April 21, 1990, on all three major American television networks (Fox had only been on the air for three years at that point), along with most independent local stations and several cable networks. Produced by the people who award the Emmys (and animated by Wang Film Productions and Southern Star Studios in Australia), cartoon characters ranging from Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck of Looney Tunes fame to the 1987 incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles try to teach an at-risk teen named Michael about the dangers of marijuana.The special was relentlessly promoted in the days leading up to the simulcast. Interestingly, the anti-drug angle was underplayed in these commercials. Instead, the ads pushed the insane crossover among the various cartoon characters (considered a Fan Fiction writer's wet dream in this day and age).There's been a long-standing rumor that the reason this special has never re-aired is that Garfield was used without Jim Davis' permission, and Davis threatened to sue if the special re-aired. However, Mark Evanier, head writer of Garfield and Friends, debunked the rumor on the Cartoon Research Facebook page. Evanier wrote, "Jim knew all about the special, he okayed Garfield's participation and approved whatever had to be approved. I believe the original plan, which got all the various copyright holders to agree to let their characters participate, called for limited airing." Disney Channel managed to sneak in a couple of repeat airings of it, however.Extensive reviews of the special can be found here, here, and here. You can find the special in its entire 32-minute glory on YouTube, and The Annotated Series version starting here.
Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue provides examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: Michael and Corey's parents, especially their father, who's more concerned about his missing cases of beer. No wonder your son's fucked up. Lay off the lager!
- The Aggressive Drug Dealer: In this special, not only are suburban teenagers lurking about giving away cheap-as-free drugs, Mikey also has to worry about Smoke. Smoke is a shoulder-demon who looks like Hexxus from FernGully, is voiced by George C. Scott, and ceaselessly persuades you to experiment with said cheap-as-free drugs.
- All There in the Script: Smoke's name is mentioned on the VHS description, but not in the special.
- Aloof Big Brother: Michael has apparently turned into this thanks to his drug use, much to Corey's distress. Her comment that "You always tell me everything!" suggests that they were very close before he started using.
- Award Bait Song: The ending credits feature a song about growing up and outgrowing cartoons (?) that's somewhere among sad, saccharine, and (thanks to the DuckTales cast, Chipmunks, and Muppet Babies) cacophonous.
- Body Horror: Michael's breaking point comes somewhere between the journey through his own badly damaged brain and the point when it's revealed that he will eventually be so strung out on hard drugs, he will turn into a zombie.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The cartoon characters who did it in their own shows are just as unkind to the one between Michael and Corey's reality and ours.
- Broken Aesop:
- This exchange with ALF:Michael: But I can quit if I want to. I'm in charge of my life!
ALF: Wrong! Not when you're on drugs!
- One of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gives Michael a schpiel about how marijuana is bad. Of all the turtles to do so, this special decided it should be Michaelangelo. (It's obvious this is because he was the most "popular" Turtle at the time but the producers clearly had no idea why he was so popular.)
- The special does lampshade this: when Michael sees the DuckTales characters surrounding him, he exclaims, "Now I'm seeing ducks?? Man, I've gotta get off of these drugs!"
- This exchange with ALF:
- Covers Always Lie: Smurfette appears on the VHS cover, but not in the special itself.
- Disney Acid Sequence / Deranged Animation: Most of the special, ironically enough.
- Drugs Are Bad: The entire special. As we come to find out drugs cause lightning storms in your brain and will leave you looking like a meth head by the time you are twenty.
- Future Me Scares Me: Something to do with becoming a zombie heroin addict in a twisted futuristic hospital. But then, zombieism is a well-known side effect of marijuana.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: The "Cartoon All-Stars", who try to show Michael the negative effects of drug abuse, and Smoke, who tries to keep Michael addicted. And when the All-Stars start to get through to Michael, Smoke goes after Corey...
- Human-Focused Adaptation
- Irony: ALF serving as one of the key characters. It's very possible that there never would've been an ALF cartoon if the live-action TV series hadn't run as long as it did, which was mostly due to outrageous scripts written by a guy on drugs (the movie Permanent Midnight is more or less based on this).
- John Barleycorn and Friends: The character Smoke is the obvious embodiment of drugs.
- Little Sister Is Watching: What finally persuades Mikey to clean up is Corey reaching for his box of drugs.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: A complete list of which cartoon characters appeared on this special can be found on Wikipedia.
- Monochrome Past: Used when Michael goes back in time because, as Bugs Bunny tells him, "This is the past, and the past is in black and white. Get it?"
- Nice Hat: One of Michael's female "friends" has a Kung Lao hat that absolutely must be seen to be believed. More proof that the people behind this thing had no idea how teenagers actually acted or dressed at the time.
- Off Model: Ridiculously so, even by the standards set by the All-Stars' cartoons:
- In the scene with Michelangelo, Smoke says an entire line of dialogue without ever even moving his lips.
- Garfield accidentally opens his mouth when everyone says "Right!" toward the beginning of the special. It's worth noting that this mistake was also made once in the actual show itself — in the episode "Binky Goes Bad!", when Garfield wonders how Binky would be arrested, he accidentally opens his mouth, saying, "I know!" before getting the script for that day's Binky the Clown show.
- For the most part, characters whose shows were animated by Wang (The Disney and WB characters, Slimer, Garfield and the Smurfs) have the least off-model moments. The others (especially the Muppet Babies and ALF) don't fare as well. That the special was animated in only six weeks doesn't help.
- Original Generation: Michael and his family. And Smoke. And Michael's "friends" from the flashback.
- Parental Obliviousness: Michael's parents talk about how worried they are about his behavior — while trying to find two cans of beer that have gone missing... and while ignoring their daughter who tells them that he's been acting strange. She, in turn, neglects to mention the theft of her piggy bank. Wow, that's not strange at all.
It could be argued that they all had to be holding the Idiot Ball in that scene to set up Pooh's anviliciousness, but then the scene is kind of lost forever when he tells Corey to consider all the bad things that could happen to her brother if she doesn't tell her folks what's up. Getting to hang out with all your favorite cartoon characters is a bad thing? (Of course, Michael doesn't get to hang out with them so much as he gets to be jerked around by them while they take turns telling him what a stupid idiot he is, so that probably takes a bit of the fun away from it...)
- Politician Guest Star: George H.W. Bush, then President of the United States, provided a live-action introduction along with first lady Barbara. Other countries that aired this special had their own political leaders provide an intro.
- Scare 'Em Straight: The special is practically a textbook example of (attempting) this trope. Lightining storms in your brain, zombie future, Bugs Bunny threatening you...
- Sequel Hook: The special ends with Michael throwing out Smoke, who says he'll be back. Michael and Corey respond by saying that if he does come back, then they'll be ready for him.
- Theme Tune Cameo: When Alvin and the Chipmunks and Slimer first appear, their respective cartoons' theme songs play in the background.
- Understatement: "Those drugs are so boring!"
- Very Special Episode: The U.S. government crafted this thing to be like a very special episode for every cartoon they could come up with.