Care Bears & Cousins is a Sequel Series and, for the most part, the next season of Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot of the infamous Care Bears franchise, retaining the same core six bears (Tenderheart, Funshine, Cheer, Share, Grumpy and Wonderheart) and resident ineffectual villain Beastly.
The series also expanded on Care-A-Lot's mechanics, and explains that while the bears were creating cheer on Earth, the humans' cheer would generate Care Hearts high above the world. These Care Hearts are magically drawn towards the Share Cloud, which will in effect fill the Caring Meter. It goes without saying that if the meter drops below a certain level, the bears will start fading out, and if it dips down to zero, Care-a-Lot disappears. However, sometimes these Care Hearts get lost and don't make their way to the Share Cloud, and thus it's the cousins' job to make sure that the lost Care Hearts end up in the Share Cloud where they belong, using a myriad of equipment invented by Gadgeteer Genius Bright Heart Raccoon. Aside from Bright Heart, the other returning cousins are Brave Heart Lion, who is the leader of the entire operation, Lotsa Heart Elephant, the clumsy big guy, and Cozy Heart Penguin, because Everything's Better with Penguins.
At the start of the series, we see the Share Cloud suddenly deciding to make a beeline back to Care-A-Lot and thus marking the cousins returning home for the first time in aeons. The series focuses on the cousins' attempt to blend back in with the bears, as well as dealing with Beastly's mischief.
A Netflix exclusive after Welcome to Care-a-Lot got royally screwed over by Hasbro and The Hub, it was originally scheduled for 2016, but the release was pushed forward and Season 1 premiered with 6 episodes in November 2015. The second season premiered on the February 5th, 2016 with another 6 episodes. Care Bears: Unlock the Magic would then kickstart the next generation of the franchise in 2019.
Care Bears & Cousins displays the following tropes:
- All-CGI Cartoon: This is continued from Welcome to Care-a-Lot, making it the second all-CGI Care Bears television series, though the movies were using this well before.
- Anti-Hero / Anti-Villain: Beastly again, continuing from W2CAL
- Baby Talk: Lotsa Heart does this in The Share Shack to some of Cheer's plants, in a bid to make them grow faster. And it works.
- Beary Friendly: They're not called the Care Bears for nothing.
- Blessed with Suck: "Wishing Well" sheds new light on the powers of Wish Bear. First off, her power apparently forces her to constantly hear the inane wishes of everyone in Care-a-Lot, i.e. "I wish I had remembered to set that timer," "I have a stomachache; I wish I hadn't eaten that cake," etc. Furthermore, if someone actually makes a truly heartfelt wish right in front of her, then that's when the real fun starts: Her belly badge power will grant it, even if the wisher (and everyone else) may not really be ready for the consequences.
- Breakout Character: Wonderheart Bear was created for Welcome to Care-a-Lot, but only had a few episodes where she was actually the main focus character. At other times, she was just in a supporting role, or mostly background. In Care Bears & Cousins, at least in the first six episodes, she is not only a main character, it's probably fair to say that she is the main character, even more so than any of the cousins.
- British Brevity: The two seasons are only 6 episodes each. Fans hoped that this meant that there would be more seasons in a year.
- Broken Bird: The cousins of all people go through this with alarming regularity in the series starting with "The Bright Stuff", and especially in "Belly Badgered" when they can't remember what their belly badges do, and in "Wonder's Heart", where they feel that Wonderheart's belly badge power pretty much renders them obsolete. Basically, Wonderheart's power allows her to do using magic what, up until now, they've been accomplishing using technology. However, she is, after all, only one bear, and a cub at that, so there's only so much she can do on her own before she gets tired out.
- Bunnies for Cuteness: Wonderheart is cute as is. But her cuteness is enhanced by Floppy Bunny, her Companion Cube plush rabbit.
- The Bus Came Back: The bus came back to let off Brave Heart Lion, Lotsa Heart Elephant, Bright Heart Raccoon, and Cozy Heart Penguin.
- Catchphrase: The cousins have the catch phrase Take heart!, which refers to their job of collecting the wayward Care Hearts and leading them to the Share Cloud.
- Chirping Crickets
- This is used in "Wishing Well" after Grumpy shouts that he wishes it wasn't night anymore. Only Lotsa Heart Elephant, as the person who wished for the day to never come, can actually reverse the wish.
- It comes up again in "Awesomest Day Ever" when Lotsa Heart asks Bright Heart if he realizes what's between Moody Mountains and Adventure Beach in regards to sending Brave Heart between those two locations. The answer - the Surprise Party they're trying to set up for him, but the crickets chirp when Bright Heart can't come up with this.
- Cool Airship: The Cloud Clipper.
- Description Cut: In "Return to Tender," the bears are talking about Wonderheart riding on the Cloud Clipper with the cousins. Tenderheart makes a comment about her possibly not being ready for all of the new sights she'll see. Quick cut to Wonderheart having the time of her life. Repeat three times as it becomes increasingly obvious that Tenderheart is really missing her, while Wonderheart is having a great time and clearly doesn't have any homesickness... yet.
- Duck!: In "Share Air," after the bears start floating up in the sky because of Harmony Bear's new song, this happens.Cheer: Oh no, a duck!Tenderheart: (covering his head and ducking slightly) Oh, no! What is it? A tree? An airplane?Cheer: (duck passes by, quacking) No, a duck.
- Ear Worm: In "Share Air," Grumpy Bear doesn't want to listen to Harmony Bear's new song (which Harmony had warned Share not to listen to anyway) because he's worried it might be this. In fact, there's another reason why they shouldn't be listening to the song - the song is so "light and airy" that it literally causes you to float in the air.Grumpy: Look, Share. I know how to fix a lot of things. A broken bike, a busted window, but a song that makes a bear float in the air? (chuckles) That's a new one. I'm just glad I didn't listen to it myself.
- Everyone Laughs Ending: This is standard practice. In fact, of the premiere six episodes, five of them end this way and the other ends with the Beasties laughing at the love-addled Beastly.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: Cozy Heart Penguin, whose belly badge power causes anyone hit by the stare to become a Cuddle Bug.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: Continuing from W2CAL, rainbows are still one of the main motifs visible throughout Care-a-Lot.
- Fantastic Flora: The jealouspikle junipers seen in "BFFs" are strange spiky purple bushes that grow when someone is feeling jealous. However, they feed off jealous energy and so if that person stops feeling jealous, they eventually go away entirely.
- HA HA HA No: In "Beastly Bungalow," after Beastly agrees to come back and work Harmony's Share Shack, he asks if he can be in charge and they can change the name to the Beastly Bungalow.Share: (giggles) ...No. But you get to hang out with everybody and make delicious treats. Okay?Beastly: Yeah! You've got yourself a deal.
- Harmless Villain: Continuing from W2CAL, Beastly still mostly behaves like a schoolyard bully who gets upset over the smallest things and the worst he's done is steal a ship.
- Honorable Elephant: Lotsa Heart Elephant.
- Mythology Gag: The show's theme tune references the old "Care Bear countdown" from the original theme tune... "Three, two, one, go!"
- No Antagonist: Half of the episodes of Season 1 are these, particularly the even-numbered episodes.
- Pass the Popcorn: In "Beastly Bungalow," Share Bear and Beastly have a heartfelt conversation after he steals stuff from her Share Shack to create his own Beastly Bungalow. While this is going on, the Care Bears and cousins that have been waiting are having a heated argument over cutting in line. After Share and Beastly notice this, Beastly comments on the hilarity of Care Bears arguing like that. Share says they have to do something and Beastly grabs one of the treats and tells her "Yeah, you're right! Pull up a stool! This is fun!"
- Record Needle Scratch: In the premiere episode "Take Heart," when Wonderheart wakes up the day after the Cousins arrive, she says that she feels wonderful. After going outside and looking at the damage that was done to her room by the Cloud Clipper, there's a very brief record needle scratch and she amends it to "less wonderful," though she quickly perks up upon seeing the Share Cloud.
- Remember the New Guy?: Strangely, inverted. All the Care Bears except Tenderheart show surprise on meeting the cousins and act like they're seeing them for the first time. One would expect that the bears would know who the cousins are. Apparently the writers either set it up this way for comedic effect and/or because of the Fleeting Demographic Rulenote .
- Retcon: An expanded backstory taking advantage of holes in the existing universe's lore, filling in the details on why we haven't seen the cousins until now.
- Slice of Life: Magical elements notwithstanding, the plots of the episodes focus the Cousins blending in with the Care Bears.
- Surprise Party: In "Awesomest Day Ever," everybody but Funshine Bear and Wonderheart Bear sets up one of these for Brave Heart, while those two keep him distracted. Unfortunately, the other shenanigans going on (see Two-Timer Date and Chirping Crickets) pretty much end up destroying the surprise party, though they still manage to have a nice party with friends once they learn the aesop of the day.
- Title Theme Tune: "Care Bears & Cousins, collecting hearts by the dozens..."
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Grumpy Bear is notably more abrasive towards others here.
- Two-Timer Date: This is the basic premise of "Awesomest Day Ever," with the unusual twist that both Funshine and Wonderheart know that Brave Heart is running between them. Furthermore, he's actually being aided and abetted by Bright Heart, who has created a Get-Goin' watch to schedule him. Then, things get completely crazy when Brave Heart has him set the watch to schedule him for activities with all of the different bears and cousins, causing him to run madly between various locations. As all of this isn't enough, they're all also trying to get him distracted from the setup for a Surprise Party.Brave Heart: Keep those snacks going! Delicious!Get-Goin' Watch: (mechanical voice) Gotta get going!
- Unwanted Rescue: Funshine Bear doesn't want Grumpy Bear to rescue him in "Share Air" like the other bears when Harmony Bear's song causes him to float and fly. He's having too much fun.
- Wham Episode: "The Bright Stuff"- we finally learn what Wonderheart's belly badge power is, and she uses it for the first time.