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Avengers: Infinity War? No. This is the most ambitious crossover in history!

"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 TV special produced by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS/Television Academy) (and animated by Wang Film Productions and Southern Star Studios in Australia) through a grant from McDonald's/Ronald McDonald Children's Charities (RHCC) that was originally simulcast commercial-free on Saturday morning, April 21, 1990, on all four major networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) along with most independent local stations and several cable networks., the special features 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 crossover among the various cartoon characters as the selling point.

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." The Disney Channel managed to sneak in a couple of repeat airings of it, however.

Extensive reviews of the special can be found 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:

  • Aborted Arc: Thanks to Michelangelo's interference, Michael gives up trying to get his wallet back.
  • Adults Are Useless: Michael and Corey's parents, especially their father, who's more concerned about his missing cases of beer. When he voices this concern, his wife laughs it off and suggests he forgot about drinking them while watching football. Their mother, however, is suspicious, and Mom asks Corey if anything is wrong. She denies it. Partially justified, in that Corey is afraid to tell them about Michael's addiction, and initially only says that he's "acting weird", which the father takes as normal teenage behaviour.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: Not only are suburban teenagers lurking about giving away cheap-as-free drugs, Mikey also has to worry about Smoke; a shoulder-demon who looks like a businessman (tie and all). He's voiced by George C. Scott, and ceaselessly persuades you to experiment with said drugs.
  • All There in the Script: Smoke's name is mentioned on the VHS description, but not in the special.
  • Alternate Continuity: Several cartoon characters are Living Toys brought to life by magic. Kermit is an alarm clock, the Smurfs are from a comic book, ALF is a framed picture, Garfield is a lamp, and Alvin and the Chipmunks are implied to be from one of their records. Other characters appear without an origin for their appearance. Winnie the Pooh comes to life from being a stuffed animal, but of course that's normal for him.
  • 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 drugs. Deconstructed, as Smoke exploits this. Smoke tries to convince Corey to try out some of Michael's stash under the pretense that she'd understand her brother better and have common ground again. Michael thankfully stops her in time and realizes his decisions don't just effect him.
  • Animated World Hypotheses: Michael and Corey repeatedly acknowledge that characters like The Smurfs and Huey, Dewey, and Louie are fictional cartoon characters. However, when Bugs Bunny talks to Smoke, Smoke calls Bugs a "cartoon", to which Bugs retorts that Smoke (who, in-universe, is a being produced by Michael's weed smoke) is also a cartoon, making it ambiguous as to just what is and isn't a cartoon in-universe, and how the human characters actually see them.
  • Anthropomorphic Vice: The character Smoke is the obvious embodiment of drugs.
  • Award-Bait Song: The ending credits version of "Wonderful Ways To Say No", which alters most of the lyrics to be about growing up and outgrowing cartoons.
  • Big Bad: Smoke is the embodiment of drug addiction who gets Michael hooked on drugs and tries to stop the titular All-Stars from getting Michael to break his addiction. Then when Michael looks like he's gonna break his addiction, Smokes moves on to Michael's little sister.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Michael finally wakes up to his problem when he sees Smoke trying to give pot to Corey and sends him packing.
  • Blatant Lies: In the beginning, Michael steals and breaks open Corey's piggybank to take the money for getting more drugs. When Corey catches him in the act, he said the piggybank fell and he was trying to fix it. She doesn't buy it for a second.
    • When Michael gets cornered by who he thought were the police, he begs for mercy, saying that doing a joint "was just his first time and he'll never do it again".
    • Bugs Bunny calls out Michael on why he started doing drugs, who replies because he wanted to and it was his choice. Bugs doesn't buy it and tests to see if that's true by using a time machine to go back into Michael's past when he started doing drugs. From what was seen, young Michael was goaded into it by his so-called "friends". Afterwards, Bugs calls Michael out again, asking if he can still say it was by his own choice, which he weakly defends that he didn't want them thinking he was a wimp.
  • 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 Freddy Krueger-esque 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.
    • The Muppet Babies take Mikey on a trip inside of his own mind. There's a lightning storm going on, they're riding a roller coaster, and they tell him this is his brain on drugs. Gonzo looks at the camera and says it's just an artist's representation of it.
  • Camera Abuse: Baby Piggy does a karate kick to the camera, which "breaks" it only temporarily, near the end of "Wonderful Ways To Say No".
  • Chair Reveal: ALF shows Michael "the man in charge" of his addiction by presenting him with a desk and chair, which turns around to reveal none other than Smoke. Michael says right before this that he's 'the man in charge' of his own life, with the implication he's let his addiction rule him.
  • Covers Always Lie: Smurfette appears on the VHS cover, but not in the special itself. Conversely, Michelangelo is in the special, but not on the cover.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Most of the special, ironically enough, is pretty surreal and the songs are no exception.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The entire special has an anti-drug message, and the cartoons tell Michael that 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: Michael is scared of the vision of him becoming a zombie heroin addict in a twisted futuristic hospital.
  • 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...
  • Growing Up Sucks: The ending song, where the characters sing about growing up and leaving cartoons behind.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Michael, after being aloof to both Corey and the Cartoon All-Stars, finally realizes his mistake and vows to stop his addiction when he sees Smoke trying to convince Corey to use the drugs from his box.
  • Human-Focused Adaptation: Cartoons from several franchises band together but Michael is the protagonist/target of their care, with his sister Corey as the deuteragonist.
  • 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 biopic Permanent Midnight is more or less based on his relationship with drugs).
    • A much lesser example is the appearance of the Muppet Babies. There's a story that Jim Henson once took LSD, not for kicks but out of hope that it might enhance his creative abilities. Less ironic when one considers that nothing happened and he never touched the stuff again.
  • "Jump Off a Bridge" Rebuttal: Bugs Bunny asks this question to Michael in regards to all of his friends trying weed. When Michael doesn't answer, Bugs just says, "I guess you would. Not very bright... not very bright."
  • Leitmotif: Pooh is accompanied by the theme song to The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh when talking to Corey.
  • Little Brother Is Watching: Well, technically Little Sister Is Watching: What finally persuades Mikey to clean up is Corey reaching for his box of drugs.
  • Marijuana Is LSD: Even though the special sort of acknowledges that crack is a more "serious" drug than marijuana, it still sort of treats all drugs as the same and suggests that if Michael kept smoking weed, he'd have a zombie-like appearance and would have psychedelic effects in his brain. While being stoned can make you space out or look a bit out-of-it, it doesn't generally have effects that extreme.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: A complete list of which cartoon characters appeared in this special can be found on Wikipedia.
  • Medium Awareness: Alvin and Bugs are fully aware that this is a cartoon.
  • 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?"
  • One-Steve Limit: Downplayed. We have Michael and Michelangelo.
  • Original Generation: Michael and his family, Smoke, and Michael's "friends" aren't from an existing cartoon.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Michael's mother talks to Corey about how worried they are about his behavior — while their father is 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. Corey justifies this by telling Pooh that Michael will blame her if her parents find out.
  • 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.
  • Satanic Archetype: Smoke is a being who embodies vice and temptation and drives Michael to self-destruction.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: The special is practically a textbook example of attempting this trope. Lightning 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.
  • Sidelined Protagonist Crossover: DuckTales (1987) and The Real Ghostbusters are represented in this special by the nephews and Slimer respectively, with nary a sight of Scrooge and the then-four Ghostbusters.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: For whatever reason, Michelangelo does not appear on the VHS cover even though literally every other featured character is present.
  • Slippery Slope Fallacy: The special gives the fallacious argument that if you do any drugs at all, you'll definitely become addicted, then you will almost definitely end up wanting harder drugs. This is partly based on the now-discredited "gateway drug" theory.
  • Space Whale Aesop: The moral is "don't do drugs" and the execution adds "...because if you do, you'll have lightning in your brain, turn into a rule-breaking grump, cartoon characters will teach you, and if you keep doing them, you'll want to do harder drugs and/or end up looking like a zombie (or Freddy Kruger as ALF calls it), even if it all started with a mild drug like pot."
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Smoke and Michael's other friends were responsible for his drug addiction.
  • Troubled Abuser: Near the film's climax, Michael threatens to hurt Corey and he grabs her arm very tightly while doing so. His actions may not be excusable, but at the same time he's struggling with drugs and feels out of resources. A tear comes out of his eye once Corey leaves.
  • Very Special Episode: The U.S. government crafted this thing to be a very special episode for every cartoon they could come up with.
  • Villain of Another Story: Michael's so-called friends are also in need of help from the Cartoon All Stars.
  • Weird Crossover: The Smurfs + Ghostbusters + Garfield + ALF + Huey, Dewey, and Louie + Bugs Bunny + who knows what else?! Yeah, it's pretty peculiar.
  • With Friends Like These...: Who needs Smoke, or any of Michael's friends who got him into drugs? Smoke even bails on Michael before Bugs shows up and one of them, a blond girl in a black floppy hat even steals his wallet.

 
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Wonderful Ways to Say, "No"

Various cartoon characters sing to Michael about saying no to drugs.

How well does it match the trope?

4.9 (10 votes)

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Main / DrugsAreBad

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