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Western Animation / Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue

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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 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. 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 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." 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:

  • 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. No wonder your son's fucked up. Lay off the lager, old man!
  • 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. Winnie-the-Pooh is a doll, Muppet Babies 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 that's somewhere between sad, saccharine, and (thanks to the DuckTales cast, Chipmunks, and Muppet Babies) cacophonous.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, 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.
  • 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 movie Permanent Midnight is more or less based on this).
  • "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?"
  • Off-Model: Ridiculously so, even by the standards set by the All-Stars' cartoons:
    • ALF's eyes switch colors from their usual black with white pupils to the standard white with black pupils in a couple shots.
    • 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 end of the special.
    • During his Chair Reveal, Smoke briefly looks like a crude drawing. This was likely a storyboard sketch that somehow made it into the final product.
      • For the most part, characters whose shows were animated by Wang (The Disney and WB characters, Slimer, Michelangelo, Garfield and the Smurfs) have the least off-model moments. The others (especially the Muppet Babies, ALF, and those made for the special like Smoke and Michael) don't fare as well. That the special was animated in only six weeks doesn't help.
  • 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 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 yell at you, and if you keep doing them, you'll want to do harder drugs and/or end up looking like a zombie, even if it all started with a mild drug like pot."
  • Very Special Episode: The U.S. government crafted this thing to be a very special episode for every cartoon they could come up with.
  • Weird Crossover: The Smurfs + Ghostbusters + Garfield + ALF + Huey, Dewey, and Louie + Bugs Bunny + who knows what else?! Yeah, it's pretty peculiar.


Video Example(s):


Wonderful Ways to Say, "No"

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

How well does it match the trope?

4.88 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / DrugsAreBad

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