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Western Animation / Rescue Heroes

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Rescue Heroes began as a toy series by Fisher-Price. It was turned into a Merchandise-Driven children's show by the world-renowned Canadian animation studio Nelvana that was shown on Teletoon and CBSnote  that taught kids about safety and a couple of other issues starting back at 1999.

The Rescue Heroes Global Response Team is a team of emergency rescue specialists (firefighters, police officers, mountain climbers, pilots, divers, spelunkers, etc.) who are on call at a moment's notice to travel to the sight of major emergencies anywhere in the world and deal with them, usually employing a variety of high-tech vehicles and equipment. All this is directed by astronaut Roger Houston, who watches over the world from a space station. Conceptually very similar to the classic series Thunderbirds with the use of vehicles, but also with the character based specializations of G.I. Joe, and set in the Present Day, if not what was considered the near future. Contrast with Tomica Hero Rescue Force and Tomica Hero Rescue Fire.

Oh, and like G.I. Joe, absolutely every recurring character has a meaningful, Punny Name, whether they are based on a toy or not.

In 2019, a Flash-animated reboot series was released on the Fisher-Price YouTube channel, with an all-new toyline accompanying it. Nelvana also has every episode of the original show available online through Treehouse Direct.

This animated series provides examples of:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: In "When It Rains, It Pours", Ariel, after rescuing a hiker during a forest fire, accepts a job to become a spokesperson for the National Safety Council in order to teach kids about safety. After a while, she starts to miss being a Rescue Hero. Ultimately, she rejoins the team and decides to create a website to teach kids about safety. Out of all the other Rescue Heroes, Rocky was the one who was not happy about Ariel leaving.
  • Action Girl: All the female members of the Rescue Heroes.
  • Adapted Out: Wendy Waters, Ariel Flyer, Jake Justice, and others from the original show are absent in the reboot, and are replaced with new characters.
  • An Aesop: Besides the obvious safety tips, most episodes have some kind of lesson about interpersonal relationships and teamwork.
  • Alliterative Family: Jack and Jill Hammer.
  • Alliterative Name: About half the Rescue Hero roster has one. This includes Billy Blazes, Wendy and Warren Waters, Gil Gripper, Jake Justice, Bill Barker, Bob Buoy, Captain Cuffs, Matt Medic, Pat Pending, Rip Rockefeller, Sam Sparks, Aiden Assist, and Sergeant Siren.
  • All Just a Dream: In "Quake Me When It’s Over", Wendy gets knocked out and dreams about being a firefighter during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
  • Alternate Timeline: "Quake Me When it's Over" is an episode that centers on Wendy's dream of being in 1906 during the Great Earthquake, except she is unable to use any of the modern conveniences they have in the regular timeline.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: All of the Rescue Creatures; they appear to understand commands given by any human, not just their handlers and these commands can be full sentences. They're also able to determine what is needed in any given situation and react when insulted. This includes animals such as Claude the mountain lion and Radar the bat, creatures that are not normally known for being highly trainable.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: "Think like a Rescue Hero. Think safe." It doubles as a Catchphrase.
  • Anvil on Head: Played for Drama in The Movie. Billy manages to narrowly save a citizen from getting killed by a falling anvil. Lampshaded when he says "I thought that only happened in cartoons."
  • Art Evolution: Season 1 is different design wise from Seasons 2 and 3. This is due to switching from Wang Film Productions (credited as Hong Gaung) to AKOM.
  • Ascended Extra: Jack Hammer goes from being seen only on select occasions in the first season to being consistently seen alongside the main team in seasons two and three.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Rocky in "Rock Star on the Rocks". Not only does he get to save his favorite singer, he gets a backstage pass to her concert and a kiss on the cheek.
  • Awesome Aussie: Sandy Beach. Besides his rescue work, he once was attacked by a shark and came out with no injuries save a broken surfboard.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • All the Rescue Heroes towards the kids they rescue, but Rocky gets bonus points for mentoring the current members of his old high school basketball team and training the towel/water boy in basic emergency response, the latter of which ends up saving the entire team after their bus crashes on a bridge in mid-winter.
    • Billy and Jack get this towards their biological younger siblings and Jake was part of a Big Brothers Big Sisters program and remained close to the boys he mentored, even offering to let them stay in Headquarters when their house burns down in "Four Alarm Fire And Brimstone"
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Rescue Heroes since they're involved in a lot of rescue missions.
  • Big Damn Movie: The regular show is already your typical action-packed cartoon (though with significantly less violence than your traditional example), but The Movie ups the ante and the stakes quite considerably with a Darker and Edgier plot full of emotional conflict among the heroes, the potential death of the leader, and The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Big Eater: Rocky is one.
  • But You Were There, and You, and You: In "Quake Me When It’s Over", Wendy is accidentally knocked out when Rocky opens a locker in her face and has a dream that she is living through the events of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. In this dream, she is a fire fighter who works alongside men who all bear a striking resemblance to Rocky Canyon, Billy Blazes, and Jake Justice.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Jack spouts it a lot, driving the more serious Jake crazy. Unusually for this trope, Jake eventually learns that Jack uses the humor to defuse tense situations, a handy tool for Emergency Services who rescue people who might begin panicking and put themselves and others in more danger.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: When a contestant cheats at the race in "Race to the Finish", his "shortcut" across the ice ends up stranding him and his dog and he doesn't even get to finish the race.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Billy's father in "Storm of the Century" is a construction worker, and apparently an umpteenth generation one at that, none too pleased that his sons went down the firefighting route instead. However, once the hyperjet is badly damaged, his occupation comes in handy when Billy requests a wing to be repaired.
  • Christmas Episode: "All Alone for the Holidays."
  • Comically Missing the Point: From "Ultimate Ride":
    Jack: Hey buddy, where were you?
    Jake: Saw a movie.
    Billy: (runs over to the computer to check out an alert) Earthquake in Tokyo!
    Jake: No, I saw that last week.
  • Cool Big Sis: Ariel and Wendy to Rocky; they also are frequently this to the kids they're rescuing.
  • Cool Bike: Jake Justice's.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • The Movie is notably a lot darker than most episodes of the show. Most noteworthy is the fact that it deals with the idea of The End of the World as We Know It, where a series of lightning storms have the potential to collide and lead to the Earth's destruction. Even if you gloss over that though, it also deals with Billy's potentially fatal poisoning and Rocky not only being grounded for his failures, but learning he's at fault for Billy's poisoning. While the show always dealt with deadly situations, it never did it with such high stakes as this.
    • The Global Response Team-era episodes also tend to fall into this category more than the first season.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Roger in "Houston, We Have a Problem".
  • Demoted to Extra: Roger after Season 1.
  • Disney Death: Billy in The Movie, when he contracts a fatal poison and is weakened to the point of being unable to partake in any further rescues. However, the team is ultimately able to heal him back to strength by using the plant he contracted the poison from to make an antidote.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The "Lava Alarm" pilot is actually quite faithful to what the eventual show would be, but one particular point of notice is the fact that it doesn't end on the No Fourth Wall ending or "Think like a Rescue Hero, think safe."
  • Embarrassing First Name: Rocky's real name is Richmond as revealed in "Cave In".
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Jack's is Percy as revealed in "Sibling Blowout".
  • Emergency Services: The whole show is built around them.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The Movie provides a rare non-villainous example, where the team is horrified to discover a series of lightning storms could lead to this.
  • Evil Living Flames: In at least two episodes, a burning fire is personified as a flaming monster with a sinister laugh. The flames aren’t actually meant to be alive though, they are just meant to enhance a character’s fear of fire.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In an episode involving a series of tornadoes striking near a beach, a boat is struck, knocking its passengers into the water. Gil rescues them and then asks "Were six of you in one boat?" The girl he's speaking to is still a bit groggy as she answers "Actually there Angus! Angus isn't here!" Gil ends up having to dive after the now-drowning Angus, who had been the only person on-board the boat without a life vest.
  • Family Theme Naming: Jack Hammer and his sister Jill's names come from the old nursery rhyme about how "Jack and Jill went up a hill".
  • Foreshadowing: In "Storm of the Century", Wendy mentions they're traveling to Billy's hometown. Billy immediately snaps at her by saying "Wendy, we never let our emotions get in the way of our work!" Guess what happens later in the episode?
  • Gag Lips: One that isn't Played for Laughs. In Season 1, Rocky and Jake have noticeably bigger lips than the other characters, and both are black. Thankfully, they both have normal lips in Seasons 2 and 3.
  • Good Parents: Both the parents of the Rescue Heroes who were shown and the Rescue Heroes who are shown to be parents themselves. We also see this in civilians such as the mother in "When It Rains, It Pours" who got trapped in her house, forced her kids to evacuate to the roof and immediately asks Jake if her kids are all right when he comes in to rescue her.
  • Helicopter Pack: The raison d'etre behind Hal E. Copter.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Billy has one of these in "Storm of the Century"; while it's fairly downplayed compared to most other examples, it's probably the episode that contains the biggest screw-up of any hero. First off, he abandons higher priority work to try taking after his father who is in a position that Billy knows good and well he won't be able to handle alone, and after Billy already snapped at Wendy earlier on for bringing this subject up. He also ends up taking the Hyper Jet, which has up to this point been established as a prime tool for the heroes that they couldn't get along very far without, and he uses it to help out a single person. As if that weren't enough, the wind storm ends up picking up enough that the ship's electrical system gets badly damaged, completely cutting him off from all radio communication and losing all signal, and in the process gets the both of them lost. Top this off with him trapped in the jet with only his father, already upset enough at him for not taking the path he was expecting Billy to take, and getting badly injured from the impact of the jet's landing, and you can see the look of utter defeat and despair on his face. Fortunately, he gets better once he and his father are able to set aside their past tensions.
    • Rocky also has one in The Movie, when he learns he's responsible for causing Billy to contract a fatal poison.
  • Heroic Dolphin: Nemo is a friendly dolphin who contributes to rescue operations at sea.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Jake realizes he's being one in "Four Alarm Fire and Brimstone" when he begins the process of holding a grudge against his "little brother" Nick for coming along on a rescue and putting himself and his little brother in danger when he had tried to get Nick to forgive the neighborhood boy who accidentally burned down Nick's house with fireworks earlier in the episode. Jake's quick to acknowledge this and apologize once he figures it out.
    • Also occurs with Rocky in "Twister". In the cold opening, he is the most vocal about scolding a professor who puts his material possessions above his own safety, but is later shown to not be above doing a similar thing when he could potentially lose a car he holds sentimental value for due to it holding memories of his deceased father. Jake even calls him out with a Meaningful Echo when he tells Rocky "You don't go back into a burning building!" as Rocky himself said earlier on.
  • I Am Not My Father:
    • "Storm of the Century" reveals Billy's father was a construction worker along with all of his ancestors, and expected Billy to follow the same path. When Billy and his brother chose to be firefighters instead, he became frustrated and slowly lost contact with the two over the years. It becomes a major point of contention when they meet up again after years of silence between each other.
    • Gentle case with Wendy and Warren Waters in "Meteor". When Warren signs Wendy up for space training, she eventually has to tell him that his world is up in the Station but hers is "down there (Earth)".
  • Idiot Ball: Any time someone deliberately ignores safety guidelines:
    • All of the numerous ways kids are put at risk and/or injured. One particularly scary one involves three kids going off-trail on their bikes; one of them gets injured and snake bit and the only one who has any idea where they went is her little brother.
    • The snowboarder in "Peril on the Peaks" deserves special mention. He refuses to dump any of his footage that he obtained while on the mountain, and contests Rocky's command to drop his backpack. This was after he already put two other people at risk due to his own ignorance while climbing the mountain earlier. After this gets both of them into an even worse spot, once they're finally rescued, the snowboarder proceeds to snowboard off the slope due to his own greed to finish his documentary. He then screams joyfully down it, which starts an avalanche that almost kills him again. This is almost entirely intentional to teach An Aesop of why doing your own thing puts yourself and everyone else at risk instead of obeying the plan, but so much of it relies on him being nearly Too Dumb to Live.
    • Carter in "The Chilling Championship." He and the rest of his basketball team are on a bus that is dangling off a bridge. They are told to stay put until the rescue team arrives, but Carter decides to try and back the bus up himself, thinking that it will make him a hero, but it just makes things worse. Then when the team is all out of the bus, Carter goes right back inside to grab the trophy just as the bus plunges into the river.
    • "Twister" starts off with the Rescue Heroes pulling some scientists out of a burning building, and one of them actually runs back into the building to grab his research. Even after they save him, all he cares about is his research going up in flames, until Rocky tells him that what he did was crazy. Then when the scientist sees how worried his wife and son were, he realizes that Rocky was right and he thanks the Rescue Heroes for saving him.
  • Imagine Spotting: When Jack tells the story of how he became a Rescue Hero in "Flashback to Danger", his Imagine Spot opens with him walking while carrying a huge stack of metal beams at a construction site, to which Rocky asks "How many beams were you carrying!?" Jack admits he was stretching the truth and the Imagine Spot then restarts with him carrying a lunchbox.
  • It's All My Fault: Rocky is hit with this in the movie when it's revealed that his behavior in an earlier rescue resulted in Billy contracting a potentially fatal poisoning.
  • Jerkass: Avery Ator is this towards Ariel in "Up, Up and Uh Oh" due to their rivalry.
  • Like Father, Like Son: In "Meteor", after Wendy reveals she wants to go back to Earth and has left, Roger asks Warren if he's okay with it. Warren replies "You know Wendy; she's stubborn, bull-headed and..." Roger interrupts "A chip off the old block, Sir?" Warren pauses before chuckling and admitting "I guess so."
  • Mama Bear: You can bet that if a woman has or knows of a child in danger, she'll be this. This includes a random civilian in "When It Rains, It Pours" who deliberately tells her rescuers that they can't leave because she and her boyfriend saw some Boy Scouts on a hike that have not returned; she's quite insistent the Rescue Heroes go after them.
  • Meaningful Name: Every single character's name has to do with their job.
  • Merchandise-Driven: The series is based on the toyline of the same name.
  • Missing Child: "Lava Alarm" features a family with five kids who all go off for the day right before the local volcano erupts. The two oldest get stuck on the ocean in their raft, the twins get trapped in a pit that's rapidly dissolving and the youngest, Katie's presence is only mentioned to the Rescue Heroes when they think they've completed their mission.
  • The Movie: All in CGI. Also to provide a very long commercial to promote their new toy. It's also very much Darker and Edgier than even the "Global Response Team" episodes which were no stranger to being darker than the first season themselves.
  • Multi-Part Episode: "Storm of the Century" is a two-part episode; since it was in the first season which entirely consisted of full thirty minute episodes, this means it's the only episode that is an hour long. The Global Response Team era (the second and third seasons) used the Two Shorts format (two 15-minute episodes per half hour) and had some double-length episodes itself, such as "Heroes" and "Flashback to Danger".
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Rocky in The Movie, when he finds out he was the one at fault for Billy's possible impending death.
  • No Antagonist: As a general rule, there are no true villains on the show. The heroes combat accidents and natural disasters. While an accident may be someone's fault, it is nonetheless an accident and not due to anyone's deliberate malice. However, "A Whale of an Adventure" is a notable exception: there, the crisis is made much worse by illegal whalers who knowingly ignore a warning about a mined area of the sea, and deliberately jam signals to avoid detection. Once the Rescue Heroes discover the whalers, they waste no time in arresting them and turning them over to the Coast Guard.
  • No Flow in CGI: Wendy has long hair in the TV series, but wears it in a ponytail in the Big Damn Movie. Due to the movie being animated in low budget 3D animation, the technological limitations meant Wendy’s hair had to be shortened.
  • Noble Bird of Prey: Swoops is a bald eagle who is trained to help the Rescue Heroes when the time calls for it.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Rocky realizes that he and the hot-dogging snowboarder the team is trying to rescue in "Peril on the Peaks" are more similar than he thought; their deviation from the plan puts them and others at risk. Rocky learns his lesson; the snowboarder not so much.
  • Papa Wolf: Mild case with Warren Waters who insists his daughter Wendy stay with him at the Space Station while she recovers from the injuries she suffered during a mountain rescue. Played straight with any father who has a child in danger or goes missing during a disaster.
  • The Pollyanna: Gordy in "Race to the Finish". He's always chipper and friendly and is enthusiastic about just finishing the race because that means he raised lots of money for an orphanage; for this reason, he's a favorite of the Rescue Heroes supervising the race, despite having to rescue him every year.
  • The Power of Trust: What helps Wendy in overcoming her fear of water in "Tidal Wave"; she knows she can trust Gil to watch her back so she is able to do her job.
  • Promoted to Opening Titles: Jack starting in Season 2.
  • Pulled from Your Day Off: In "Fiery Differences", when Wendy calls Sam Sparks and Hal E. Copter for assistance with a wildfire, Sam is seen in his video call relaxing on a beach, but was ready and able to drop his vacation and assist.
  • Punny Name: With one half of the Rescue Hero roster having Alliterative Names, the other half of the roster have such names. This includes Ariel Flyer, Cliff Hanger, Jack Hammer and his sister Jill, Rocky Canyon, Roger Houston, Aiden Assist (who also has an Alliterative Name), Al Pine, Hal E. Copter, Kenny Ride, Maureen Biologist, Rock Miner, Sandy Beech, and Willy Stop. This even can apply to non-Rescue Heroes such as Avery Ator, Ariel's main rival in aviation, and the Starhawks Aerobatic Team leader, Major Fred Lee Skies.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Some of the series' disasters were based on real-world events:
    • "Arctic Spill" is loosely based on the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
    • The submarine portion of "Trapped Beneath the Sea" shares similarities with the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine.
    • "High Anxiety", as aforementioned, shares a number of similarities with 9/11.
    • "Mayhem in the Mist" is based on the 1991 M4 motorway crash, where dense fog led to a 51-car pileup.
    • As in "Blackout", commercial planes have been forced to land on roadways when they could not reach an airport. One such incident was Southern Airways Flight 242 in 1977, which tried to land on a highway in Georgia before crashing into a gas station.
    • Though "In the Driver's Seat" shows it as fire for dramatic effect, gasoline entered the sewer line in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico in 1992, eventually leading to a series of explosions.
    • "Tunnel Vision" is based on a number of tunnel fires caused by cargo trucks, including the Channel Tunnel in 1996 and Mont Blanc in 1999.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: "Not on This Planet" suffers from this big time. The shuttle hits a debris field seconds after launch, when using its rocket boosters to avoid a large asteroid they end up sending it right to Earth, and seconds after that they somehow encounter a black hole, which doesn't look remotely black, or even like a hole. A black hole that close to Earth would've obliterated our solar system long before they bumped into it, or would've had to be on the other side of the galaxy to escape detection until the last minute. Turns out this is deliberate, as the whole scenario was an elaborate set up using holograms and other tricks to simulate a space disaster for the kids on the tour to overcome.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Jack Hammer has a fear of spiders, and when Matt Medic dangles a toy spider on his shoulder, Jack takes off running complete with high pitch screaming.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • Zigzagged in "Flashback to Danger" when Rocky almost quits the Rescue Heroes due to a mistake he makes during a rescue. Billy convinces Rocky to stay after telling him the story about the only other Rescue Heroes to quit. Turns out that the Rescue Hero who quit was Billy himself. He ultimately decided to stay with the team after watching an audition tape Rocky had sent in two years prior to events of the episode.
    • Show up in civilians who decide that they don't want any part of their companions' boneheaded plans.
  • Shout-Out: A few of the episode titles are this. "When it Rains, it Pours" is a reference to Morton Salt's slogan and "Going With the Wind" is a pun on Gone with the Wind.
  • Super Wheelchair: Aiden Assist, being bound to his wheelchair is equipped with an extendable hydraulic arm that gives him extra strength and reach.
  • Team Pet: Not pets exactly but the Rescue Creatures are very cool.
  • The Teaser: Nearly every episode begins with a minor rescue before the main plot kicks in. Sometimes these are completely unrelated to the bulk of the episode, but occasionally they will set up something major with the episode's theme. For example, "Twister" starts off with a professor who goes back into a burning building to retrieve his research, foreshadowing the conflict with Rocky having to decide between his life and a material possession.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: In "A Bridge Too Far", Rocky calls in Bob Buoy (normally an underwater rescue specialist) for a bridge rescue and puts Ariel on the ground instead of in her chopper, to his teammates' puzzlement. As it turns out, Rocky was several steps ahead of everyone: Ariel's Spanish skills make her more useful in communicating with the Spanish-speaking locals than in the air, and Bob ends up being vital in rescuing passengers who got trapped in a train car that falls from the bridge into the river (and two passengers who get swept away by said river.)
  • Timm Style: The designs for the characters in the first season have some characteristics reminiscent of Bruce Timm’s art style. The designs for a majority of the characters are angular but realistically proportionate and a lot of the men are very burly.
  • Tomboy: Ariel is this thanks to her being an aviator.
  • Tragic Keepsake: A hot rod Rocky and his father refurbished serves this role in "Twister". It's unfortunately destroyed by the end.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: The location of the accident in each episode seems to never be a detriment to how quickly the team arrives, despite how widely they can vary from episode to episode. This even applies to the space station.
  • True Companions: The Rescue Heroes team. This is highlighted in "Lava Alarm" where Billy is gently scolded for putting himself at risk to save a parrot.
  • Two Shorts: The second and third seasons followed this format; the first season averts it.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Revealed to be why Rocky's rival in "Twister" is so antagonistic towards him; he had this kind of relationship with his own dad and envied the wonderful relationship Rocky and Mr. Canyon had.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: While the locations of each disaster are always written in text and sometimes even directly stated, the exact location of the command center is never revealed or hinted at.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?:
    • Wendy is uncomfortable with water rescues due to a near drowning incident in her past. In "Tidal Wave", she ends up putting her fears aside to do her job, partly due to how much she trusts her partner for the job, Gil Gripper.
    • Several rescues feature civilians who are afraid of one thing or another, often something that complicates the rescue such as an acrophobe who needs to be airlifted or an aquaphobe during a water rescue. The Rescue Heroes typically are able to convince the civilians in question to put aside their fears long enough to be rescued and have occasionally been able to help them get cured entirely.