Whenever we choose it
Care-a-lot is a feeling we all know
We never do lose it"
The Care Bears Movie is the first theatrical film in the Care Bears franchise.
The story is presented via the Framing Device of a man telling the children in his orphanage the tale of three lonely orphans: the siblings Kim and Jason, who are helped by the Care Bears, and an older boy named Nicholas, who is tempted by an evil, sentient book.
The book gives Nicholas magical powers, and then convinces him to turn everyone he sees into hateful people. This damages Care-a-lot, causing earthquakes and threatening to destroy it all. Kim, Jason, and the Care Bears have to go and stop what's happening. Their quest gets sidetracked when they are forced to go to another land, which turns out to be the home of the Care Bear Cousins.
This is significantly the darkest of the film trilogy, featuring a spell book with a haunting green face that seems to be prefer the world in heavily implied global anarchy rather than just plain Jerkassry towards one's fellow man, eerie rides, and a crazed eyed possessed sorcerer wannabe. Even the soundtrack can be threatening at times.
This film was a modest success, becoming the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film at the time (only to be beaten by An American Tail a year later). It was also immensely profitable for American Greetings, and led to two more Care Bears sequels and a TV series.
The Care Bears Movie provides examples of the following tropes:
- Added Alliterative Appeal: The Care Bear Cousins are found living in the Forest of Feelings.
- Animated Musical: A grand total of seven songs.
- Animation Bump: In several spots, going from Limited Animation to rather fluid animation and visa versa during the same scene.
- Award-Bait Song: The opening song, sung by Carole King. One thing to note is that Carole sounds bored out of her mind while singing it, as The Nostalgia Critic points out in his review.
- Big "YES!": Secret Bear gives one during the "In A Care Bear Family" song.
- Bookends: The movie begins and ends with Mr. Cherrywood, telling the story of Nicholas, Jason, and Kim to the children in the group home he runs with his wife.
- Care-Bear Stare: Although it's used to stop a monster, even that isn't enough to save the day. It's up to The Power of Friendship for real to do that.
- Chekhov's Gun: The key, which has its importance greatly subverted by the fact that it can be duplicated rather easily.
- Corrupt the Cutie: This is pretty much the book spirit's schtick — turning the kids in the world evil, starting with Nicholas.
- Darker and Edgier: This film is easily the darkest of the trilogy in tone.
- Deadly Book: There's an evil book who wants to trick Nicholas into using it to turn everyone in the world into jerks.
- The Dog Bites Back: Nicholas was picked on for being a bad magician. However, once he gets his hands on the magic book containing the evil spirit...
- The Dragon: Nicholas is this to the book spirit, who is really running the show.
- Follow the Bouncing Ball: "In a Care Bear Family" features a brief sequence that prompts the viewer to follow the bouncing heart with the chorus.
- For the Evulz: The book's motive for turning everyone in the world into jerks is never explained or even hinted.
- Framing Device: The entire movie is a story being told to the children in an orphanage by their guardian, Mr. Cherrywood.
- Gunship Rescue: Combined with Big Damn Heroes. When it looks like the giant crow spirit is going to make a snack out of a couple of Care Bears and the Care Bear Cousins (who can't do anything at this point in the movie), the Care Bears' flagship comes around the riverbend. Its passengers blast the bird with a Care-Bear Stare siege cannon, allowing the two endangered bears to turn the tables and finish it off.
- Happily Adopted: By the end of the movie, Jason and Kim have become this, sitting in the audience at Nicholas's magic show with their new parents.
- Hate Plague: A spell the book spirit teaches Nicholas.
- Heavy Sleeper: Bedtime Bear actually falls out of the boat while the exploration team is working their way through the Forest of Feelings. Even falling into the river doesn't wake him, and it's suggested that he might have drowned if not for the intervention of Cozy Heart Penguin.
- HeelFace Turn: Nicholas, thanks to The Power of Friendship, makes one of these in the end.
- I Never Told You My Name: Friend Bear addresses Kim and Jason by name without an introduction. Jason asks how the Bears know their names, but never gets much in the way of a straight answer.
- Informed Attribute: On their first meeting, Friend Bear notes that Kim reads a lot.
- Knight of Cerebus: The Spirit is easily the darkest villain in the entire Care Bears franchise. Dark Heart is a Large Ham with sympathetic qualities, who eventually does a HeelFace Turn; No Heart has Beastly and Shreeky to keep him from being too scary, as does the Vizier with the Mice; the Checkerboard Wizard is a Sissy Villain, aside from his infamous Nightmare Face; and Grizzle from more recent works is about as threatening as Team Rocket. The Spirit doesn't have any of these qualities to tone her down: she's played deadly serious every time she appears.
- Narrator All Along: At the end of the film, it is revealed that the narrator is an older Nicholas, and his wife is heavily implied to be Kim.
- No Name Given: The book spirit, which is why we'll just have to go on calling her "the book spirit."
- Orphanage of Love: The Cherrywoods run one of these, as seen in the movie's Bookends.
- Pink Means Feminine: Kim has a pink sweater and hair bow.
- Plot Coupon: The key that will lock the book; Tenderheart Bear entrusts it to Jason, and it's mentioned a few times throughout the film. Subverted when they attempt to use it and the Spirit manages to destroy it. Secret Bear has to come up with a substitute on the fly.
- The Power of Friendship: Kim and Jason talk Nicholas down by explaining that they want to be his friends so he won't be lonely anymore.
- The Quiet One: Secret Bear has no lines in the film, and Friend Bear has to translate for him.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The book spirit, which Nicholas inadvertently unseals when he first opens the book.
- Shout-Out: The spirit has facial similarities to the Wicked Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- Suddenly Speaking: Secret Bear gets one very brief line when he shouts "YEAH!" during the end song "In a Care Bear Family."
- Tome of Eldritch Lore: A living example in the book's case; she apparently was planning to teach that Hate Plague spell to the first person to open the book, which happened to be Nicholas.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Kim and Jason dont find anything odd about about bears talking to them. Annoying, yes, but not odd.
- Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The book spirit. Nicholas becomes this in the third act.
- Voice for the Voiceless: Friend Bear for the always silent Secret Bear; she's the only bear who can understand and interpret his body language, and the one to whom he occasionally whispers.
- When Trees Attack: A tree, possessed by a spell from the book, tries to capture Kim and Jason.
- Worrying for the Wrong Reason: A couple of kids and a couple of Care Bears are stuck in a tree and afraid of falling, when Friend Bear points out that they should be more afraid of the lion that's climbing up for them. (Fortunately, the lion turns out to be Brave Heart Lion, who just wants to help.)