Striking a blow for ecology, fighting “polluting perpetrators” wherever they were found, Captain Planet and the Planeteers brought the environmental movement to the cartoon world. The series came from an original idea by media mogul Ted Turner, who developed the program for his TBS Superstation cable network.
As the opening narration explained, earth spirit Gaia needed to purge the earth of greedy polluters like Hoggish Greedly, Looten Plunder, Dr. Blight, and Verminous Skumm. To help her cause, Gaia recruited five youngsters from around the globe, giving each an elemental power. African Kwame was given the power of “Earth.” North American Wheeler held “Fire.” Asian Gi controlled “Water.” From the Soviet Union, Linka represented “Wind.” Rounding out the group was South American Ma-Ti, who wielded the power of “Heart.” Naturally, there was a funny animal, a monkey named Sushi.
Gaia gave each Planeteer a special ring, in which the elemental powers were held. When all five rings were united, the Planeteers could conjure up the earth’s most powerful defender, the blue-skinned Captain Planet. The Captain had enough special abilities to foil the show’s eco-unfriendly villains, but as he constantly reminded the kids at home, “The Power Is Yours!” To that end, each episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers ended with a 30-second “Planeteers Alert,” which taught kids lessons on recycling, vegetarian diets, and other planetary protection measures.
The DIC-produced series debuted simultaneously on TBS and in wide syndication in 1990. In addition to the marketing might of Turner himself, the show gained additional support from several Hollywood stars, who lent their voices to the show’s heroes and villains. Whoopi Goldberg, Ed Asner, Sting, Elizabeth Taylor, and too many more to mention all pitched in for the cause, working as cheaply as guild regulations would allow.
Despite its talent roster and good intentions, Captain Planet and the Planeteers would never have succeeded if the kids didn’t watch. They did, and the show became one of the top-rated cartoons of the early ’90s.
After three seasons, Hanna-Barbera took over animation duties, and the show was retitled The New Adventures of Captain Planet. The retooled show came complete with a new theme song, which described its star as, “The Mega Mack Daddy of Ecology.” New episodes continued until 1995 when the show moved its reruns over to the Turner-owned Cartoon Network.