In 1990, a new cartoon series called Captain Planet and the Planeteers was broadcast on TBS. The show was the pet project of billionaire media mogul Ted Turner. The founder of the Cable News Network had grown concerned about environmental issues, and he wanted to create a show that would help teach children about the problems facing the natural world. The show starred five teenagers, called the Planeteers, who each possessed a magical ring. By combining their powers, they could summon Captain Planet, a Superman-style hero. Together, they fought industrial and pollution-themed enemies of varying levels of cheesiness.
We are here today to look into the history of one of the strangest yet most progressive cartoons of all time. From Captain Planet's battle against the Third Reich to the potential return of the series in the form of a big-budget movie adaptation, here are 15 Facts You Never Knew About Captain Planet!
15 Captain Planet Once Fought Hitler
Captain Planet is a powerful superhero. He has been shown to possess the powers of flight, super-strength, invincibility, shapeshifting, telepathy, and having a beautiful mullet. The good Captain is also said to be able to use the powers of the Planeteers' rings, though this varies between episodes.
Like many other heroes, with all of these great powers comes a weakness. Captain Planet's kryptonite is toxic waste. If he comes into contact with extreme pollution, then it will drain his strength, and prolonged exposure to such harmful chemicals could potentially kill him. It was later revealed that extreme hatred in a person could also act like pollution towards Captain Planet, which is what happened when he fought Adolf Hitler. Yep, that happened.
In the episode "A Good Bomb Is Hard to Find", Dr. Blight goes back in time in order to sell nuclear weapons to Adolf Hitler. The Planeteers pursue her back to World War II and summon Captain Planet to dispose of the nukes. All it takes is standing in the presence of Hitler to drain Captain Planet's health, as his hatred is a pollution of the mind.
14 The Duke Nukem Connection
The vast majority of Duke Nukem fans were introduced to the series through Duke Nukem 3D. This game was considered to be the main rival to Doom during the early era of first-person shooters. What most fans don't realize is that Duke Nukem 3D was actually the third game in the franchise. The first two Duke Nukem games were actually platformers that were created in MS-DOS.
When the first Duke Nukem game was released, the developers were made aware of a potential legal issue regarding the name when they discovered that one of the villains in Captain Planet was also called Duke Nukem. In order to prevent a potential lawsuit, they changed the name of the game to Duke Nukum in the version 2.0 patch. The makers of Captain Planet hadn't actually bothered to trademark the Duke Nukem name, so the developers of the Duke Nukem video game swooped in and claimed it for themselves.
13 The Show Had A Star-Studded Cast... Who Quickly Bailed
Captain Planet was able to entice a star-studded cast of voice actors. This was due to the show's environmental themes, which helped to attract actors who were dedicated to those kinds of causes. As such, the early seasons of the show featured performers who would normally never go near a Saturday morning cartoon show.
In its first few seasons, Captain Planet featured the voices of Meg Ryan (as Dr. Blight), Jeff Goldblum (as Verminous Skumm), Sting (as Zarm), and Martin Sheen (as Sly Sludge). It seems that their dedication to the environment only lasted for the length of a few episodes, as all of those stars soon left the show. They were replaced by conventional voice actors, who remained with the show until the end.
A few of the celebrities did manage to last longer than a single series. Whoopi Goldberg (as Gaia) lasted for three seasons, Tim Curry (as MAL) lasted for five seasons, and LeVar Burton played Kwame throughout the whole run of the show.
12 There Was Almost A Gritty Captain Planet Reboot
The recent box office success of Power Rangers has proven that there is a place for darker reinterpretations of shows that were once meant for kids. This is not a new concept by any means. Franchises like Scooby Doo, Transformers, Thundercats, and He-Man have all been given the Watchmen treatment. We are also seeing this with Samurai Jack right now, as he is suddenly cool with killing humans (whereas he mainly fought robots in the original series). You could also argue that most Batman works fall under this category, as the series was once comedic and light hearted.
There was once an attempt to bring back Captain Planet as a movie, albeit with a much darker tone. It was going to be called Planet and it would have been set in a post-apocalyptic future. The movie was never made, of course, as it was caught up in the AOL/Time Warner merger that happened back in 2000. Both companies underwent massive restructuring that ended up costing them billions of dollars. A Captain Planet movie stopped being a priority in face of catastrophic financial losses.
11 The Show Was One Of The First To Deal With HIV/AIDS
Captain Planet is best known for tackling issues involving the environment. The show did occasionally deal with social issues, in episodes of varying quality. Captain Planet discussed issues concerning racism, gang warfare, and the conflict in Ireland, though they're considered to be some of the worst episodes of the show. It was obvious that the creators misunderstood the issues that they were attempting to explain.
The one time when Captain Planet tackled an issue and did it right was in the episode "A Formula for Hate". This episode focused on a teenager named Todd Andrews, who contracts HIV from a blood transfusion. Verminous Skumm spreads rumors around the town that Todd has AIDS and that it can be spread through casual contact. The episode ends with Captain Planet giving a touching speech, where he speaks the truth about HIV and tells the townsfolk that they shouldn't treat Todd any differently.
Elizabeth Taylor and Neil Patrick Harris both provided voices for this episode.
10 The Dreadful Season Six Intro
The one thing that can help a cartoon series become a success is a catchy theme tune. You can often tell what decade a person was born in by their knowledge of cartoon themes. This is because these songs are designed to be as memorable as possible, in the same way that advertising jingles are supposed to be. That's the reason why you can still remember all of the words to the Pokémon theme after twenty years.
Captain Planet had both a memorable intro and outro. The first five seasons of the show opened up with LeVar Burton explaining the premise of the show and describing all of the main characters, before wrapping up with a catchy song. This all changed with the sixth season of the show for some reason. Captain Planet now opened with an embarrassing spoken word rap performed by someone doing a bad Paul Lynde impression. It should come as no surprise that this was the final season of the show.
9 Here Comes A New Challenger!
Captain Planet ended with its sixth season in 1996. The show has remained on the air in syndication across the world since then. While there have been numerous talks of a revival for the series (like the Planet movie mentioned above), there has yet to be a true return for Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
The last time Captain Planet appeared in a new project was in a video game developed by Cartoon Network. It was a fighting game that clearly took a lot of inspiration from Super Smash Bros. (which is a nice way of saying that it completely rips it off). Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion featured characters from numerous series, such as the eponymous hero from Samurai Jack, Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory, and Ben Tennyson from Ben 10. Captain Planet is a playable fighter in the game, and he uses the elemental powers of the Planeteers as part of his repertoire of moves.
8 The Obnoxious Ted Turner Cameo
Ted Turner had a reputation for becoming personally involved in his projects, to an extent that wasn't normally seen by the heads of media conglomerates. One of these projects was World Championship Wrestling, which took financial losses throughout most of its history. Ted Turner refused to kill the company, as he was involved in a pissing match with Vince McMahon and was determined to beat him at his own game. It took the AOL/Time Warner merger to finally kill the WCW.
Captain Planet was another pet project of Turner's. By all accounts, the media mogul's environmentalist beliefs were genuine, and Captain Planet was created for altruistic reasons. With that being said, Turner may have gotten a little too involved with this particular venture.
In the episode "Who's Running the Show?", Turner voiced a media mogul who cared about the environment. The character's name was Fred Lerner, and he became a staunch ally of Captain Planet and the Planeteers. He would go on to dedicate part of his programming to the environment. Subtle.
7 The Planeteers Actually Lost
Captain Planet would often deal with serious issues that involved the environment. In most cases, their enemies were cartoonish villains rather than faceless corporations or apathetic governments. This gave the Planeteers a target to fight and defeat with their special powers. The Planeteers mainly succeeded in any conflict that arose, which could usually be combatted with their elemental rings, or by summoning Captain Planet.
There was one episode of the show where the Planeteers actually lost at the end, however. In the episode "Whoo Gives a Hoot?", the Planeteers are trying to stop Looten Plunder (again, subtle) from destroying the natural forest habitat of owls. They are given a few days to prove to the courts that his company is cutting down trees within a legally protected area. Plunder's goons end up falsifying evidence and the forest is destroyed, while the Planeteers can only look on in horror.
The main reason they lost was because they went through legal means, rather than going full eco-terrorist and incinerating Looten Plunder's logging company with the Fire ring. Vigilantism is good, kids!
6 They Almost Fired Captain Planet
The relationship between Captain Planet and the Planeteers is similar to that of the Power Rangers and their Zords. All of the Planeteers were intended to appeal to various demographics among children, with the intent that everyone watching at home would want to be one of the Planeteers. This also allowed for dramatic situations that were relevant to kids and teenagers. When the time comes for the big action scenes, then the Planeteers can always call upon Captain Planet, who acts as a more adult figure that can solve their problems for them.
One of the executive producers of Captain Planet, Nick Boxer, apparently wasn't entirely behind the idea. He once tried to pitch a new direction for the series to Ted Turner, one which involved the death of Captain Planet. The show would have been renamed The Planeteers, and the kids would have become the focal point of the series. Boxer wasn't even allowed to bring these ideas to Turner, as they were thought to be too big of a shift for the series.
5 The Scooby Doo Cameo
The first three seasons of Captain Planet were produced by DIC Entertainment, in association with Turner Program Services. When the show reached its fourth season, the production was taken over by Hanna-Barbera, who worked on Captain Planet for the remainder of its run.
In the episode "Teers in the 'Hood", characters who look like Shaggy and Velma from Scooby Doo can be seen in the background of one of the shots. It seems that they go to the same high school that is attended by most of the Planeteers. Scooby Doo is one of the most famous cartoons created by Hanna-Barbera Productions, so this easter egg was definitely an intentional one.
The episode in question focused on gang warfare at the Planeteers' high school. It would seem that Shaggy and Velma are deserving of far more street cred than we ever imagined; these guys grew up in a pretty rough neighborhood. It was odd that Hanna-Barbera chose to use them in an episode that prominently featured gun violence, to say the least.
4 The Mighty Power Of Heart
Four of the five magical rings given to the Planeteers are easy to explain. They are based on the four classic elements (Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water) and give the wielder control over the forces of nature. Each ring grants the ability to create and control their respective element.
The fifth ring, which grants the power of Heart, has often been mocked in the media. This is due to the fact that its wielder, Ma-Ti, rarely used its power. But it's worth pointing out that the people who mock Ma-Ti and the power of Heart simply don't understand the power and why he was specifically chosen to use it.
When Wheeler visits the future (during an episode in which he wishes that he never joined the Planeteers), we see that Ma-Ti develops the ability to control the minds of others. He can directly influence the thoughts and emotions of other people, which is far more frightening than the ability to create fire. Ma-Ti was specifically chosen to use the ring because he would not abuse its power, due to his innocence and naive nature. The power of Heart would be frightening in the wrong hands.
3 Captain Planet Has An Evil Opposite (With A Huge Weakness)
Captain Planet has a significant weakness to toxic waste. It weakens him in the same way that kryptonite affects Superman. With that being said, it can be tricky to actually find some toxic waste. It's not like you can just find it lying around the place. As such, the villains would often have to go out of their way in order to find a substance that could harm Captain Planet.
In the episode "Mission to Save Earth Part I", Dr. Blight creates her own versions of the Planeteers' rings and forms a team with the other villains of the show. The Rings of Destruction contained the power of Deforestation (Earth), Super Radiation (Fire), Smog (Wind), Toxics (Water) and Hate (Heart). By their powers combined, they could summon Captain Pollution, who was the evil opposite of Captain Planet.
The thing is, Captain Pollution was really easy to beat. His weaknesses were sunlight and fresh water, which are pretty easy to find. He's like a mixture between a vampire and one of the aliens from Signs.
2 The Captain Planet Foundation
In the cartoon world of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, the heroes often saved the day, which meant stopping the destruction of the environment. That all happened in a cartoon, however, and the real world still needs saving. It was for this reason that the Captain Planet Foundation was formed.
The Captain Planet Foundation was created in 1991 and was funded by a percentage of the show's revenue. It was founded to help provide teaching materials for schools on subjects concerning conservation and the environment. Schools could apply for funding from the foundation if they had environmentally themed projects that they wanted to pursue.
When the AOL/Time Warner merger began in the year 2000, the Captain Planet Foundation lost its source of funding and was forced to become a public charity. But the Foundation endured, and it still exists to this day, helping schools across America. Its current chairman is Laura Turner Seydel, who is Ted Turner's daughter.
1 The Upcoming Movie
We are currently seeing a resurgence of interest in franchises that were aimed at children, many of which were first broadcast in the '90s. Those kids are all grown up now, and some of them even have little ones of their own. This is why we are seeing movies based on the Power Rangers, and why Pokémon GO became a worldwide sensation (which is spawning a live-action movie franchise of its own).
It seems like Captain Planet would be a perfect choice for a revival, as the subject matter of environmentalism is still as important now as it was in the '90s. All of the issues surrounding the AOL/Time Warner merger have long since passed, which means the property should be up for grabs.
Well buckle up, '90s kids, because it seems that Captain Planet may finally be venturing to the big screen. Hollywood A-Lister Leonardo DiCaprio is even rumored to be involved with the production. This actually makes sense, as DiCaprio is a huge environmentalist (to the point where he doesn't mind destroying the environment with his numerous private jet rides, in order to attend charity functions). With DiCaprio and his production company at the helm, it seems that Captain Planet may finally be returning!
Do you know of any other fun facts regarding Captain Planet and his faithful Planeteers? Let us know in the comments.