Anthony's Film Review
Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue
(TV Special, 1990)
A rather fun and interesting way to teach kids about the dangers of drugs...
In the 1980s and early 1990s, the United States had a significant problem with drug use among its youth. It was enough for various public awareness efforts, such as the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program, to be carried out. There were also public service announcements on television. In between commercials for toys related to cartoons, snack foods, and the like were commercials with anti-drug messages. Two examples still stick with me: one with a woman diving into an empty swimming pool and another with an egg as an analogy for the brain. I think everyone who saw the latter really remembers it: (Frying pan with burning oil) "This is drugs." (Egg frying in pan) "This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?"
If you had watched television long enough at the time, you wouldn't have just seen these anti-drug commercials. Chances were that you would also catch the 30-minute cartoon special Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, which aired simultaneously on three networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC). Why more than one? Because this special is a massive crossover of many cartoon characters, including Alvin and the Chipmunks; Huey, Dewey, and Louie from DuckTales; Winnie the Pooh (and Tigger too); Kermit and Miss Piggy of Muppet Babies; Michelangelo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Bugs Bunny; Daffy Duck; Alf; Garfield; the Smurfs; and Slimer from The Real Ghostbusters (plus others I haven't mentioned here, if any). Certainly, this is the biggest fictional crossover I've ever seen, because crossovers, if they ever occur, tend to involve just two franchises.
The first people to appear in Cartoon All-Stars are not cartoon characters. They are two real-life people: U.S. President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush, both introducing kids to the cartoon and advising everyone to abstain from drugs and alcohol. Then the cartoon begins, with a teenager named Michael stealing her little sister's piggy bank to finance his drug addiction. In just a few minutes, many familiar cartoon characters come to life to aid the little girl. There is also an original cartoon character: a ghost of smoke that constantly pressures Michael into using drugs.
Throughout the story, each of the heroic cartoon characters step in to give Michael a useful message that would help him steer clear from drugs. Michael may not welcome the intervention, but each time he tries to escape, he runs into another cartoon character. Ultimately, Michael is forced to see what his life would be like if he doesn't kick his drug habit. This involves a wild roller coaster ride alongside Kermit and Miss Piggy. And when it's all over, all of the cartoon characters break into a positive song, reminding the audience that there are a million other ways to say no.
Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue is a simple, fun, and educational cartoon special that parents can appreciate. It's nothing extraordinary, but at least it's creative and done well enough. As for whether this special has had any impact on drug use, I can't say. Still, it doesn't matter. The important thing is that the animation studios behind these various cartoon characters did a wonderful thing by coming together for a common cause. Maybe something like this could happen again with the next generation of kids shows. If there's a major problem among youth that needs to be addressed, just take the most popular shows of the time and put them into one special. It can be a fun (not to mention educational) thing to watch.
For more information about Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, visit the Internet Movie Database.