So to celebrate bad ideas with big budgets, I'm going to do a Captain Planet episode. Pray for my soul, gentle readers because this will be painful.
|The perfect test to see if someone lived in the 90's; if they flinch|
when they see these faces, then they grew up in that era.
Luckily there's one such episode that I can deprive some form of enjoyment out of because of a couple things. For one, the environmentalism takes a back seat in this episode (or at least as far as it could get to the backseat, seeing as this is Captain Planet) and becomes more like a science fiction horror mixed in with some sort of medical drama than anything. Another, it's got Jeff Goldblum as a giant rat. Yes, this is a Verminous Skumm episode and this was back when DIC Entertainment could afford Jeff Goldblum to voice for their cartoon. Maybe they should've saved some of that money for some of their other shows, especially considering how cheaply animated the Super Mario Bros. Super Show was.
My friends, I'm going to show you an episode of Captain Planet where everyone in Brazil turns into hideous rat creatures. I'm going to show you...
Availability: On DVD
I'm not going to really cover the intro to this cartoon since I'm sure everyone who's lived in the 90's remembers it. I just have to say one thing about it; all of the other Planeteers stop something with their powers, from dolphins getting captured to elephant poachers, while Ma-Ti just sort of stands there in the middle of a forest fire because his Heart power does absolutely nothing to save the day. "Ma-Ti got ripped off with his Heart power" is one of the major points that's brought up whenever someone mentions Captain Planet, but hey, I'm not one to bunk tradition.
|Way to be totally useless, Ma-Ti!|
Judging by the stereotypical drums and some close-ups of some tropical birds, the episode opens with the Amazon Rainforest, aka one of Captain Planet's favorite topics of discussion. Enjoy these unspoiled examples of nature's wonder while it's still there, because you know some asshole is just going to bulldoze it or burn it all down just because he can in this episode.
It's probably a bad sign when the first Planeteer to talk is Ma-Ti because he's going to show the others his village's shaman. You know why? Because immediately that's when the viewers know that a large portion of this episode is going to be about Ma-Ti, and Ma-Ti just proved how useful he can be by standing in the middle of a forest fire in the intro.
|Linka is just as disappointed about this as we are.|
|"Duh huh huh, plants!"|
|Pictured: Someone who has no right saving the planet.|
|He also likes to wear a hat that looks like a giant pineapple slice.|
|"Beware, I live! I hunger, cowards!"|
In his case, Verminous Skumm's main shtick was disease and crime, because he's part-rat (whether he was born part-rat or was mutated into a hideous rat creature is never explained, because backstory would mean characterization and this show has none of that) and succumbed to cartoon animal stereotypes. Unlike some of the villains who ruined the earth's precious resources for money, he commits his crimes because he hates the world and wants to see it burn. He's arguably one of the cooler eco-villains, just because none of that lecturing Captain Planet can give him affects him in any way. He knows that even if he did recycle, humanity will never accept his hideous deformed visage, so they can all die from a plague for all he cares.
|Also, he's voiced by Jeff Goldblum, meaning there's |
a The Fly joke in this episode somewhere.
So yeah, Verminous Skumm is spreading a disease called Rat Rot by suspiciously walking out of sewer pipes, pouring evil-looking yellow liquid into water supplies, and hoping that the locals don't notice that their water is now bright yellow or that some guy with torn, rotten clothing is sneaking around their village.
|She noticed, but she sure doesn't care.|
|So all it did was give her buck teeth, facial hair, and elf ears? Worst mutation ever.|
|It's kind of funny how Skumm looks a lot like an albino Ganondorf.|
Uh, Gaia? People turning into rats probably should've caught your attention before an entire city fell under Skumm's control. What kind of deity are you if you wait until hundreds of people are already mutated before declaring it an emergency and yet the moment a small fire breaks out in the rainforest you get all freaked out?
|"Eh, they're not killing any endangered species so this isn't a problem."|
|Splinter taught them to be ninja teens,|
He's a radical rat!
|No one likes a show-off, Ma-Ti.|
|All he needs is some pizzas and it'll be just like the sewer systems of New York.|
|"Needs more salt."|
|He laughs, but inside he knows he can never see his wife and kids again.|
|This would be funny except he narrowly avoided getting squished by |
several tons of destroyed pipelines.
What's the Planeteers' solution? Run. Way to be heroes, guys.
Instead of, you know, using their elemental powers to seal off their escape or to possibly aid them in any way, the Planeteers decide to puss out and call Captain Planet. And even though summoning Captain Planet involves a pretty elaborate ritual like saying the elements in order and pointing their rings to the sky, the mutated rat people decide to just stand back and let the teenagers shoot a rainbow of death into the air and summon a flying blue man in red spandex.
|Superman wished he was this gay.|
When Captain Planet is hit by the Rat Rot, he unfortunately doesn't turn into a shiny flying blue rat monster, probably because that would've been too crazy even for this show. Instead he gives the Planeteers his best William Shatner impersonation while telling them that basically it's all up to them now on account he's such a waste of animation ink and paint. Then he disappears after shouting "The Power is yooooours!", which isn't very uplifting when you're a group of teenagers fighting a legion of mutants. I'm sure "The Power is yours" will be very useful while several ratmen hold them down and take turns gnawing their faces off.
|What a wuss.|
Meanwhile, it turns out Verminous Skumm has his own helicopter. Not going to ask how a giant ratman managed to get his own helicopter or even if he built it himself. Anyways, he's using his mandatory flying villain vehicle to dump the toxins he's made into the Amazon River. Now, Seth Brundle, why didn't you do this first? The Amazon River is a pretty dang important source of fresh water. It would've certainly saved you more time to go for that target first instead of attacking random wells scattered throughout Brazil. You could argue he was testing it first, but he had mutated an entire city before he decided to use the Amazon River. Skumm's just terribly sloppy with his plans.
|I like that he brings the village girl along. He sure is fond of that rat person in particular.|
Also, Wheeler demonstrates how much he just flat out sucks by dooming his entire team within three nanoseconds of forming it. How does he do it? By being a total moron and attacking Verminous Skumm head-on, of course. Wheeler, I don't care if you have a ring that can shoot flames out of it, Skumm eats small children out of pure spite.
|Really? This is all the Fire Ring can do? Kwame can start a freaking earthquake|
and all Wheeler can do is light campfires? Why do they need him again?
|Come on, guys. Just leave him and let him drown.|
What is Kwame and Ma-Ti's reaction to their friends losing their humanity and mutating hideously before their very eyes? Well...this.
|I can't even decipher what these emotions are supposed to be.|
|Turning into a giant rat man is just like contacting the measles in this universe.|
|I'm sure Ma-Ti was thankful for the confidence boosters.|
As you might have noticed, up until now this episode didn't really feel like a Captain Planet episode. Mutant rat people, a disease that horribly disfigures anyone who contacts it, aerial chase sequences, and a villain taking control of an entire city using mind control sounds almost too awesome of a plot for this show.
Unfortunately, the shaman decides to ruin it for all of us by installing some heavy-handed environmentalism into the episode once they talk about the cure. He says that the only cure for Rat Rot is a very rare plant that may be gone due to deforestation. How convenient that he knows how to cure this disease that never existed before Skumm and how convenient that it's an endangered plant Captain Planet can make us feel bad about.
|"Haha, I'm just messing with you. The real cure is Aspirin."|
|"Get away from my bulldozer, I have endangered resources to carelessly destroy!"|
|Also Ma-Ti turned a solid gold statue.|
|And then he's going to get the Triforce of Power and conquer Hyrule.|
|If Ma-Ti only did this more often...|
|He's about as useful as Simon Belmont in Captain N.|
|So, is he intentionally gay or did the animators really screw up somewhere?|
Also, he destroys the Rat Rot by turning into a fireball and burning it all, which I hope doesn't cause Rat Rot vapor to fly into any clouds and cause Rat Rot Rain (which would be an awesome name for a band) later on down the road. I guess it doesn't because Captain Planet never accidentally pollutes. How? Because he's freaking Captain Planet and he doesn't want to be setting a bad example.
|He's flaming in more ways than one.|
|I know I keep making gay jokes, but seriously, look at him! He's got body glitter!|
Captain Planet zooms through the air like an oily Californian surfer that suddenly was granted magical powers, and when he spots an entire acre of the mysterious endangered plant, he makes a pretty scary face that looks like he's going to sexually molest the plants before harvesting them. I'm glad this face is only one screen for a couple seconds because otherwise I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight.
|Captain Planet rape face.|
|"I love slashing and burning virgin timber!"|
|He's sending out gaydiation!|
|It is physically impossible for a mere mortal to ever be this gay.|
Also, I have a very good question to ask Captain Planet. Why didn't you use the cure on Verminous Skumm!? Even if it doesn't work, the least you could do is be a good sport and try.
|I'm sure a shave and a wig would make him almost passable for a human being...|
|This replaced Swat Kats on some channels.|
|"Hello, I'm here to trivialize the politics behind deforestation!"|
I hope that magic bullet was a memory wipe spell, because I know there's something I'd like to forget I watched.
But one last thing about this show before I go. Seriously, watch the credits. You'll spot some crazy stuff in those credits. It's worth the risk of potentially getting the "Captain Planet, he's our hero" song stuck in your head until the end of time.
How the hell were they able to get so many of those actors on this show? It's downright mind-blowing. Sting's paycheck alone would've been worth the budget of at least 16 Super Mario Super Show episodes.
The Moral of this Cartoon
Everything has a cure just growing in the rainforest, including a bio-engineered chemical weapon created by a mad scientist meant to genetically alter whoever catches it into hideous animal people. That's why destroying the rainforest is bad. If you destroy the rainforest, we could end up turning into rat people.
Also Wheeler sucks.
There's a very good reason Captain Planet is made fun of even to this day. Its morals are heavy-handed, its superhero is a spandex-wearing dork, and the Planeteers are annoying little squirts. No one's going to watch this and think it's a good show by any means; Captain Planet did NOT age well and it's reserved mainly for mockery or nostalgia trips.
That being said, this episode did have some good sides to it. If you're familiar with DIC Entertainment, this show actually had passable animation considering the studio. It's not amazing by any means, but uses a lot of shadows to describe form and it manages to keep the ultra-realistic style really consistent without deformation.
And ironically the things I like about this episode are the things that I hate about Captain Planet as a whole. I like that the main problem was NOT something environmental, I like that Captain Planet was barely in it, and I like that the villain had a motivation besides pollution or ruining the environment, and I like the sort of sci-fi turn it went as opposed to "Oh, no! Pollution!". There's a small line where Skumm calls it a rodent revolution and, in my Captain Planet-induced haze, thought that him staging a takeover of humanity actually made him just a tiny bit more two-dimensional.
But yeah, in the end it's a goofy, goofy cartoon that I could never see myself or anyone else watching this unironically for entertainment value. It's too preachy of a show to gain it that honor. In short, the power to not see this is yooooours!