If you thought President-elect Obama’s 30-minute infomercial simulcast on three networks just before the final game of the World Series was impressive, imagine my surprise on April 12, 1990 when a half-hour cartoon was run simultaneously on ABC, NBC, CBS, and many other local stations: Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue. The very nature of reality was shaken the moment Saturday morning cartoons appeared on a Sunday.
The “All-Stars” in this case were characters from nearly all the popular animated series of the late 80’s and early 90’s, in some kind of fanfic writer’s wet dream. Here, for the first time, kids saw the Muppet Babies hanging out with the Smurfs, ALF and Garfield snarking at each other, Slimer from The Real Ghostbusters occupying the same screen space as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Huey, Duey, and Louie (DuckTales) were there, as were Alvin and the Chipmunks, Michelangelo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Winnie “Oh bother” the Pooh!
What could gather all of these beloved childhood friends together? That’s where “the Rescue” comes in. They’re there to tell kids not to use drugs. That’s right, this McDonald’s-sponsored program was nothing more than animated propaganda meant to prevent kids of all ages from indulging in illegal hallucinogens. In my case, it worked wonders–once you hear Baby Kermit sing “When your pal says ‘let’s get wrecked!'”, you never really forget it. Yes, there’s a musical number in this one, describing the “million wild and wonderful ways to say no.”
The plot? Well, a kid named Michael (played by James Marsden) is addicted to drugs. When he steals money from his little sister’s piggy bank, all of her animated playmates decide to help show him the error of his ways. But Michael’s got it bad, and he’s constantly pressured to use marijuana by his addiction, which takes the form of “Smoke.” The All-Stars chase after Michael, even visiting his brain in one trippy sequence, which shows how the drugs are affecting him. I reckon that your brain on drugs showing you three talking animated ducks will trump a frying egg every time. Though I wonder about kids who might want to see their favorite cartoons in the real world. I don’t have the data, but it’s certainly possible that this special program backfired and led to increased drug use, in the hopes that Papa Smurf and Tigger would show themselves. And now that I think about it, where were Scooby Doo and the gang in all this?
This is certainly one cartoon that has to be seen to be believed. If you don’t already have it seared forever in your memory, fortunately it’s been preserved on YouTube to caution or terrorize future generations of kids of the dangers of drugs. (You can also buy copies of the VHS on Amazon.)