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Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue

How the anti-drug campaign of the 90s didn't work

By Christine ClosseyPublished 7 years ago 7 min read


Now I remember a time when every kid's hero in the late 80s and early 90s was telling them not to do drugs. I, from time to time, will watch these and laugh, they are corny for the most part, but because they really don't educate you about why pot is bad. They tell you that pot can ruin your life, you'll lose your family, you won't do good in school etc. But for me personally, pot isn't the worse drug on the planet, not by a long shot. Yet people fear it could lead to other drugs. Though I personally never had the need to do hardcore drugs because I've seen it in my life to know better, people have this fear that pot is the gateway drug. While some studies believe this isn't the case, others have seen this happen. Me, I'll just drink wine (the drink that can cause liver damage, totally legal!)

I know I'm supposed to be reviewing something here. I just wanted to make a point of how anti-pot messages were ingrained in us ever since we were a kid. Yet the message I feel as we have grown really isn't as well thought out or as clear as it could of been. There are a ton of drugs out there, yet we don't know what to do if we see a drug. We need a team of cartoons from my childhood and Alf in drawing form to teach children about the evil of pot! You know what for fun let's just throw former President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara in the mix (because kids love old people talking about their favorite cartoon characters, trying to be hip). With that we have the classic fail of the anti drug message, Cartoon All Stars To The Rescue. I remember the first time hearing about this I seriously thought it was fake. I never heard of this before, all of my favorite cartoons from my childhood getting to together in one epic special. Damn this is every kids dream. Then you start the movie and oh boy it's not a special I wanted at all.

It starts with a message from the Bushes basically giving a spoiler as to what you're about to see (geez George way to ruin the show). You know it's a bad sign when an old man is telling you that you're favorite cartoons are about to give you a life lesson. The cartoon starts with the Smurfing Smurfs. I'm not going to lie I'm not a big Smurfs fan, so who cares about Papa Smurfs smurfing up coke. Papa Smurf notices a little girl's (Corey) piggy bank and alerts all the town. Then a picture frame of Alf (who the fuck has a picture of Alf framed is beyond me) comes to life and tells a lamp of Garfield to help or he'll eat him (Oh the eating oh domestic house pets such a child memory). Soon Alvin and the Chipmunks, Winnie The Pooh, and Muppet Babies' Kermit the Frog all wake up Corey to show her that her piggy bank is missing. She finds it in her brother Michael's room who is classic drug addict stereotype, stealing money from her little sister's piggy bank. This is where I never thought I would hear my favorite cartoon characters say the words, "Marijuana" and "Drugs." I don't want to live in a world where my cartoons have drugs in their universe (though I have a feeling most of the writers of these shows were on drugs when writing this special).

Michael has a sick kick in the form of a smoke (voiced by George C. Scott, which is the most shocking thing about this special) basically being the bad guy getting him to do all these drugs. His character is basically devil on your shoulder saying keep doing drugs, DO IT! Bugs Bunny takes him back to the past to show him how he started, which is the basic story of kid asks Michael you want to get high, sure! This was a classic tactic used to how drugs addict start their addiction. Not from a doctor prescribing them pills that they shouldn't be, not seeing their parents do this when they were younger, or dealing with a problem and seeing how the affects made them feel better without truly solving anything. Though yes most people do start smoking pot because they see others do it and they want to be included but is not the only way that drug use starts, and it's sad how they never really address this.

They look into Michael's brain as if it were a fun roller coaster (because everyone hates roller coaster especially kids). While you can make the argument that they make the ride scary, who hasn't left a ride that was scary saying wow that ride made me look at my life a different way. There isn't a clear message as to what drugs can do to your brain, as far as brain damage or nerve damage. It's just scary clouds and ghost looking figures. Yes dealing with drugs to deal with problems is not good, but you can't just say that by saying you go up like a fun roller coaster, without showing what it can do to your body.

Then the most annoying part of this special? They sing. They sing about saying no to drugs. Yes, my favorite slogan, just say NO! Instead of giving Michael advice on how to get off drugs like talk to an adult, go to a teacher or seek help from a professional, nope saying no is the magical way to stop drugs from coming. I've been to parties and offered things, I do say no and they don't harass you like they do in most shows or commercials. So I guess it is magically!

The rest of the special shows Micheal his future if he continues to do drugs. Though they aren't specific about what drugs he would be on in the future, he looks like a zombie (which I'm sure is the disease from the Walking Dead, so there the disease turns him into a walker). This is my problem; drugs work different and the side effects are different. If you're going to generalize all drugs having the same effects, you're dumbing down your message. They just show him looks terrible, you don't see if he possibly becoming homeless, getting a disease from sharing needles, show him losing his family and friends leaving him alone, losing job after job from his addicting, showing him going to jail. There are so many ways to show the real horrors of drug abuse.

The end shows Micheal stopping his sister Corey from using his drugs and he goes to talk to his parents about what he's been doing. And instead of the show ending show a number (it was the early 90s so they didn't have a website yet) they show Executive Producers Roy Disney! I'm not going to lie this upset me the most. Most shows that had a serious message, they would at the end of the episode show you a number you can call if you need help with that specific problem they dealt with in that episode. Full House did it when they addressed Child Abuse, Disney's Doug (even that shitty of a show) did it when they addressed Eating Disorders. This show which has a lot of children's favorite cartoon character talking about a serious issue and they end it with a stupid song and credits. They do show a number, but not until the end of the credits.

You can see why this show is flawed. I get it the message they were trying to give, but it fell into the so lame and not well researched. I wish they would have shown kids a more serious tone with this. Yes I know cartoons aren't the best way to show this, but you know what is, showing real life people dealing with this. It something you can't take lightly. I mean I see people smoke pot all around me, you think these messages got through to kids back then, hell no. But you know why I don't do drugs, because I try to educate myself on what drugs can really do to you. I watch shows like Invention, read articles on the pain killers effecting communities, hell I even read Facebook posts by people saying how another person that went to my high school died of a drug overdose. This is why messages like these fail, we don't show the reality of what drugs can do to a person. They just say drugs are bad, they ruin your life... ok yes but how? I see anti- cigarette ads that show what smoking does to your body and I see that and I say no way I want that. No matter how gruesome, how horrible, how sad drugs can be, we need to show this to kids.

I'm going to end this blog like this show should of ended by giving a couple of websites you can visit if you or someone you know has a problem. Don't be afraid to help a loved one.

What to Do If You Have a Problem with Drugs: For Adults

How to Help a Drug Addict

Drug Abuse and Addiction Symptoms

Addiction Treatment Options


About the Creator

Christine Clossey

Movie lover, blogger and over all a person trying to make it to the stars!

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