Captain Planet and the Planeteers is an American animated environmentalist television program created by Ted Turner, Robert Larkin III, and Barbara Pyle, produced by Pyle, Nicholas Boxer, Andy Heyward and Robby London, and developed by Pyle, Boxer, Heyward, London, Thom Beers, Bob Forward, Phil Harnage and Cassandra Schafhausen. The series was produced by Turner Program Services and DIC Entertainment and it was broadcast on TBS from September 15, 1990 to December 5, 1992. A sequel series, The New Adventures of Captain Planet, was produced by Hanna-Barbera and Turner Program Services, and was broadcast from September 11, 1993 to May 11, 1996. Both series continue today in syndication. The program is a form of "edutainment" and advocates environmentalism.
The series previously aired in reruns on Cartoon Network and Boomerang. In February 2009, Mother Nature Network began airing episodes and unreleased footage of Captain Planet and the Planeteers on its website. In September 2010, the Planeteer Movement was launched with the assistance of Pyle as a means for fans of the show to connect and continue to integrate the show's messages into their lives as real-life Planeteers.
Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, is awakened from a long sleep by Hoggish Greedly, who happens to be drilling above her resting chamber. Realizing that the damage is extensive, Gaia sends five magic rings, four with the power to control an element of nature and one controlling the element of Heart, to five chosen youths across the globe: Kwame from Africa, Wheeler from North America, Linka from the Soviet Union (changed to Eastern Europe after the Soviet Union's collapse), Gi from Asia, and Ma-Ti from South America.
These five are dubbed the Planeteers and are tasked with defending the Earth from the greatest of disasters and making efforts to educate mankind to keep others from happening. Gaia uses her "Planet Vision" to discover where the most devastating destruction is occurring (in most episodes one or more of the Eco-Villans is behind it) and sends the Planeteers to help solve the problem. The Planeteers use transportation (usually a flying machine called a Geo-Cruiser) based on solar power to avoid causing pollution themselves.
In situations that the Planeteers cannot resolve alone, they can combine their powers to summon Captain Planet, a super hero, who possesses all of their powers magnified, symbolizing the premise that the combined efforts of a team are stronger than its individual parts. Captain Planet only appears in his Captain Planet garb. These are not clothes but elements of the Earth that are integral to his composition. He is able to rearrange his molecular structure to transform himself into the various powers and elements of nature. Captain Planet's outfit does not represent a specific culture. He has a grass-green proto-mullet, crystal blue skin, earthy brown eyes, a fire-red chest, gloves, trunks, and boots, and a sun-yellow globe insignia.
The Planeteers cannot use their rings while Captain Planet has been summoned. Despite his vulnerability to pollution, Captain Planet is a formidable and valiant hero. Once his work is done, Captain Planet returns to the Earth, restoring the Planeteers' powers. When he does this, Captain Planet reminds viewers of the message of the series with his catchphrase, "The Power Is Yours!" Which means that we all have the power to end the destruction of the earth if we work together as one world rather than fighting each other as separate nations.
Captain Planet is the titular character of the series. In the beginning of the series, Gaia assembles a modern-day team of "Planeteers" from several nations. When the modern-day Planeteers combine their powers to summon the elemental warrior, this incarnation takes on the appearance of a superhero, who takes on the superhero-like name of "Captain Planet." Captain Planet displays a wry sense of humor and often uses puns while taunting the show's cast of villains.
Gaia (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg) is the spirit of the Earth. She is a modern rendition of the primordial Greek earth titan, possessing an amalgamation of physical characteristics from all human races.
Awaking from a century-long slumber, and shocked with the increase in pollution of Earth that has sustained in such a short (by her standards) time, she summons the Planeteers to defend Earth and gives them each an elemental ring.
Gaia lives on Hope Island, an island with large crystals in the middle of an ocean, although its exact location is never revealed. She is omnipresent; she can appear in any time or place she wishes, and can communicate telepathically with anyone at any point in time. She is bound to Earth, and her health and well being are connected with the condition of the planet.
The Planeteers are summoned by Gaia to defend the world from pollution, criminals, and natural disasters. The five teenagers, each originating from a different region of the world and who together represent several major ethnic groups, are each given a ring which allows them to temporarily control one of the four classical elements – Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water – as well as a fifth element, Heart, which represents love and communication and enables telepathy and empathy, as well as potential mind control. Pyle cites that the inspiration for the five Planeteers came from real people that she met during the show's pre-production in 1989.
To summon Captain Planet, the Planeteers must activate their powers in a specific order, (Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, and Heart) preceded by the phrase, "Let our powers combine"; after his appearance, the Planeteers would cheer, "Go Planet!"
The Planeteers' rings are, like Captain Planet himself, susceptible to weakening when in the presence of toxic waste and pollution to the point that they can no longer use their powers or summon Captain Planet.
Since the show takes place all over the world, The Planeteers have many methods of travel. The geo-cruiser is the 'usual' vehicle for the Planeteers. It is a solar-powered flying craft, in the design of a jet. The geo-cruiser is yellow in color and can hover, allowing it to land on top of buildings and in rough terrain. The Eco-cyclhes are stored somewhere on the Geo-Cruiser, although it is not known how they are stored, or if they are aboard for every mission. Their engines are not fuel-combustion, as that would pollute the air. Most likely their engines are electric, as their engines make a low whirring noise when in use, and they have flashing lights. The geo-copter is a yellow helicopter the Planeteers will occasionally use instead of the geo-cruiser. The eco-sub is usually used in missions closer to Hope Island. Occasionally the Planeteers will also use the eco-sub to investigate issues out in the middle of the ocean. The eco-sub is shaped a lot like the geo-cruiser. It is yellow in colour, and is fitted with a periscope. The Planeteers are occasionally seen carrying out maintenance on it.
The 5 Planeteers are:
- Kwame (voiced by LeVar Burton): From Ghana, Africa, Kwame possesses the power of Earth. He has a soft spot for plant life, and even has his own greenhouse on Hope Island. Growing up in a tribe in his homeland, he is at one with the land and its purpose, and does what he can to preserve it. The de facto leader of the group, he is the voice of reason that keeps the Planeteers in check when the group begins to lose faith in a given situation.
- Wheeler (voiced by Joey Dedio): From Brooklyn, NY), Wheeler controls the power of Fire. Wheeler is shown to be the least knowledgeable about earth preservation trends though this improves as the show goes on (in a way representing the oblivious aspect people have of the harm that they can cause to nature). He is the street-smart for the group who, while having his heart in the right place, tends to get himself into tight spots when acting impulsively; fittingly, he is sometimes a "hothead". Throughout the series, he openly flirts with and tries to get closer to Linka, almost always having his advances shot down.
- Linka (voiced by Kath Soucie): From the Soviet Union (in later episodes stated as being from Eastern Europe), Linka has the power of Wind. Linka closely studies bird life and, due to this, is extremely emotional when pollution harms them. Wheeler often tries to flirt with her, and despite more often than not shooting down these advances, is shown every now and again that she too possesses feelings for him. She is a master of strategy and logic, as well as a computer expert. Linka often uses Russian words and phrases, the most common one being "Bozhe moi!" (meaning "My God!"), which she normally says when she's shocked.
- Gi (voiced by Janice Kawaye): Hailing from China (Asia), Gi controls the power of Water. Gi is a self-proclaimed marine biologist. Her compassion for sea life contributes to the overall effort of the Planeteers' protection of animals, becoming extremely emotional when pollution affects them, especially dolphins. She also often works on the mechanical and forensic aspects for the team. Gi can also be seen wearing a gold medallion around her neck.
- Ma-Ti (voiced by Scott Menville): From the Amazon of Brazil and raised by a Kayapo Indian shaman, Ma-Ti uses the powers of Heart and telepathy to instill caring, passion, and sympathy into the people of the world to care for the planet. He can also use this power to communicate with people and animals telepathically. Ma-Ti also owns a pet spider monkey named Suchi (voiced by Frank Welker).