Fuck yeah Just Say No!
For those of you too young to remember the halcyon days of the 90s, allow me to share some experiences of my youth. At my small town Texas public school we participated in Red-Ribbon Week. This was a yearly exercise in forced rallies, marches, and assorted other nonsense that aimed to keep the kids off the drugs. This week was in addition to regular compulsory attendance at weekly D.A.R.E. classes that taught me more government-mandated knowledge about the dangers of drugs than the single day of abstinence-only sex education that constitutes my complete understanding of human reproduction to this day. “Just Say No” was the mantra of the time, and I’m still haunted by the “Say No, Just Say No” chant schoolchildren were required to recite ad nauseam as we marched through nearby neighborhoods once a year.
If you have half a brain and a remote understanding of the world, you know that the War on Drugs™ was a colossal failure and “Just say no” is the fitting obituary of Nancy Reagan. Draconian drug laws have ruined generations of poor families in America and resulted in untold death and destruction across the globe. Mercifully, the United States is slooooowly starting to understand the dire consequences of this useless fight. Just try not to think of the gooey plastic bags of human flesh depicted in Sicario the next time you want to do a line of marijuana. Much of the propaganda of this era is still impressed upon me, naturally, because it was all designed for children.
Which brings us to Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue. If future historians uncovered this film in a time capsule, this 1990 cartoon would provide everything they need to know about the last decade of the 20th century in the United States: Mega conglomerations banded together to sell fast food and toys to American children with the threat that weed would surely end their young lives if they ever made the woeful decision to toke up on Mary Jane.
SPOILERS BELOW! If you don’t want me to ruin the plot of a 26-year old corporate-sponsored government propaganda cartoon, don’t read this!
You know you’ve got some pure, Grade-A, uncut propaganda when your film opens with Barbara and then-President George H.W. Bush openly condescending the children of America.
“Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue is the powerful story of a teenager dealing with drug and alcohol abuse. Some of your favorite cartoon characters will help you understand how drugs and alcohol can ruin your life. So watch the program, talk about it with your family, and make the right decision. Stay away from drugs and alcohol.”
I vaguely remember harassing my father for an entire evening for having TWO BEERS with his friends when I was about seven years old. Add turning children into Fun Nazis to the laundry list of crimes George H.W. Bush has never had to answer for. I’m sorry dad, the President told me to totally fuck up your night.
Our cartoon begins in a world that literally every child of the 90s lived in, white suburbia. All is not well in the confines of this safe space, as a menacing hand reaches into a young girl’s bedroom to totally gank her piggybank.
Worlds be colliding as a bunch of corporate properties begin clashing to remedy this heinous act. The Smurfs send out a mothersmurfing alarm, Alf threatens to eat Garfield the cat, Alvin & The Chipmunks show up to suck giant squirrel balls, Winnie the Pooh offers comforting nonsense, Kermit the Frog becomes sentient as a Muppet Baby alarm clock, and Slimer from Ghostbusters appears for no reason at all. They are all determined to recover the piggy bank for Corey, the sleeping young girl.
Their exhaustive search finds the kartoon kavalcade in the adjacent bedroom of her brother Michael, a teenage hooligan if there ever was one. Michael heartlessly smashes Corey’s piggybank and remarks “There must be twenty bucks in here, easy”. The cartoons hide under Michael’s bed and find his druggy stash box. “What’s in that box?” a moronic cartoon asks. “Marijuana, an unlawful substance used to experience an artificial high,” remarks an oddly street-wise Chipmunk.
Michael has been shamefully lighting that reefer smack. Because children are stupid, his high/addiction is helpfully illustrated by a shady smoke monster in a suit that follows him everywhere he goes.
Michael meets his fellow ne’er-do-wells at the local video arcade to ingest more drugs. One hooligan friend offers Michael some kind of squishy white mystery drug. (I have no idea what this drug is supposed to be. If you know, please let me know in the comments). Fortunately, cops show up and these rat bastard teenagers flee the scene. Michael’s smoke monster buddy abandons him as a police officer approaches from around the corner. The cop turns out to be Bugs Bunny, and he’s there to cram Michael into a time machine so that he can see how his past and future casual pot usage will surely end his life.
The pair travel two years into the past to the fateful day that Michael’s idyllic boyhood was shattered forever. As young Michael is playing frisbee in the park, he encounters some older kids who peer pressure him into smoking their ditch weed, because as we all know, popular older kids love to give away their drugs to random younger kids.
Back at the house, Winnie the Pooh, little bitch that he is, justifies narcing on Michael to Corey. She attempts to tell her father that something is weird with Michael. Her father replies, “Being weird is just part of being a teenager. He’ll grow out of it” which is somehow the most wildly inaccurate bit of dialog in the film.
Michael burns dank nugs in the park with friends when one remarks, “For ten bucks I can score us some crack.” For the drug-free youth, this is exactly how drugs affect your behavior. Smoking pot WILL make you desire crack cocaine. Michael’s friend steals his wallet and runs off to purchase some sweet crack rocks while the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show up for a totally TUBULAR intervention. This is where our plot goes off the rails.
Muppet Babies take Michael on a roller coaster ride through his drug-addled brain to show him all the scary synapses and dragons that live inside of it. It seems remarkably scientific. Michael then falls off his skateboard because he’s too high, which LOL, you got me Cartoon All-Stars, that’s an actual thing I’ve done. The DuckTales kids show up to further torture Michael with a terrible song about Just Saying No.
Michael wakes from his nightmare of cartoons yelling a song at him and immediately hits his stashbox. His narc sister barges in the room and attempts to ruin his stone sesh. Alf summons Michael to a nightmarish carnival. Michael is forced to look into a funhouse mirror in which he sees himself as a strung-out junkie on a month-long meth binge.
The various intellectual properties team up to murder Michael as he desperately tries to escape the hellish dimension he has been thrust into. Eventually he comes to Daffy Duck dressed as a fortune teller who shows Michael his future as a shriveled fucking corpse.
Ultimately, the cumulative peer pressure and psychological trauma enacted upon him by a group of technicolor sXe warriors causes Michael to change his ways and live the straight life. Corey somehow convinces Michael to tell their parents about his pot smoking, which, c’mon kid, you’re in the clear. Quit while you’re ahead. The entire cast of corporate entities promise they will assist with any future drug dependency issues, so feel free to bill your extended stay at Passages Malibu to Warner Brothers and Disney.
Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue is a tour de force of disingenuous bullshit and Reagan-era paranoia. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Want to experience the magic? You can watch the entire movie above. It’s 30 minutes long.