The Most Insane Anti-Drug PSA Ever Made: Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue

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Legal pot is almost the law of the land, but it wouldn’t be if Winnie the Pooh, Garfield, Michelangelo, Kermit, Alf, Slimer, Alvin and a bunch of other preachy 90s cartoon characters had their way…

You wish this was a hoax. If you thought that Who Framed Roger Rabbit was the greatest crossover event to animation has ever seen, well… you’d still be right. But there is an even BIGGER cartoon crossover, it’s just a lot worse. Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue is pretty legendary on the internet, however, even if you’re already aware of it, try and imagine yourself describing it to someone who’s never seen it.

“Did you ever see that cartoon with Bugs Bunny, Michelangelo, The Chipmunks, Muppet Babies, those Disney ducks, Winnie the Pooh, Slimer…”
“Dude, what the fuck are you talking about?”
*giant bong rip*
“No, it was really a thing! Happened back in the 90s. With all their original voices. I think the Smurfs and Alf were there too. And maybe the President?”
*coughs*
“What? Why!? Why would all of those characters come together? Like, for any reason?!”
“I think to tell 9-year-old white kids not to try crack?”
“Bullshit. How could anybody afford that? That never fucking happened, man!”

But it did fucking happen, man.

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Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue premiered on April 21st, 1990, just one devastating day shy of 420. If I may brush aside the legal nightmare of having all of these characters officially appear together and speak as an uninformed Yankee, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox lent all their finest Saturday morning stars to this wildly overwrought, bizarrely boring anti-drug PSA. It aired simultaneously on all four of those major networks, as well as concurrently on a bunch of other European channels I’ve never heard of that same day, and it’s beyond safe to say the world hasn’t seen an intellectual property buffet of this magnitude before or since. Daffy Duck, Theodore, Gonzo and Tigger had something to say about drugs, therefore the world stood still.

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Getting all of the companies involved in a room and figuring out how to ever get this thing released again is undoubtedly the biggest reason why Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue has slipped into relative obscurity, and thus allowed infrequently viewed YouTube channels the world over to post it without fear of legal reprise. Of course, it’s not like the characters’ rights holder had any money on the line in the first place; the whole shebang was bankrolled by McDonalds primarily (and the Emmys), and the diabetes peddler even made a special edition VHS tape of the program available for all. To put it simply: If you lacked pubic hair in 1990, Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue was almost impossible not to see. You could “rent” it free from your public library, and your school probably still has a copy collecting dust beneath a tape of Kirk Cameron asking kids to commit to abstinence in exchange for a medium personal pan pizza.

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The point is: It’s out there. Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue has been relegated to myth and anecdotes because, despite being one of the most unprecedented moments in cartoon and television history, it’s pretty fucking terrible. I don’t envy the poor asshole who had to get approval from the dozen or so companies lending their incredibly famous characters, but there are still five credited directors on this 30-minute piece of inanity, so I can’t imagine there was a creative vision beyond “Can we just get this done? I have real work to do.” Sure, it nails the look and the voices of the characters, but lacks all the fun you’d think would manifest from seeing Alf, Garfield and Bugs Bunny occupy the same frame. Obviously, that’s what happens when you take some of the most kinetic and comedic forces in the history of the animated medium and turn them into puritanical tattletales, but that hadn’t really happened all that much since WWII. And even then, not to this magnitude. 

Cartoon All-Star to the Rescue treats preteens like hardened addicts who just returned from Vietnam. Junior varsity suburbanites well versed in the arts of heroin and PCP. It was and still as hard to swallow as those unnamed pills in Corey’s animated stash, and a stern talking to from George and Barbara Bush in the intro does very little to add to its authenticity. Furthermore, the only drug name-checked specifically is marijuana and, well… I literally, and legally, get my pot from the same used records store I buy my Bugs Bunny cartoons from in San Francisco. That modern-day revelation not only makes all of Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue ring hollow now, but also false and almost malicious. Sort of like if Miss Piggy were telling you to rat out a communist, or Slimer proclaimed marriage is only between a man and a woman. 

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Whatever. Should you watch it? My diagnosis is probably no. But if you’re going to anyway, why not do it with some cartoon-obsessed manbabies as your guide. I’ve long since chucked an of my action figures that could be remotely be considered “cool” and curated a collection of toys that literally, and I wish I wish I was joking, represents everybody in Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue. Never Forget.

6 thoughts on “The Most Insane Anti-Drug PSA Ever Made: Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue

  1. One thing you guys don’t mention in the commentary is that the song at the end is written by Alan Goddamn Menken and Howard Goddamn Ashman.

    1. Ok, I guess you see it in the credits, but you only mention Menken! Ashman is the real brains behind the operation!

  2. As one of the guys said at the beginning of this, I learned more about drugs from PSAs and DARE than I ever heard from other kids or saw in other media. My father, who has been smoking weed since I was a child (I have memories of him rolling joints while driving the family to visit grandma), used to tell me to be careful about what they ask during DARE. If the cop who taught it started asking questions about funny smells or if we had ever seen our parents use drugs, be quite. There was a story floating around a few weeks ago about a small child who drew a picture of green plants that his parents grew “to help people” in school and the cops investigated and it turns out there was a grow op happening, so I guess my dad was smart to keep his eye on us potential narcs.

  3. I never actually saw this when it aired. I saw plenty of comics dealing with cartoon characters telling you to just say no and all that but this cartoon is weird. they had so many characters in it that they had no room for story and made it boring for kids. this would make a kid so bored they would do drugs just to make it fun.

  4. I understand that narcotics and Muppet Babies could address the same ills, like those moments your room feels kind of weird and you wish that you weren’t there.

  5. I must have been about 5 or 6 when I watched this shit and even at that age the part when the cartoons all break out into song was too much for me. I truly learned the meaning of shame that day.

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