Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue
Promotional poster
GenreSocial guidance film
Written byDuane Poole
Tom Swale
Directed byMilton Gray
Marsh Lamore
Bob Shellhorn
Mike Svayko
Karen Peterson (supervising)
Voices of
Music byRichard Kosinski
Sam Winans
Paul Buckmaster
Bill Reichenbach
Bob Mann
Guy Moon
Alan Menken
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producerRoy E. Disney
ProducerBuzz Potamkin
EditorJay Bixsen
Running time32 min.
Production companiesMain:
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation
Southern Star Productions
Original release
USA Network
  • April 21, 1990 (1990-04-21)

Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue is a 1990 American animated television film starring many characters from several animated television series at the time of its release.[1] Financed by McDonald's, Ronald McDonald Children's Charities, it was originally simulcast for a limited time on April 21, 1990, on all four major American television networks (by supporting their Saturday morning characters): ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox,[a] and most independent stations, as well as various cable networks.[2][3] McDonald's released a VHS home video edition of the special distributed by Buena Vista Home Video, which opened with an introduction from President George H. W. Bush, First Lady Barbara Bush and their dog, Millie. It was produced by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation and Southern Star Productions, and was animated overseas by Wang Film Productions. The musical number "Wonderful Ways to Say No" was written by Academy Award-winning composer, Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman, who also wrote the songs for Walt Disney Animation Studios' The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin.

The plot chronicles the exploits of Michael, a young teenage boy who is using marijuana as well as stealing and drinking alcohol. His younger sister, Corey, is worried about him because he started acting differently which becomes a concern for their parents (who are also starting to notice his changes). When Corey's piggy bank goes missing one morning, her cartoon toys come to life to help her find it. After discovering it in Michael's room along with his stash of drugs, they proceed to work together to do an intervention and take him on a fantasy journey to teach him the risks and consequences a life of drug abuse can bring.


An unseen person steals a piggy bank off the dresser in the bedroom of a young girl mamed Corey. The theft is witnessed by Papa Smurf, who emerges from a Smurfs comic book with the other Smurfs and he alerts the other cartoon characters in the room (Alf from a picture, Garfield as a lamp, Alvin and the Chipmunks from a record sleeve, Winnie the Pooh as a stuffed animal, Baby Kermit as an alarm clock, and Slimer who passes through the wall).

Alf, Garfield, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore track down the thief and they discover that it is Michael, Corey's older brother. Alvin opens the box under the bed, and Simon identifies its contents as marijuana. Meanwhile, Corey expresses her concerns about Michael's change in behavior since they used to have a close sibling relationship, which he angrily denies, causing him to get upset and storm out of the house. The cartoon characters realize that something must be done about his addiction and they set off after him, leaving Pooh behind to look after Corey.

At the arcade, Michael smokes marijuana with his old "friends" and "Smoke", an anthropomorphic cloud of smoke, who try to convince him to try harder drugs. They run out and are chased into an alley by a police officer, who is revealed to be Bugs Bunny wearing a police officer's hat. He traps Smoke in a garbage can and uses a time machine, which he had borrowed from "some coyote", to see when and how Michael's addiction started. Bugs learns that it occurred through peer pressure by some older high school students, when Michael was around Corey's age. After the two return to the present, Michael meets up with his "friends", and they decide to smoke crack. He is hesitant until one of them steals his wallet. He and Smoke chase after her until they fall down a sewers hole and meet up with Michelangelo, who tells them that the drugs are harming his brain. Baby Kermit, Baby Miss Piggy, and Baby Gonzo take him on a roller coaster-like tour of the human brain. After later finding himself at a park, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and Tigger join the rest of the cartoon characters in trying to teach him the many "Wonderful Ways to Say No".

Michael wakes up in his room, believing his interactions with the characters to be nothing but a nightmare. Corey walks in his room and she tries to talk to him, but he loses his temper and angrily yells at her, nearly hurting her arm and shoving her against his bedroom wall. He comes to his senses and tries to apologize to her, but she runs out of his room frightened. Smoke appears and tells him he did the right thing, but he doesn't seem so sure about it. He then looks at himself in a small mirror and is shocked to see Alf looking at him. Alf grabs him and pulls him into the mirror. Inside a hall of mirrors, Alf shows him his reflection of how he is today, then one if he does not stop taking drugs: an aged, corpse-like version of himself. When he insists that he could quit if he wanted to and that he is in charge of his own life, Alf takes him to see the "man in charge". He is horrified to see that it is Smoke himself.

Corey and Pooh go back into Michael's room and find his box of marijuana. Smoke appears, traps Pooh in a nearby cabinet, and starts tempting Corey into trying the marijuana for herself. She believes that if she does so, she and Michael could have fun together again.

Meanwhile, the drug-induced carnival in Michael's mind leads him to Daffy Duck who reads his future in his crystal ball – after failing to read it from a bowling ball – and it is a sicklier version of himself than before. After one last warning from the cartoons, Michael, now ashamed of himself and his drug addiction, runs back into his room in time to stop Corey from using the drugs herself. He tells her that he never ever wants to see her end up like him, and admits he was wrong for using them in the first place, though he is unsure if he can change despite his obvious desire to do so. She advises him to talk about his problems with her and their parents. Smoke tries to persuade him otherwise, but Michael grabs Smoke and throws him out a window into a garbage truck. All of the cartoon characters appear on a poster on Michael's wall as a reminder to always say no when confronted by drugs. He releases Pooh from the cabinet, who jumps into the poster with the others and smiles down at Corey as they go downstairs talk to their parents about his drug addiction.


The characters, from 10 different franchises, are (in order of appearance):

Voice cast

The various character owners licensed them freely due to the public service aspect of the special.[4][5]

The special marked the first time the characters Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck were voiced by someone other than Mel Blanc, who had died shortly before the production,[6] prompting Warner Bros. to enlist Jeff Bergman in his place.[7]


ABC George H. W. and Barbara Bush anti-drug message promo
7 Network Bob and Hazel Hawke anti-drug message promo

The special was screened in Australia in November 1990. Like the U.S. broadcast, it aired simultaneously on Australia's major commercial networks (Seven Network, Nine Network, and Network Ten). Prime Minister Bob Hawke introduced the Australian screening.[8] It was screened in New Zealand in December on both TV One and Channel 2 simultaneously. Prime Minister Jim Bolger introduced it instead of the U.S. president. It was screened in Canada on the CBC, CTV, and Global Television Networks and most independent stations shortly after its original U.S. broadcast, although all of the characters had their respective shows aired on either CTV or Global but not CBC. Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney introduced it. The special was broadcast in Brazil in 1994, as Rede Manchete made Portuguese Brazilian dubbing in Herbert Richers Dubbing Studios.

In the United States, all superstations and a handful of independent stations (mainly in selected cities) aired the special, but some stations aired the special at a different period during the week the special aired on the Big Four stations and a number of cable networks. Superstations WPIX in New York City, WGN-TV in Chicago, KTLA in Los Angeles, KTVT in Dallas, WKBD-TV in Detroit, KHTV in Houston, WVTV in Milwaukee, KSTW in Tacoma/Seattle, and KWGN in Denver premiered the special at the same time the big four networks and cable systems premiered, with St. Louis' KPLR-TV premiered the special two hours later after its television premiere. New York's WWOR-TV and Boston's WSBK-TV would later premiere the special the following morning on April 22.


The production has been considered a time capsule of animation history during the time period of the US war on drugs,[9] and has been ridiculed as “propaganda”[10] and “preachy”.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Fox did not have a Saturday morning schedule at the time, but would launch one that September.


  1. ^ "Cartoon special: Congressmen treated to preview of program to air on network, independent and cable outlets". Los Angeles Times. April 19, 1990. Retrieved August 24, 2010.
  2. ^ Bernstein, Sharon (April 20, 1990). "Children's TV: On Saturday, networks will simulcast 'Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue,' an animated feature on drug abuse". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 24, 2010.
  3. ^ "Hollywood and Networks Fight Drugs With Cartoon". The New York Times. April 21, 1990. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  4. ^ Bernstein, Sharon (April 20, 1990). "That's Not All, Folks—Cartoons Join Drug War: Children's TV: On Saturday, networks will simulcast 'Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue', an animated feature on drug abuse". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  5. ^ Gerstenzang, James; Decker, Cathleen (March 3, 1990). "Bush Praises TV for Enlisting Cartoon Heroes in War on Drugs President's visit: He brings his anti-drug message to Southland entertainment executives and schoolchildren". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  6. ^ Flint, Peter B. (July 11, 1989). "Mel Blanc, Who Provided Voices For 3,000 Cartoons, Is Dead at 81". The New York Times. Retrieved June 26, 2008. Mel Blanc, the versatile, multi-voiced actor who breathed life into such cartoon characters as Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Pie, Sylvester and the Road Runner, died of heart disease and emphysema yesterday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 81 years old.
  7. ^ "Jeff Bergman". behind the voice actors. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  8. ^ Toons join the drug war! TV Week, November 3, 1990
  9. ^ "The Movie Where Garfield, Bugs Bunny, the Smurfs, and a Ninja Turtle Team up to Fight the Ultimate Menace". 2 March 2023.
  10. ^ "Recover from Your 4/20 Hangover by Rewatching 'Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue'". 21 April 2016.
  11. ^ "America's Stoned Kids: Guinea pigs of cannabis legalisation | Television | the Guardian".