Captain Planet was the eponymous hero of a well-loved children’s animated series that originally ran from 1990 to 1996, Captain Planet and the Planeteers. The show was about Gaia, the goddess of Earth, bringing together five kids from around the world to become the Planeteers – an opposing force meant to educate other people about our responsibility to be environmentally responsible. To make that happen, each of the five kids was given a magical ring that had one of the powers of earth, wind, water, fire, and heart. When the villain was too much for them, they combined their powers to form Captain Planet.
The show was so wildly popular and well-acclaimed for its values that it is still shown in syndication today. The show was such a success because it was a form of educational entertainment that advocated environmentalism. If you were a kid in the early nineties, you probably loved Captain Planet and remember it quite fondly. You might have even had some of the action figures or the mock ring from your own favorite Planeteer. You’ve also probably got the theme song from the show stuck in your head right now. You’re welcome.
You probably know most of that, but what you don’t know is just how many celebrities have ties to Captain Planet. The edu-tainment and environmentalist aspects of the show drew a lot of top celebrities to the project. This is just a list of fifteen such celebrities with connections to the beloved animated series, and some of the names you’re about to read may shock you.
15 John Ratzenberger
Beloved voice and television actor John Ratzenberger kicks off our list. Ratzenberger played the voice of the character, Rigger, who was the sidekick/errand boy of one of the shows main antagonists, Hoggish Greedly. Interesting fact: this was John Ratzenberger’s first credited voiceover role in a cartoon. To anybody that has watched a Disney animated movie since 1995, you know it would most certainly not be his last.
The Rigger character was a short, skinny man who wore his blonde hair in a ponytail. He wore a red wifebeater, green vest, fingerless gloves, blue jeans, and a ball cap. He has bucked teeth and a small chin goatee. He refers to his boss, Hoggish Greedly, as, “Mr. Greedly,” and is portrayed as meek and submissive. You occasionally see faint glimpses of concern for the environment in the character, but he ultimately just does what Greedly tells him to do.
Basically, Rigger does all the leg-work while Greedly usually sits around and eats.
14 LeVar Burton
That’s right. The host of Reading Rainbow and Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge played one of the Planeteers on the show, Kwame. Kwame is the unofficial leader of the Planeteers. More often than not, he is the straight man of the group, but he does occasionally enjoy ribbing his fellow Planeteers, especially Wheeler. He is almost always the one to begin the summoning of Captain Planet, which usually starts with Kwame’s catchphrase, “Let our powers combine.”
Kwame is cool, calm, and collected, and usually says something incredibly profound. For instance, he’s the only one to ask Gaia, “what if our the powers aren’t enough,” when she tells them about their special rings.
Much like John Ratzenberger playing Rigger, Levar Burton taking on the role of Kwame was his first credited voiceover role. Since then, he has gone on to voice characters on several different shows, such as Batman: The Animated Series, Gargoyles, Family Guy, and Adventure Time.
13 Tim Curry
The one and only Dr. Frank-N-Furter voiced a computer program on Captain Planet. MAL is artificial intelligence in a computer that is controlled by one of the show's antagonists, Dr. Blight. In a particular episode of the show, the revelation is made that MAL was once very friendly and enjoyed playing games. However, Dr. Blight altered his programming to change his personality.
The character was known for hacking into other systems and reprogramming them based on instructions from Dr. Blight. In a very odd note, MAL would often be involved with flirting with Dr. Blight, but more often than not, he would assure her that her plans would fail. Of course, he was right most of the time.
Tim Curry actually took over the role. MAL was originally played by British actor, David Rappaport, who tragically took his own life at the age of 38, after having voiced only four episodes.
12 James Coburn
James Coburn is a name on this list that you may not recognize immediately, but you’ve likely watched something he performed in. Coburn became well known in the sixties and seventies for his role in movies such as The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. You may know him better for his work in the nineties in films such as Young Guns II, Maverick, and The Nutty Professor. He also voiced Mr. Waternoose in Monsters, Inc. as one of his last roles before his passing in 2002.
On Captain Planet, Coburn voiced another of the shows many antagonists, Looten Plunder. Plunder is a dashing businessman who rarely sullies his hands, often having others doing the dirty work for him. He doesn’t care about environmental suffering, so long as cash continued to line his pockets.
Plunder was depicted in a similar manner to most businessmen of the late eighties and early nineties, often wearing a gaudy green suit with tiger-striping on the lapels.
11 Ed Asner
The legendary Ed Asner lent his voice to Eco-villain, Hoggish Greedly. Greedly had animal-like tendencies and mostly resembled a pig. The character often references this himself, making a comparison of himself to bacon or pork, I.E. “He can fry our chops,” when talking about Captain Planet. To top it off, he wildly snorts while laughing, sounding like a pig, as well.
The character had an upturned nose, pink skin, and small, fanged teeth. He was also incredibly portly and would often stuff his face with any food that was around. He wore a green military uniform, but would often cower in fear when Captain Planet would make an appearance. He would also turn to begging and pleading for mercy whenever his plan had failed.
10 Vanna White
Yes, even the letter-turning vixen of Wheel of Fortune fame had a special guest role on an episode of Captain Planet. The role is one of Vanna White’s very few roles outside of Wheel of Fortune, and her only voiceover role.
In the Captain Planet episode titled, “The Guinea Pigs,” Vanna White voiced a character named Lori Saunders. Her character was that of a cosmetics queen who was advertising cosmetic products that were not tested on animals. Initially, the Planeteers think that she may be the antagonist of the episode and go to pay her a visit. They explain that animals are being stolen and Lori maintains her innocence, stating that her products were confirmed to be safe and free of animal testing from a private lab.
The private lab turns out to be the lab of Dr. Blight, another one of the shows main Eco-villains. Saunders was outraged by the possibility that she was unknowingly lying to her customers and joins the Planeteers to confront Dr. Blight at her lab.
Long story short, Lori fires Dr. Blight, chaos ensues, Captain Planet shows up and saves the day. The episode ends with Lori Saunders filming a new commercial, informing her viewers that the products are now completely cruelty-free.
Sting originally provided the voice of the character, Zarm, the spirit of Destruction and War, who is bent on destroying Gaia and Captain Planet. Well, then…
At one point, Zarm forced all the other Eco-villains to work for him. He was also able to manipulate people using the desires of their hearts. He is also able to mimic the appearance and voice of anyone else, human or spirit. He uses this ability to trick the Planeteers into believing that he was Gaia.
8 Malcolm McDowell
Malcolm McDowell also voiced the character, Zarm, but in the sequel series, The New Adventures of Captain Planet. The New Adventures of Captain Planet was produced by Hanna-Barbera and Turner Program Services. It was broadcast from September 11, 1993 to May 11, 1996.
McDowell is known for his boisterous, villainous roles and may be best known for his role as Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange. He has also had prominent roles on numerous television series, such as Entourage, Heroes and The Mentalist.
Voicing Zarm was the second animated voice-acting gig for McDowell, who has gone on to have a long and successful voice-acting career. His voice has carried him to a career full of animated roles, as well as leading him to voice several documentaries, including a two-hour documentary chronicling the career of the Beatles.
7 Neil Patrick Harris
Between Doogie Howser and Barney Stinson, Neil Patrick Harris lent his voice to the character of Todd Andrews on Captain Planet. Todd Andrews appeared in one of those, “very special episodes,” that we would often see from animated shows in the early nineties, as he was a young basketball player who had been diagnosed with HIV.
Eco-villain Verminous Skumm gained knowledge of Todd’s diagnosis and used peoples’ lack of knowledge and general ignorance about HIV to start the lie that Todd was carrying the AIDS virus. Of course, the people of the town break down into mass hysteria and start to turn against the young basketball star.
Todd left town, ended up getting stranded where he went, then saved by Captain Planet. The hero brought Todd back to the basketball game that he was missing and – with help from Todd’s coach – explained the facts about HIV/AIDS. Predictably, the people of the town all felt like jerks and tried to make up for all the heinous things they had done by cheering for the young man.
Captain Planet was cheesy sometimes…okay, most of the time…but at other points, it was well ahead of its time, especially for a cartoon.
6 Danny Glover
Even Detective Roger Murtaugh had a guest role on Captain Planet. Danny Glover played the role of Professor Apollo on the seventh episode of the first season, "Isle of Solar Energy." The episode starts off with the Planeteers landing on Sun Island, which is the eponymous island of the episode. Everything on the island is fueled by solar power. Man, this show was really on the nose.
The episode starts with the kids being introduced to Professor Apollo and his daughter, Karen, whom Kwame is immediately smitten with. Karen is also one of Apollo’s assistants. The other assistant, Zed Loot (he doesn’t sound like a threat at all, surely) comes into the scene and takes a box, before leaving the lab. Turns out, Zed Loot is really Leadsuit, the crony of Duke Nukem.
Indeed, Duke Nukem was a Captain Planet villain before he was the protagonist of a video game series. The game developer didn’t know and changed the name to Duke Nukum, until realizing that the name was not registered and they were in no danger of a lawsuit.
Anyway, Duke Nukem uses the box to charge himself up and the kids must call Captain Planet to save the day. It’s like we’ve seen this kind of thing before.
5 Meg Ryan
That’s right, Meg Ryan voiced a villain on Captain Planet. Boy, the early nineties were a crazy time.
Ryan voiced Dr. Blight, one of the major villains in the series. Dr. Barbara Blight was a beautiful scientist who often experimented in various ways in order to take over the world. Her main weapons were technology and chemicals in her quest to take over the Earth.
She sometimes provides machinery and technology or chemicals to the other Eco-villains in lieu of favors or cash. She would often flatter or flirt to get her way, although she’s not averse to standing up for herself should another Eco-villain cause her to be upset.
As noted previously, Blight has a very strange relationship with MAL, her artificial intelligence. She is either seen flirting with him or arguing with him over the validity of her plans.
4 Jeff Goldblum
The man that played Dr. Ian Malcolm in the Jurassic Park movies, as well as David Levinson in the Independence Day films also played an Eco-villain. Jeff Goldblum originally voiced the villain Verminous Skumm on the show. Skumm is a villain that resembles a rat. He wore dirty, tattered clothing and often hid in the shadows or covered his face. He enjoyed being underground and was originally voiced by Goldblum, although Jeff left the show after only five episodes.
The character had an army of rats that he was in control of. Some were huge and wore clothing like him. However, he also had the ability to control and communicate with the regular rat population. The character was most notable for causing the death of one of the Planeteers’ cousin. He was also to blame for that same Planeteer, Linka, getting addicted to the drug which he was responsible for creating, Bliss.
3 Whoopi Goldberg
The thirteen-time Emmy Award nominee and member of the EGOT club (won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award) was one of the most important voices to the original run of the show. Whoopi Goldberg voiced Gaia, the Spirit of planet Earth. She was a modern rendition of the Greek personification of the Earth, possessing a variety of physical characteristics from all human races.
She awoke from a century-long sleep to be horrified at the increase of pollution on the planet. This is what caused her to bring together the Planeteers to help defend the planet from environmental threats. She lived on Hope Island, an island with large crystals in the middle of the ocean. Gaia was omnipresent, being able to appear whenever or wherever she pleased and could also telepathically communicate with anybody at any point in time.
Gaia was bound to the planet, and her condition was directly related to the well-being of the planet, which explains why she brought the Planeteers together in the first place.
2 Martin Sheen
Indeed, President Josiah Bartlett was the voice of one of the Eco-villains in the original series. Martin Sheen voiced the character, Sly Sludge. Sludge was usually trying to find his way through get-rich-quick schemes. He liked to make a quick buck by promising to take care of trash or toxic waste. His motivation was off, but he was doing the right thing, right? Wrong.
Sludge never disposed of anything correctly from an environmentally responsible standpoint. He also feigned innocence in his dealings. He was rotund and short and had patchy, black hair. He was either losing his hair from age or from the many chemicals he handled. He often wore yellow rubber gloves and a khaki jumpsuit. Think Ghostbuster, but Ghostbuster that hates the environment and doesn’t have the cool Proton Pack.
Sheen would voice the character for the first twelve episodes he appeared in. After that, well-known voice actor Jim Cummings would take over the role.
1 Leonardo DiCaprio
Wait, what? Leonardo DiCaprio was a voice on Captain Planet?! No. He had zero involvement with the show…until 2016.
That’s right. Leonardo DiCaprio wants to bring back Captain Planet and make it into a movie. Apparently, Leo’s Appian Way Productions is teaming up with Paramount for a Captain Planet film adaptation, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The movie is still in the very early stages of conception, but it will be based on the 1990s cartoon. It will also reportedly occur several years after the show’s original timeline, and will feature Captain Planet falling on hard times. The Hollywood Reporter described the character as, “a washed-up has-been who needs the kids more than they need him."
DiCaprio will probably not be starring as the eponymous hero, but he will be producing the project. Jono Matt and Glen Powell have already put their names in the ring to write the script.
Leo is a staunch advocate for the environment, and he loved the show enough to develop it into a film. I’ve got faith in him to pull this off.
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