Any doubt that Captain Planet is still a beloved cartoon all these years later was dashed at the “25 years of Captain Planet and the Planeteers” panel at New York Comic Con. How many panels begin by singing the show’s theme song, after all? Fittingly, that’s how the audience and the panelists began their discussion of Captain Planet and the Planeteers Thursday.
Together for the first time since the end of the series, the panel featured executive producer and co-creator Barbara Pyle, executive producer, co-creator, and theme song writer Nick Boxer, voice actor David Coburn (Captain Planet), voice actor Joey Dedio (Wheeler), casting and voice director Marsha Goodman, actor Ed Asner (Hoggish Greedly) and indigenous rights and environmental activist Oren Lyons, who was a guest voice on the show.
Captain Planet, which aired in the 1990s, had a clear environment focus in its 113 episodes before going off the air, and it was clear that for everyone on the panel it was still a topic close to their hearts. In a sentiment repeated by other panelists, Lyons said Captain Planet was ahead of his time and that he was needed now more than ever. For Coburn, the show was and remains the best job he’s had as an actor, because it was the only one “that did any good.”
The show certainly covered a range of important issues during its tenure, with shows featuring everything from pollution to puppy mills. Pyle said she and Boxer each had about 8 or 9 years of experience working on documentaries by the time of Captain Planet.
“It was a unique group of people and a unique time and place, [and] probably the only group that had the skill set to pull this off,” Pyle said.
All of the Planeteers were based on real people, and many of the episodes were actually true stories, spun out a bit but not much, according to Pyle, who also pointed out that everything from the show has happened at this point. To tell these types of stories, though, Boxer said they had to educate the writers and story editors.
“They couldn’t figure out ‘How do you tell these stories as stories?’” he said.
Panelists also shared their favorite episodes, such as “A Formula for Hate,” which guest-starred Elizabeth Taylor and focused on AIDS and HIV, along with “Twelve Angry Animals.” However even with these fun moments looking back at the show, much of the panel focused on how there’s still work for the fans, known themselves as Planeteers, to do and how we have to act to make a difference.
“All the talk in the world doesn't mean anything unless we turn it into action,” Coburn said. “Comic Con is cool. Saving the planet is cooler.”
Pyle said there are Planeteer networks around the world coming together to make a difference. People can find out more about them on the website CaptainPlanet.me. When asked about a return for Captain Planet, Pyle said “stay tuned.” The very last question of the panel asked again about “How at this point in society do we justify Captain Planet not being on the air right now?"
“We don’t know. It’s not for lack of trying. I spent 10 years trying to get Captain Planet back on the air, and now I live in Saint Lucia,” Pyle said. “Why don’t you start writing letters to Cartoon Network saying ‘Where is it?’”
Whether it’s about Captain Planet’s return or the well-being of our environment and making a difference in society, the panel’s message to the audience, quoted by Coburn a few times during the event, was clear. The power is yours.