Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue is an animated drug prevention television special starring many of the popular cartoon characters from American Saturday morning television of the 1960s through the 1980s. Financed by McDonald's, the special was originally simulcast on April 21, 1990 on all three major American television networks: ABC, NBC, and CBS, most independent stations, as well as cable networks Nickelodeon and USA Network. McDonald's also distributed a VHS home video edition of the special, produced by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, which opened with an introduction from then-President George H. W. Bush, and First Lady Barbara Bush.
The plot chronicles the exploits of Michael, a teenager who goes from eating bagels to smoking marijuana and stealing his father's beer. His younger sister, Corey, is worried about him because he started acting differently. When her piggy bank goes missing, her cartoon tie-in toys come to life to help her find it. After discovering it in Michael's room along with his stash of drugs, the various cartoon characters proceed to band together and take him on a fantasy journey to teach him the risks and consequences a life of drug-use can bring.
In Corey's bedroom, an unseen person steals her piggy bank from her dresser. The theft is witnessed by Papa Smurf, who emerges from a Smurfs comic book with the other Smurfs, and alerts the other animated characters in the room (Garfield as a lamp, Alf from a framed picture, Baby Kermit as an alarm clock, Winnie-the-Pooh as a doll, Alvin and the Chipmunks from a record sleeve, and Slimer, who phases through a wall).
The animated characters track down the thief and discover that it is Corey's big brother, Michael. Simon opens a box under Michael's bed and identifies its contents as marijuana. Meanwhile, Corey expresses her concerns about Michael's change in behavior. He storms out of the house. The animated characters quickly realize that something must be done about his addiction and they set off, leaving Pooh behind to look after Corey.
At the arcade, Michael smokes marijuana with his old friends and Smoke, an anthropomorphic cloud of smoke with a mafioso-like appearance and personality. Afterward, one of the teens shows the group a drug that appears to be crack, just as what appears to be the cops show up. Upon being discovered, they run out and are chased into an alleyway by a policeman. Smoke disappears through the wall, telling Michael that, "at times like this, he's on his own". The policeman is then revealed to be Bugs Bunny, who was wearing a policeman's hat. Bugs traps Smoke in a garbage can and uses a time machine (which he borrowed from "some coyote") to see when and how Michael's addiction was started. It was discovered that rather than wanting to get started on drugs, he was bullied into doing it by his "friends".
Back at the house, Michael's father notes that two of his beers are missing, but is convinced by Michael's mother that he drank them the night before while watching football (the implication is that Michael actually stole them, unknown to both his parents).
Meanwhile, his mother expresses her concerns about him to Corey and asks her if there is anything wrong, to which she replies no. Pooh comes to life soon after, and asks why she didn't tell her mother about Michael. She explains that if she tells and Michael gets in trouble, she will be the first one he will suspect. Pooh admits that may happen, but asks her to think about what will happen to Michael if she doesn't tell. She tries to explain things to her father, but is unsuccessful.
In the park, one of Michael's friends says that she can buy crack cocaine for ten dollars. He is uncertain of this, but Smoke steals his wallet and tosses it to the girl, who runs off with it down an alleyway. Michael gives chase, but falls down a manhole with Smoke. There, they are greeted by Michelangelo, Baby Kermit, Baby Piggy and Baby Gonzo.
The Muppet Babies take Michael on a roller-coaster ride through a drug-inflicted human brain. When the ride is over, Michael realizes that the brain they just toured is his and that they are currently inside him. He is also about to fall off a skateboard. The Babies escape, but Michael and Smoke are left behind.
Michael wakes up at the feet of Huey, Dewey and Louie who, with the other characters [joined by Tigger], teach him the "Wonderful Ways to Say No", through a song.
Michael wakes up in his own bedroom and thinks the whole experience never happened. At that moment, Corey comes into the room and tells him that Pooh wants to know why he never talks to their parents anymore. He tells her to tell Pooh to "mind his own business" and kicks her out of the room. Corey runs off in tears, and Michael regrets his behavior. However, Smoke comes out from under the bed and claims that he did the right thing. Michael points out that Corey is his little sister and that he doesn't know what's right anymore. As he stares into a mirror inside his marijuana box, his reflection is replaced with Alf's, who pulls him through the box into a hall of mirrors. Smoke tries to follow but is left behind.
inside the Hall of Mirrors, Alf shows Michael his reflection of how he is today, then his reflection if he doesn't stop taking drugs: an aged, corpse-like version of himself. When Michael insists that he could quit if he wants to and that he is in charge of his own life, Alf takes him to see 'the Man in Charge' -- Smoke.
Corey and Pooh re-enter Michael's room and find his marijuana box. Smoke appears and tempts her to try the drug. When Pooh tries to persuade her otherwise, he is thrown into a cabinet by Smoke. Corey reasons that if she does what Michael does, then maybe they could have fun together, like they used to before he started doing drugs.
Michael comes to a fortune-telling tent and asks the stall tender (Daffy Duck) to see his future for him. It turns out to be Michael lying on his death bed, his face even more ravaged than what Alf showed him. He is horrified by the prospect of that being his future, but Daffy tells him that it can be avoided if he stops taking drugs, along with the help of some advice from Alf, Bugs Bunny, the Muppet Babies, Huey, Dewy and Louie, and Michelangelo.
Michael runs out of a nearby door back into his bedroom, just in time to stop Corey from using the drugs herself. He tells her that he never wants to see her end up like him, and admits he was wrong, though he is unsure if he can change. She advises him to talk about his problems to their parents and to her. Smoke tries to persuade him otherwise, but Michael throws him out of the window, as he feels that he "listened to him long enough". As he lands in a dump truck, Smoke vows to return. Michael admits that Smoke is right, and that he will try to return. Corey agrees but says that "when he gets here, we'll be ready for him," to which the animated stars add a resounding agreement.
The special ends with Michael and Corey going to tell their parents about his drug problem, while Pooh jumps into a poster on the wall with the other animated characters.
The characters, from 10 different franchises, are:
- The Smurfs: Papa Smurf, Brainy Smurf, Hefty Smurf (Although Smurfette is seen on the poster and VHS cover, she actually does not appear in the special.)
- ALF: The Animated Series: Alf
- Garfield and Friends: Garfield the Cat
- Alvin and the Chipmunks: Alvin, Simon, Theodore
- The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Winnie the Pooh, Tigger
- Muppet Babies: Baby Kermit, Baby Piggy, Baby Gonzo
- The Real Ghostbusters: Slimer
- Looney Tunes: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck (Wile E. Coyote is mentioned but not seen, but his time machine was used by Bugs.)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Michelangelo (Although he appears in the special, he is not shown on the poster or VHS cover.)
- DuckTales: Huey, Dewey, and Louie
- Ross Bagdasarian – Alvin, Simon
- Jeff Bergman – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck
- Townsend Coleman – Dad, Michaelangelo
- Wayne Collins – Additional Voices
- Jim Cummings – Winnie the Pooh, Tigger
- Joey Dedio – The Dealer
- Paul Fusco – Alf
- Danny Goldman – Brainy Smurf
- Georgi Irene – Additional Voices
- Janice Karman – Theodore
- Aaron Lohr – Additional Voices
- Jason Marsden – Michael
- Don Messick – Papa Smurf
- Lorenzo Music – Garfield
- Laurie O'Brien – Mom, Baby Piggy
- Lindsay Parker – Corey
- George C. Scott – Smoke
- Russi Taylor – Baby Gonzo, Huey, Dewey, and Louie
- Frank Welker – Slimer, Hefty Smurf, Baby Kermit
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