Captain Planet: Older brother or superhero?
Video: Nick Boxer explains why he wanted Captain Planet to be an older brother figure to the Planeteers.
Executive producer Nick Boxer explains why he wanted Captain Planet to be an older brother figure to the Planeteers in this exclusive, behind-the-scenes video. (Meredith Darlington/MNN and Mike Lindsay/MNN)
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Nick Boxer: In my mind, Captain Planet was kind of modeled after Racer X in Speed Racer in the sense of, he was kind of an older brother figure to the kids. He wasn’t there a lot of the time. You know, he came in to help out, but he was also in peril at times. You know, Speed would help him out, and, you know, so there was more of a balance. Ted Turner, basically, one of the mandates was that the show was supposed to empower kids. And early on, as we were trying to develop, and I was writing stories, I went to Barbara [Pyle] and said, “I have a very radical idea.” And I said, “Why don’t we off Captain Planet and just have the show be the Planeteers?” Because one of the problems was if you want to empower kids, the kids have to be heroes in their own right. And if it was like Superman, you know, I never felt like Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen, and the chief were heroes in their own right. They were kind of foils — or not foils, but they were props for Superman to rescue. So you didn’t feel like they were empowered. You know, they were sort of powerless in a certain way. And we didn’t want the kids to be just there. And Barbara was like — I said, “Let me pitch that to Ted.” She’s like, “What a nut,” you know. “Absolutely not. It’s, like, Captain Planet.” I’m like, “Okay.” I said, “Then here’s,” you know, we sort of came up with this idea that Captain Planet wouldn’t always be there. You know, the kids would summon him by, you know, we gave them elemental powers, and they would combine their powers, and Captain Planet would appear, but when they gave their powers to Captain Planet, they would give up — the ring would no longer work, since they would transfer their powers to Captain Planet. And it was the idea that he was their powers combined and magnified. So it was also sacrifice on their part, you know, teamwork, and you know, we tried to keep them involved and engaged, and so often the kids really led the fight. They solved the problem. They saw what the problem was, and Captain Planet kind of came in and did the heavy lifting. Sometimes he would rescue them. Sometimes they would rescue him. Since pollution was kind of his Achilles heel, the villains were always, you know, using that to knock him out of commission, and then sometimes the kids would have to rescue him and revive him to get him to defeat the villain. So they were empowered in the process, because that was really, again, a very difficult balancing act.