Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue: The Biggest Anti-Drug PSA Ever


You probably watched Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue, but there's a good chance you've repressed that memory.

In 1990, this anti-drug TV special was simulcast across all four major networks—the first-ever scripted program to do this—as well as various cable channels. It aired around the globe, and heads of state sat down to film introductions for their respective nations' versions. George H.W. Bush said before its debut that he wanted every child in America to watch it.

The cartoon cost millions of dollars to make and featured such legendary characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Smurfs, Garfield, Kermit the Frog, and more. Never before (and not since) have so many expensive studio properties appeared in one production together (it's said their licensing fees were waived). If that weren't enough, McDonald's (which financed it) handed out 250 million pamphlets promoting the special and its message. It featured a musical number from Academy Award-winning songwriters Howard Ashman and Alan Menken and even the vocal talents of George C. Scott. He played Smoke, the evil weed smoke monster.

Despite all this, Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue did not single-handedly win the War on Drugs. Why not?

The story centers around Michael, a 14-year-old marijuana addict who, drug habit nor not, is a real piece of work. He steals his darling sister Corey's piggy bank to feed his insatiable need for cannabis. This is when our cavalcade of animated All-Stars enter. They magically come to life and teach Michael a lesson about addiction and self-control. You can watch the cartoon in its entirety here:

The problem with the special is the huge cast of All-Stars itself. If there ever was a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, this is it, and our nation's youth paid the price.

Alvin and The Chipmunks

These stars hide under Michael's bed and watch him break open Corey's piggy bank. They also snoop through his stash box and find his weed. Alvin and The Chipmunks are in the music industry, so let's not pretend they haven't seen a joint before. Simon quickly identifies the drug by the smell, saying it's "an unlawful substance used to experience artificial highs." Pretty rich sanctimony coming from the guys who came up with this.


Garfield doesn't do anything in this entire PSA except make three jokes about lasagna. Clearly the events of Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue didn't happen on a Monday, or else the cat would've varied his schtick to mention that.

Winnie the Pooh

Winnie gives advice to Corey and tells her to talk to both her parents and Michael about his addiction. This is the same Winnie the Pooh who fiends for honey with such fervor that he routinely gets his head stuck in a jar. Go dole your advice out somewhere else, junkie.

Bugs Bunny

When Bugs meets Michael, the bunny is impersonating a police officer. He then kidnaps Michael, takes him in a time machine, and makes him observe the first time the teenager ever smoked pot. He also threatens Michael, saying, "What's up your life!" Those are three felonies, plus one crime against Niven's laws of time travel. Bugs Bunny is repugnant.

Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy

Oh good, the Muppets are here—they make everything better. Except these are Muppet Babies, and they take Michael on a roller coaster ride through his own brain. If you ever wanted to see Kermit the Frog screeching through an adolescent's parietal lobe while screaming, "YOU GOTTA TAKE DRUGS JUST TO FEEL NORMAL!" then this is your chance.

Daffy Duck

Daffy plays a clairvoyant and shows Michael an image of his corpse.

Come on, man, go easy on the kid.

Michelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Clearly shoehorned in here, but he is one of the few characters to issue positive reinforcement. "You're excellent just the way you are...without drugs!" Nice sentiment, but Michael is so terrified after riding a roller coaster through his own brain and seeing his corpse that the only response he can muster is, "HOW DO I GET OUT OF HERE???"

George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush

Bush 41 and Barbara Bush introduce us to the program. Bush was heavily involved in promoting Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue. He filmed a series of ads for it and endorsed the special during a speech to the television academy a month before it aired. Keep in mind, no sitting U.S. president who's supported Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue has ever been re-elected, so this was a big risk for him. It didn't pay off.

Dick Butkus(?)

This is a confusing one. The father, who looks just like former Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus, notices that some of his beers are missing. A Los Angeles Times article published before the special aired says that addiction experts were criticizing the cartoon because it failed to address alcoholism, something more prevalent in teens. It also mentions that the film was "still being edited" three days before it aired, raising the question of whether the father was thrown in as an afterthought to appease these critics. This would make sense because the issue with the beer is never fully resolved.


Alf gets way too much airtime in Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue. He takes Michael to a hall of mirrors to teach him one of the PSA's most valuable lessons: No matter how well you think you are doing, chances are you look terrible on the outside and that's all that matters.

Michael's Cool Friends

They try to give Michael crack in an arcade. They try to smoke crack in the park. The pretty girl in the nice hat steals Michael's wallet and runs off to buy more crack. These are the kids the All-Stars should be haunting.

Slimer, Baby Gonzo, The Smurfs, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, etc...

Most of these All-Stars just line up to take turns yelling at Michael. It's like an intervention in the most twisted circle of hell. If only Michael could have waited 23 more years, he'd be able to buy weed legally in Colorado and not have to be subjected to all this abuse.

Photo Illustration by Mental Floss. Woody Image: iStock. Background: IFC Midnight
9 The Shining References Buried in Pixar Films
Photo Illustration by Mental Floss. Woody Image: iStock. Background: IFC Midnight
Photo Illustration by Mental Floss. Woody Image: iStock. Background: IFC Midnight

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining: Not the most kid-friendly movie! But, as circumstance would have it, it’s a favorite film of Pixar regular Lee Unkrich, who has directed or co-directed five Pixar features—including Toy Story 2 and 3; Monsters, Inc.; Finding Nemo; and Coco—in addition to doing editing work on several others. As such, it’s no surprise (or maybe it is) that several references to The Shining, from the obvious to the obscure, have snuck into Pixar’s lineup over the years. Here are nine of them.


One of the most iconic images from Stanley Kubrick’s filmography is of Danny (Danny Lloyd) cycling through the halls of The Shining’s Overlook Hotel. That same iconic carpet can be found in Toy Story, where it adorns the home of the toy-torturer Sid. Unkrich, who was one of the editors on the film, credits that particular Easter Egg to production designer Ralph Eggleston.

2. THE NUMBER 237 // TOY STORY 3 (2010)

The number 237 makes an appearance in 'Toy Story 3' (2010)

Unkrich worked several references to the number 237—the room in the Overlook Hotel where some particularly trippy things go down for Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson)—into Toy Story 3, which he directed. The license plate on a garbage truck in one scene reads RM237; Woody instant messages a toy whose code name is Velocistar237; and the model number of a security camera in Sunnyside Daycare is Overlook R237.


Speaking of Sunnyside Daycare’s security system: It features an intercom that’s an exact (albeit animated) duplicate of the one used by Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) in The Shining. Several feet away from the intercom is a tissue box, the pattern of which resembles that aforementioned carpet pattern in the Overlook Hotel.


For both Toy Story 3 and Finding Nemo, Unkrich asked his composers—Randy Newman and Thomas Newman, respectively—to utilize the “kalinga” technique at particular moments where the audience was meant to feel unsettled. Favored by Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki, whose music was featured in The Shining, the “kalinga,” per Unkrich, “is when the violin players tap their bows against the strings rather than strumming. It's almost a plucky sound. If everybody does that throughout the orchestra you get a crazy, almost insecty sound, it's so unsettling.”


This one’s easy: In Finding Nemo, Bruce the shark echoes Jack Nicholson’s most famous line from The Shining when he snarls “Heeeere’s Brucey!”


    Early in Coco, there’s a scene where Dante the dog abruptly wakes up from a nap. In the background, we see a normal-looking axe stuck into a tree trunk. An axe could just be an axe ... were Unkrich not sitting in the director's chair. Earlier this year, in an interview with Cinema Blend, he confirmed that the axe is in fact modeled after “one of the axes from The Shining.”

    7. REDRUM // COCO (2017)

    There are two 'The Shining' references in this one scene from 'Coco' (2017)

      In that same shot, right behind the axe, is a red metal storage drum, a reference to REDRUM, Danny Torrance’s favorite phrase and (er, spoilers for The Shining?) “murder” spelled backwards.

      8. THE GRADY TWINS // COCO (2017)

        As Coco’s Miguel runs through Frida Kahlo’s underworld art studio, he passes a painting of two girls who, per Unkrich, represent a “Día de los Muertos-inspired version of the twin girls from The Shining.”

        9. APOLLO 11 // TOY STORY (1995)

          Stick with us for a moment on this one, as it's not as straightforward as the other ones: Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear was named after Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was the second man to set foot on the moon. Apollo 11 looms large as part of the mythology of The Shining, as there are famously some conspiracy theorists who believe that Kubrick faked the moon landing and used The Shining as a quasi-confession. (At one point Danny Torrance wears an Apollo 11 sweater, which Lee Unkrich now owns.) This is very likely a coincidence, not an outright nod to The Shining, but given the level of The Shining appreciation in the halls of Pixar, it’s not a stretch to believe that someone at least got a chuckle out of it.

          anthodomi, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
          Pop Culture
          Take a Look at What Studio Ghibli's Theme Park Will Look Like When It Opens in 2022
          A recreation of the house in My Neighbor Totoro built for the 2005 World's Fair.
          A recreation of the house in My Neighbor Totoro built for the 2005 World's Fair.
          anthodomi, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

          Miyazaki mega-fans may want to start planning their next trip to Japan. The much-anticipated Studio Ghibli theme park is now set to open in 2022, The Japan Times reports. The animated film studio just released several new images that show what the park (originally projected to open in 2020) will look like.

          Ghibli Park will be built on the site of the 2005 World's Fair in Nagakute, a city about 90 miles east of Kyoto in central Japan. The park's creators envision it as a place where the fantastical films of director Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli, are brought to life. The mysterious forest in My Neighbor Totoro—one of Miyazaki’s most iconic films—will be reimagined in an area of the park called Dondoko Forest. The park property already features a recreation of the house from that same film, originally built there for the World’s Fair.

          Other famous films by Studio Ghibli will be represented in the park as well. There will be a Princess Mononoke Village and antique shops modeled after the one in Whisper of the Heart. The main gate to the park will be built in a 19th-century style reminiscent of Howl’s Moving Castle.

          Witch Valley will feature attractions inspired by Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki’s Delivery Service, and the Big Ghibli Warehouse will contain exhibition areas, a theater, and play spaces. The Japan Times reports that the park will also have giant installations of spiders and “boar-shaped spirits”—recurring motifs in Miyazaki’s movies. And if the concept art is anything to go by, Ghibli Park will be filled with beautiful walking paths surrounded by lush greenery.

          Miyazaki fans have more of the legendary director's work to look forward to in the next few years. He recently came out of retirement to make one last film, which will be released by 2020, Forbes reports. The 77-year-old filmmaker said he wanted to leave something for his grandson to remember him by after he dies.

          [h/t The Japan Times]


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