Updated: Sep 18, 2019
Debuting in 1982, The Care Bears stuffed animals were a product of Kenner, the company behind The Real Ghostbusters and Star Wars toylines. Hasbro acquired Kenner in 2000, and has since held the reigns on The Care Bears. (I question the humaneness of bears being reigned.) My wife Adrienne has been a Care Bears fan since childhood, and all of the bears pictured in this review are hers.
Not long ago, Adrienne and I were out on one of our signature road trips. We'd finished dinner, and decided to stop at a Goodwill. It was 8:50 at night, and as we approached the door, we were disappointed (although not surprised) to see the store closed at nine. Normally, we go out of our way to avoid being "those people," but we ducked in anyway: There were still several customers wandering about, so the employees' rage would be dispersed.
We had to be quick. The main reason I go to thrift stores is to scope out the movies. I look for pretty much anything from the '80s, and/or kung-fu flicks. (Maybe I'll do a kung-fu review someday; I own hundreds of those gems!) This Goodwill didn't have many cassette tapes, but they did have a great selection of DVDs. Adrienne had been searching for The Care Bears Movie for about four years, and this night would mark the end of her journey. We generally look for stuff "in the wild," as opposed to ordering on eBay or Amazon. The thrill of the hunt makes the securing that much sweeter. Nestled among the Matrix trilogy and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was that "favorite for tots," The Care Bears Movie.
With mere minutes before we were booted out, Adrienne couldn't decide if she wanted the disc, so I made the call and we walked out with one more movie to our names. How appropriate that we would find The Care Bears Movie at Goodwill! Maybe we should have checked there sooner. To top it off, the disc was half price, weighing in at $1.08 after tax. The cashier asked if I wanted to round up to the nearest dollar to support some cause, but I wasn't about to negate that discount! We popped in the DVD a few days later, after Adrienne decided to pass on watching the Italian slasher flick Tenebre.
For its target audience, 1985's The Care Bears Movie is surprisingly intense in parts, serving as another reminder that '80s kids ain't sissies. Its fierceness isn't on par with The Transformers: The Movie killing Optimus Prime, but what could be that scarring?
The Care Bears Movie was produced by Nelvana, the animation studio responsible for the Emmy-winning Beetlejuice cartoon. The film focuses mainly on friendless sadsack Nicholas, the assistant to Fettuccini, a carnival magician. One day, Fettuccini brings to their trailer a trunk containing unknown junk which he hopes he can use in the act. (He must have gone to a storage auction.) He asks Nicholas to check out the trunk. Nick, being a klutzy moron, promptly drops it. Fettuccini is peeved, but no corporal punishment befalls Nicholas, due to this movie being rated G.
Nicholas laments that no one likes him, which conveniently sets up the story arc. I'm intentionally leaving out some plot points in this article, because The Care Bears Movie is worth a watch. A Casio, specifically.
When Nicholas opens the trunk, he discovers a strange book, which I like to think was inspired by the Necronomicon from the Evil Dead films. The Evil Dead was released four years prior, so who knows?
A hypnotic female voice beckons Nicholas to unlatch the book's lock. After doing so, he is greeted by the disembodied head of Sinéad O'Connor.
The spectral entity with no backstory persuades Nicholas to take over the magic show, via putting an immobility spell on Fettuccini. She then throws Nick under the bus by making him look incompetent in front of an audience of his peers. When Nicholas is laughed at, the head coerces him to cast a spell on the attendees, who immediately look like they're strung out on meth, and start beating each other up! The spirit of the book does this with no motivation whatsoever. She just takes pleasure in being a jerk, and I can respect that.
But the feelings of ill will aren't relegated to the saps bored enough to watch Nick's magic show: The book spirit won't stop until everyone in the world is miserable! Nicholas isn't down with this plan, wanting to exact his revenge only on the town which left him friendless. But as most males can attest, women can be pretty persuasive. Things eventually get so bad on planet earth that Care-a-Lot, home of The Care Bears, is starting to feel the effects: When the Caring Meter plummets to a worldwide low reflective of Detroit, Care-a-Lot will cease to be.
Prompted arguably more by self preservation than love, the Care Bears join forces with The Care Bears Cousins (a bunch of random animals), as they travel to earth in a quest to stop the madness. (Literally, madness. People are pretty ticked!)
The Care Bears Movie is one of many '80s animated films which were produced to promote a new product line. During one of the presentation's several musical numbers, all the cuddly critters strut their stuff across the screen, and the parade seems to go on forever! I can only imagine how many parents were coerced into patronizing Kay-Bee Toys immediately after leaving the theater.
The main thing I'll always associate with The Care Bears Movie is "Weird Al" Yankovic's song, "You Make Me" from his album Even Worse. I've owned the tape for years, and it ranks with Dare to be Stupid and In 3-D as a personal favorite of mine. Pick up the video below at 1:28 for the name drop!
In spite of some legitimately creepy moments, The Care Bears Movie is mainly cute, cuddly fun, and there's nothing wrong with that. Some people complain that the film is too dark, but what's the point of a story if there's never a problem to address? In 1986, Nelvana would release a sequel, The Care Bears Movie 2: A New Generation. Does that almost sound like a horror flick, or is it just me?
My enjoyment of The Care Bears Movie in no way diminishes my appreciation for features pertaining to mutant slugs, mulleted aliens or Dracula-killing preteens. Contributing Retro Injection writer Luke Worle saw The Care Bears Movie back in '85 at the now-demolished Colonial Theater. I'm only a little jealous.
The theatrical trailer below calls the film "The Care Bears' most thrilling adventure of all time," due to the TV series which was airing. Notice the coloring error on Friend Bear's mouth area, which should be white, as it is a few seconds later. The Care Bears Movie seems to have more coloring issues and smudges than other '80s animated films, which is especially disappointing for a movie clocking in at only an hour and sixteen minutes. It speaks of a rushed production schedule, but I'm sure kids didn't notice back in the day.