Hey, hey, hey! Welcome to Millennial Misremembers, the column where I (re)watch media from my childhood. But first, I see what I can remember about it — which isn’t usually much. (I’m getting older, y’all.) This go-round, I’ll be misremembering and then rewatching the OG Care Bears. Will this 80s cartoon live up to my memories?
The Care Bears pilot aired on September 13, 1986, with “Care-a-Lot’s Birthday.” The cartoon ran for three seasons on ABC in the US and Global in Canada. Apparently, it’s based on a greeting card series?
What I misremember
Back in the days of Blockbuster, my mom and I used to amble around the store on a Friday night, looking for something I wanted to watch. More often than not, I’d pick either the “Care-y Bears” or Rainbow Brite, probably much to my mother’s dismay. We were in the Blockbuster so much that the sales associates all knew us.
As for the show itself, I remember bright, flashing lights and high-pitched voices. The Care Bears had to fight against some evil force, and maybe there were gems involved? Look, clearly, I don’t remember the show all that much. But, my memories of walking through that Baton Rouge Blockbuster, with its air conditioning fighting against the humid Southern heat, are oh-so-vivid.
I can see the smiling sales associate, my mom trying not to look annoyed with me for taking so long only to pick the same video for the umpteenth time. That’s the nostalgia factor I have for The Care Bears.
The episode opens with the theme song:
So, the first thing I notice is that not all the Care Bears are bears. It appears one is a lion and another an elephant. Maybe Care Animals just didn’t have the same ring to it. Also, one of the bears is wearing a diaper.
Haha. OK, I get why my little queer baby self liked this show. The Care “Bears” live here:
Noble Heart (Eric Peterson), a fauxhawk-sporting horse, and True Heart (Carolyn Scott) are heading off for a caring mission — whatever that is. Can the lion — Brave Heart (Dan Hennessey) and Tenderheart (Jim Henshaw ) manage without them? They’ve got to set up Care-a-Lot’s birthday party, which is The Most Important Care Bear Event Ever — they can’t muck it up! How hard could it be?
Famous last words. Care-a-Lot’s birthday is something out of My Super Sweet 16. And Tender and Brave are out of their depth. Why did Noble and True ever trust them with this responsibility? Because Brave assured them he and Tender were capable.
Oh, now I understand why some of the Care Bears are in diapers. Baby Tugs (Melleny Melody) and Baby Hugs (Terri Hawkes) come in to ask why they’re celebrating the birth of Care-a-Lot since it’s a place, not a person. It’s to commemorate when Noble and True set up the site for the Care Bear Family.
The bear cubs decide they want to put on a show for the whole family in honor of the day. While they’re discussing this, Mr. Beastly, a demon-like creature (John Stocker), spies on them and scheming, goes to tell No Heart (Chris Wiggins), so they can ruin the party.
No Heart cares — or doesn’t — I can’t tell, and neither can his minion. One thing’s for sure; No Heart hates feelings and the Care Bears. He’s created a gemstone to destroy them and dispatches Mr. Beastly to collect a test subject.
Beastly ascends to the cloudy land of Care-a-Lot once more. For some reason, he’s pretty preoccupied with the color of Care Bear he’s going to bearnap. He gets noticed quite quickly when he crashes into all the carnival games.
Mr. Beastly doesn’t manage to bearnap anybody, but he destroys the entire party setup until Brave loses his temper and sends the cubs off on their own. My dude.
No Heart is happy that one of the bears Mr. Beastly brought back is pink — all right. But, he’s not gonna do anything with these cubs, as they’re bait. He wants to lure the others to him. His gemstone has the power to destroy them all.
Meanwhile, the cubs are plotting … a show for Care-a-Lot’s birthday. Mr. Beastly tells him that’s precisely why he’s brought them to the dungeon: to help them create their routine.
Up in Care-a-Lot, Mr. Beastly does some skywriting. Unfortunately, he writes: No Heart has the cups. It takes the Care Family a disturbingly long time to suss out the meaning.
Tender and Brave immediately want to descend upon No Heart, but the others warn that it may be a trap. They need a plan. Ultimately, they decide to sneak into the backdoor and grab the kiddos. Yes, I’m sure those little rainbow cloud cars won’t be conspicuous at all…
When they arrive at No Heart’s evil castle, they realize they don’t know its layout. When they finally get to the dungeon, Mr. Beastly begs the Care Adults to take the cubs back before No Heart realizes they’re gone. He was not enjoying playing babysitter.
Unfortunately, No Heart chooses that moment to come down to the dungeon. The Care Bears do what they call a “Care Bear Count Down.” Then, love and care shoot out of their chests to attack No Heart. Kill ’em with kindness.
Except it doesn’t work because his gemstone repels the Care Bear Stare. Then, No Heart turns into a rhino (WHAT!). Just as he’s about to charge, Brave and some backup burst through the door behind him.
Rhino Heart starts chasing the Care Bears, and it’s pretty confusing and convoluted, but in the end, the Cares almost end up escaping until they’re cornered at the exit. The cubs save the day with their tumbling act — one of them jumps onto No Heart and steals his gem. The other throws it into the abyss.
Now, of course, the Care Bear Stare works. It turns No Heart into a bat, which momentarily stops him.
The Care Bears make it back to Care-a-Lot in time to set everything back up before Noble and True return. They are impressed by the party, especially the cubs’ production.
Does it live up to the nostalgia?
Absolutely. 1980s children’s programming > 1990s children’s programming. Granted, helicopter parenting took off in the 1980s; however, it didn’t make its mark on television immediately. The Care Bears isn’t mean or overly violent, but it also doesn’t feel made for babies, though through some context clues, it’s made for children pre-reading age. Watching something that doesn’t treat kids like they’re not people is refreshing.
I also just loved how weird it is. Why did No Heart turn into a rhinoceros? No clue! But I loved it. That was super fun to dive back into. All right, friends. Until next time, let’s all do the Care Bear Stare!