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Going down a nostalgia rathole…

October 11, 2020, 10:29 PM

Sometimes you sit down at the computer, and the next thing you know, you’re going down a major rathole on some obscure topic.  For me, this was recently the case when I happened upon some videos about the old Care Bears movies by Nostalgia Critic.  They did four such videos: one on the original Care Bears movie, the second movie, the Wonderland movie, and the Nutcracker special.  Gotta love the Internet.

I watched all of these movies as a child, and enjoyed them quite a bit back then, considering them to have decent replay value.  I watched some of these again more recently, and I kind of regretted it.  The problem was that what my child self found to be quality entertainment, my adult self disagreed with that assessment.  As an adult, I saw these movies for what they really were: feature-length commercials for toys, with relatively low quality standards.  The stories didn’t necessarily make a lot of sense, the animation had mistakes in it, and it gave me an overall sense that the people in charge of this film knew that the public would eat it up regardless of how crappy it was.  Therefore, quality was something of an afterthought.  As such, I kind of wished that I had left these movies as memories instead of rewatching them, only because the new viewing has changed my stance on the films, and I didn’t like my new take on them after rewatching.  I was hoping to have an enjoyable experience with an old favorite, only to be disappointed in what I was presented with.  I resented the change in my views, and it made me nostalgic for the old memories of the films before I added to them, so to speak.  Innocence destroyed.  Some children’s movies are still great films on their own merits, even as an adult (Follow That Bird immediately comes to mind), but these, unfortunately, are not.

In any case, watching Nostalgia Critic try to reconcile the events that occurred in the first movie and the second movie got me thinking a bit.  For those not familiar, both movies contain origin stories, and the two origin stories conflict with each other in a very fundamental way.

In the first movie, the Care Bears are already established prior to the events depicted in the film.  The main villain of the film, a spirit whose physical manifestation was mainly as a head in a book, working through a child named Nicholas who was ultimately just seeking acceptance, is trying to stop everyone from caring because the spirit brainwashed him into thinking that’s how to find acceptance, and that really messes up Care-a-Lot in the process.  A group of bears, along with two other children, are subject to a failed teleportation to Earth via their “Rainbow Rescue Beam” and end up in what they later discover to be the Forest of Feelings, while another group of bears takes a cloud boat from Care-a-Lot to somewhere, and they also end up in the Forest of Feelings on the way to wherever they were supposed to be going.  Both groups meet various animals along the way with colorful fur, names in the form of “[Characteristic] Heart [Type of Animal]”, and no symbols on their bellies.  The two groups, along with their new friends who will eventually be known as the Care Bear Cousins, eventually meet up again along the way while battling a bird that is a manifestation of the spirit with the Care Bear Stare (just go with it).  They eventually all make it to Earth, and take on the spirit and Nicholas.  Ultimately, they convince Nicholas that the spirit is no good for him, and close and lock the book, which puts the spirit away for good.  Then, with the main conflict resolved, they go back to Care-a-Lot and induct the Care Bear Cousins into the Care Bear family, giving them symbols on their bellies.  And with that last bit of business settled, the new status quo is set, and a new toy line is introduced and waiting to be sold.

Then in the second movie, it starts out with the Care Bears and the Care Bear Cousins together, as babies, on some rickety ship in the middle of the ocean with rough seas, under the care of True Heart Bear, and Noble Heart Horse.  They are about to get attacked by a sea serpent (who we will eventually find out is a form of the main villain), and then, after slowing down the serpent enough to get away, they all get lifted into the sky and are given their Care Bear and Care Bear Cousin symbols by The Great Wishing Star.  Then all of the cubs grow up, and settle in their respective places, with the Care Bears settling in Care-a-Lot, while the Care Bear Cousins settle in the Forest of Feelings.  They’re also now battling Dark Heart, who is a kid with red eyes that can transform into different animals, a cloud, and also attack with lightning and such.  Dark Heart gets a kid named Christy, who has her own self-esteem issues, to do his bidding, as she is easily manipulated because of her desire to raise her own standing amongst her peers.  Ultimately, in the climactic scene, Dark Heart accidentally hits Christy with a lightning bolt intended for the Care Bears, striking her down.  Dark Heart realizes what he’s done, and while everyone chants, “We care!” in an effort to bring her back, and she only wakes up after Dark Heart admits that he cares, too (that scene has always hit me right in the feels).  Then, with the load-bearing boss defeated, Dark Heart’s lair begins to collapse, and they all have to make a quick escape.  Then Christy realizes that Dark Heart’s eyes look normal, and Dark Heart realizes that he is now a regular boy.  And everyone lives happily ever after, as the kids enjoy camp, and the Care Bears go back to Care-A-Lot to await their next caring mission.  And then at the very end, we get to hear the best song in the whole movie.

Considering that the first movie is called The Care Bears Movie and the second movie is called Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation, it makes sense to try to reconcile them with each other.  The second movie is titled like it’s a sequel, and thus is at least somewhat dependent on the first movie, but it’s not.  The title is actually a bit of a misnomer, since it’s not even a new generation of Care Bears, as Nostalgia Critic was quick to point out.  Rather, it’s the same bears and other critters that we knew from the previous installation, but now they’re babies again.

The way I see it is that the best way to reconcile the two movies is to view them as existing in two separate fictional universes.  In other words, don’t try to reconcile them.  You’re just going to give yourself a headache for your trouble.  It makes a lot more sense when you view them in context with the television programs that were made during that time.  The first two episodes are the two television specials produced by Atkinson Film-Arts: The Care Bears in the Land Without Feelings, and then The Care Bears Battle the Freeze Machine.  These two specials, while very different from each other in their method of storytelling, established the Care Bears, Care-a-Lot, and the various things that go along with the Care Bears, like cloud cars, the “Care Bear stare”, and so on.  The first movie builds on the status quo that was established by the television specials, i.e. Care Bears in Care-a-Lot, by themselves, going on caring missions.  Then the movie adds the new toy line, I mean, their friends the Care Bear Cousins, to the mix.  Then after the movie came the DIC version of the Care Bears TV series.  That series follows the status quo set by the first movie, and every episode is self-contained, i.e. no stories span more than a single episode, and there are no changes to the status quo.  Then once that 11-episode series was done, the run is over, and the fictional universe has ended.

After the DIC series ended, Nelvana took over the production, and everything got overhauled.  The second movie was the reboot of the franchise, providing a new origin story for the characters, and starting a new fictional universe.  Under the new origin story, all of the characters had known each other since they were babies, Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins alike, rather than the two camps’ meeting each other as adults while on a mission and joining forces.  Thus it previously made sense why the Bears were in Care-a-Lot and the Cousins were in the Forest of Feelings, because they had separate origins and then discovered each other when one camp ran through the other’s territory.  The new movie just placed them in their usual lands with no explanation as to why they set up in separate places.  Who knows.  Whatever keeps the toys flying off the shelves, I suppose.  Then the next Care Bears series, i.e. the one with the snappy “Care Bears Countdown” song, came back with the status quo established in the second movie, and a new set of villains, i.e. No Heart, and his assistants Beastly and Shrieky.

So I suppose that if you’re going to reconcile the “A New Generation” title with the earlier continuity, it’s because they threw everything out and started over from scratch, with a new origin story and a new continuity.  Thus the title is more meta than one might think, referring to the franchise itself, i.e. a new generation of stories, rather than a new generation of characters, since it’s the same bears and the same cousins as before.  Though it probably would have been better if the movie hadn’t gotten a sequel title, and had instead gotten a title that could stand on its own, since the movie was clearly designed to stand on its own and not be dependent on the previous film in any way.

Now, as far as any subsequent relaunches of the franchise in the nineties and beyond go, I couldn’t tell you a thing about them, because I’ve never seen a minute of any of them.  No doubt that these are also program-length commercials for toys, but I can’t speak on them.  All I can say is that I hope that the production values are higher than they were for the stuff that we watched.

Categories: Movies, YouTube