Captain Planet and the Planeteers has probably been the most-hyped new children's show of the fall season. That's because Captain Planet has both a conscience and big-name guest stars. Celebrities including Whoopi Goldberg, Ed Asner, Martin Sheen, Meg Ryan, and LeVar Burton supply the voices for this half-hour cartoon series. They were attracted to the show because of its theme: to suggest possible solutions to the world's environmental problems.
The Planeteers are five ordinary young people from around the globe. Each is given a magic ring by the goddess Gaia (named after the Greek deity for Earth, Goldberg does her voice). The rings shoot beams of light, and when the children combine those magic beams, presto! Captain Planet, a muscular superhero in a hip green haircut, suddenly appears to help the kids solve some ecological crisis.
In the debut episode, for example, a meanie named Hoggish Greedly (voice supplied by Asner) sprayed oil all over a northern area of the world we saw oily walruses, pelicans, and sea gulls trying to escape. The children summoned Captain Planet, who washed the animals and land clean and dumped Greedly into a nearby trash can.
Like most popular art conceived as propaganda, Captain Planet is dull and didactic. The dialogue is preachy: ''You must have faith in yourselves,'' says Gaia to the Planeteers. ''You're fighting for the good of the whole world.'' When you add thin characterizations and stiff animation, you get one boring bit of noble programming.
It's nice that cable's TBS wants to instill ecological thoughts in children, but kids will be switching channels quickly if the entertainment value of Captain Planet doesn't improve. C-