Interview – Captain Planet, Producer, Barbara Pyle

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“A lot of the stories were true and were based on our travels worldwide as documentary filmmakers”


It was the television show that not only entertained but educated, it captivated our imaginations and asked to look at how we lived our lives, it was one of the most highly watched television shows back in its day and it has become the stuff of legends – we are in fact talking about the kids cartoon series, Captain Planet.
Based on an idea proposed by Ted Turner and Robert Larkin III, Barbara Pyle and a team were charged with bringing life to the environmentalist super hero! With a show that spanned six seasons, a hundred and thirteen episodes over six years, it highlighted growing concerns over the impact humanity was having on the world around us!

The television first aired in 1990 and featured the talents of LeVar Burton (Jordie La Forge, TNG), Whoopi Goldberg, Elizabeth Taylor, Neil Patrick-Harris, Danny Glover, Jeff Goldblum, Meg Ryan and Sting to name just a few! The television series was also very topical dealing with not only the dangers of pollution but the topic of HIV awareness, war, animal cruelty and even the troubles taking place in Northern Ireland.

We chat with Barbara about her time on the show, just where the idea came from and how far she got in the Captain Planet Video Game!


Its twenty years since the world met Captain Planet, did you ever think that it was going to be as popular as it is? 

 Jeez, we really hoped so!  We had big plans for the series, but we never could have dreamed that the message of teamwork and solving the world’s problems would stick and spawn a Planeteer Movement.

What was like being a part of the show?

Crazy – We worked 24/7 for 7 years.

Where did the idea for the Captain and Planeteers come from?

I had been hired by Ted Turner because I was familiar with the Global 2000 Report that said that we had decades to turn our behaviour around and save the world’s critical ecosystems.  I was Corporate VP of Environmental Policy at Turner in 1988, and walked into Ted’s office and he said “Captain Planet.”  I said, “What’s that, Ted?” and he said “Figure it out!”  And so me, Nick Boxer, Thom Beers, and some others sat down and worked it out from there.


Creator Ted Turner with Barbara

Over the course of the show a lot of big names were attached to it, was that always the plan?

When the idea started circulating, celebrities really wanted to be on board – in fact, almost all of them were paid scale – the minimum fee allowed by the SAG – for their time and talent just to be associated with the show!

Captain Planet also made his way into the world of video games and being honest they were some of the most challenging games we ever played growing up! Have you played the games yourself?

My editor showed me one online today after you asked this question.  He couldn’t beat the first level!  But before you asked, I wouldn’t have known.  We were all too busy with the show at the time!

A lot of cartoons these days don’t seem to have the same ability as Captain Planet had, what was the secret that you guys had at not only entertaining but teaching a generation about the environment?

A lot of the stories were true and were based on our travels worldwide as documentary filmmakers. Some of the shots are directly borrowed from films I had produced in the 80s. Though we worked really hard to make sure the stories were never pedantic, always blending the information to the storyline.

The show ran for six very successful seasons, has there ever been talk of bringing it back? Especially now with the global community being made more aware of environmental issues.

Yes, lots of talk – but no action!  Maybe the Planeteers will be able to inspire a return with the emerging Planeteer Movement at www.CaptainPlanet.me

 

The first series of Captain Planet is about to be released onto to DVD, will it available everywhere or is this currently a US only release? Will the other seasons be brought to DVD as well?

Right now it’s just in US and Canada.  Shout! Factory says it may be available in other territories shortly, but nothing official as of yet.  Stay tuned to www.CaptainPlanet.me and Captain Planet’s Facebook Page for the latest Planeteer news!

Finally if you were trapped in an Arcade for eternity, what one game would you play to pass the time?

When I produced Captain Planet, I always stayed in the Santa Monica Lowe’s Hotel next door to the Playland Arcade (on the Santa Monica Pier).  I hang out there every time I go, and love to photograph this arcade.  It’s fabulously surreal!  I’ve put a coin in the fortune teller outside, but never actually played a game!  So I guess you could say the fortune teller machine is the answer – and the teller says “The Power Is Yours!”

 

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