Created by Ted Turner, owner of one of the first cable "superstations," Turner Broadcasting System (TBS), and Barbara Pyle, TBS' Vice President of Environmental Policy, Captain Planet and the Planeteers was a cartoon series that ran for 113 episodes between 1990 and 1996 that was designed to teach children about the need to protect the environment. The show was centered around a superhero, Captain Planet, and the multi-national team of young heroes who aided him, known as the Planeteers, each from a different continent.
The Planeeters were each selected by Gaia, the spirit of the Earth itself, who then gave each one of the Planeteers a specific magic power ring. Wheeler, from the United States, had the fire ring. Linka, from the Soviet Union, had the wind ring. Gi, from Japan, had the water ring. Kwame, from Ghana, had the earth ring. Finally, Ma-Ti, from Brazil, had the heart ring. The Planeteers could each individually use their power rings to fight the many Eco-Villains that they faced on the show, but when things would get too difficult for them to deal with on their own, they would pool together the energies of their rings to summon a super-powered being known as Captain Planet who had the combined powers of the five rings. Since the series lasted six seasons, there were plenty of stories over the years that involved their famous power rings. Here, we will take a look at 25 things that you might not know about the five power rings worn by the Planeteers.
25 THE GREAT CAPTAIN PLANET CATCH 22
The Captain Planet cartoon series carries with it one of the biggest "catch 22" situations in animation history. The Planeteers' rings, as well as Captain Planet, do not work well when they are in direct contact with pollution.
However, their entire purpose is to... fight pollution. So how does it make any sense that the very thing they were made to fight weakens them? It would be like if Superman's only weakness was bald villains. Obviously, the show plays with this limitation fast and loose as they often do use their powers on pollution.
24 A WAY WITH WORDS
The way that the power rings work is that you lift up your ring and then shout out the name of your ring and it will then activate the power. The problem with that, of course, is that the rings all have very common names, so the odds are high that you might accidentally say the name of your ring.
We saw this exact issue pop up in the pilot episode where Wheeler noted that Gaia would be of no help in "a firefight." Upon saying "fire," his ring launched a flame that set their cruiser on fire.
23 LOVE LIFTS US UP WHERE WE BELONG
One of the strangest limitations that the Planeteers power rings have is that you must lift your power ring up in the air and say the name of it in order to activate the power on the ring. In other words, if you say "fire" while your arms are by your side, the ring will not activate.
This, of course, makes it pretty darn easy to take care of the Planeteers. You just have to make sure that their arms are by their side and you're safe.
22 TALK TO THE HAND... LITERALLY
There is at least some sort of logic to the rings only working when they are lifted up, as you could argue that it is a safety measure so that the rings don't accidentally blast the floor below them. It is weird that they would have that feature while not having protection against accidentally activating when you say the word "fire," but whatever.
However, we don't see any logic to the restriction that the rings can only work on the hand that they were originally placed on. When Wheeler burned his ring hand, he had to remove it entirely.
21 NOT EXACTLY FORT KNOX HERE
As noted, the safety features of the rings appear to be all over the place. They don't work when your hand is not raised; however, there is nothing preventing the rings from just, well, falling off of your finger!
This was a problem on a mission to a factory in the frozen tundra where Gi just lost her ring off of her fingers and it got frozen in the ice! Linka also once lost her ring down a sewer grate. These magic rings should have better protection than that!
20 THE LITTLEST PLANETEER
Another bizarre aspect of the rings is that we have established that the Planeteers cannot simply move their ring from one hand to the other. However, in "The Littlest Planeteer," after Wheeler had to take off his ring for that reason, a young boy who Wheeler had been giving a ride home took the ring and used it himself!
So the ring can't transfer from one hand to another, but some random little kid can just operate it out of nowhere? That doesn't make any sense!
19 PLANETEERS...OF THE FUTURE!
Speaking of other people using the power rings, there have not been a lot of examples of the rings being used by anyone but the Planeteers. However, a notable exception was in the time travel episode, "Future Shock," where the descendants of the Eco-Villains travel back in time to stop their pollution-free timeline from becoming a reality.
Captain Planet and the Planeteers from the future travel back in time to stop them and we see that the future Planeteers are descendants of the current Planeteers, including two Planeteers who sure seem to be the future children of Linka and Wheeler.
18 SADDER PLANETEERS...OF THE FUTURE!
For some reason, if any of the original Planeteers had not accepted their power rings from Gaia, rather than going to the next person on the list, like any normal person/supernatural being would do, Gaia would not name a replacement. Thus, when Wheeler had the chance to change the past and turn down his fire ring, it changed the world so that the Planeteers never got to save the world.
He went into the new future and convinced the now 50-year-old Planeteers to help him change time back to the way it was before.
17 REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONE
Obviously, the one ring that everyone makes fun of the most is Ma-Ti's heart ring. Seemingly because of this, the show often went out of its way to come up with new ways to make the heart ring useful. One of the most notables ones was that Ma-Ti's ring allowed the Planeteers to communicate with each other.
Not only that, but only Ma-Ti could actually contact Gaia directly, although she occasionally contacted the other Planeteers herself when she had to. Ma-Ti, though, was the only one who could contact her otherwise.
16 LINKING EVERYONE TOGETHER
In addition, when you think about it, Ma-Ti's heart ring is seriously underrated because it outright gives him telepathic powers! That is how he is able to communicate with the other Planeteers, but it also allows him to read other people's minds.
Not only that, but it protects Ma-Ti from mind control and, if you have ever watched a cartoon of any kind, you will know that cartoon characters are subject to mind control a lot. Almost as much as superheroes! So having immunity to brainwashing and hypnosis is a huge advantage for Ma-Ti.
15 RING OF FIRE
One of the most effective rings, offensively, is Wheeler's fire ring. The interesting aspect of the ring is how it works. It creates flames, but that is it.
That is to say that it cannot actually control flames that already exist. He can only generate his own flames. So if they were to come across a giant fire, he would be powerless to stop it. It is an interesting restriction that has a parallel with a restriction on another ring, as well.
14 CAN'T MAKE WATER
Gi's water ring is the exact opposite of Wheeler's fire ring. She can manipulate water and make it do whatever she wants, but she cannot actually create water. She has to access the water around her for her power ring to work.
Unlike Wheeler's fire restriction, though, this limitation does not tend to impede her all that often, as there tends to be some water present nearly everywhere you go, as she can access water that is even buried deep beneath the ground.
13 TALK TO THE ANIMALS
One of the side effects of his telepathic powers is that Ma-Ti can use his heart ring to communicate with animals. Not only that, but perhaps as part of his general loving nature, animals do not only communicate with him, but they also tend to be quite willing to do whatever he asks them to do.
This is mostly shown with Ma-Ti's pet monkey, Suchi, who actually delivered the ring to Ma-Ti in the pilot. Ma-Ti can also use this ability to calm animals down when they begin to freak out.
12 WINDS OF CHANGE
For whatever reason, Linka's wind ring does not have the restrictions that either Wheeler or Gi's rings have. She can both create wind and also manipulate it with her ring.
This makes her one of the team's main powerhouses, as the flexibility of her powers can always seem to come in handy for whatever their given mission is. There is always a chance that they might be somewhere where there is no water for Gi to use, but her ring makes it so that there will always be wind for Linka to use.
11 PUTTING IT TOGETHER
As we all know, when the rings are combined together, they transfer their powers to summon Captain Planet. However, even when they do not use their powers to summon Captain Planet, they can still combine their powers.
In at least one episode, Linka and Wheeler combined their wind and fire rings to somehow create a laser that they used to seal up a leaking oil tanker. How wind and fire combine to form a laser is beyond us, but hey, it looks cool!
10 FIXING THE PROBLEM
Another area where Ma-Ti is surprisingly helpful is that it somehow has a deus ex machina-like ability to heal stuff. This goes both for people, where it somehow can summon antibodies to help cure people, but also to the rings themselves.
Whenever a power ring becomes inoperable, the heart ring is able to somehow fix them and get them working again. The heart ring isn't the flashiest of the rings, but it certainly has the most day to day uses, no matter how many times it gets made fun of on the show!
9 THE SKY IS THE LIMIT... LITERALLY
Kwame's Earth ring has one of the more interesting limitations among the rings. Like the other Planeteers, he cannot use his ring on polluted earth.
However, in his case, he is also specifically limited to objects that are on the ground. That obviously doesn't limit him too much since his earthquake powers and pillars of Earth make him a formidable opponent, but if you were to break the base off of one of those earth pillars, Kwame could no longer affect it. He can only manipulate objects that are touching the ground.
8 BLACK HEARTS ARE BAD FOR THE HEART RING
Ma-Ti's ring allows him to not only communicate with animals, but also to calm them down when they get overly excited. His ring, though, is limited in how much he can calm a given animal down. If they are really out of control, he is out of luck.
Not only that, but his ring's properties are not only unable to be used on any of the team's enemies, the Eco-Villains, the evil hearts of the Eco-Villains actually block him from using his ring period! This is another weird "catch 22," as their main enemies block the use of his ring.
7 RUNNING AGAINST THE WIND
The series seemed to be intent on making sure that no character gets too powerful, so they added some rather odd limitations to some of the power rings. As we noted earlier, Linka's wind ring does not have the restrictions that the fire ring and the water ring have, as she can both create and manipulate wind.
As a way to level thing out, however, the wind that she creates can be dissipated fairly easily, which takes away a good deal of her advantages.
6 COLD AS ICE
Perhaps the most unusual limitation of the rings is Gi's water ring. This limitation is so odd that even the other Planteers don't understand it. You see, while Gi can manipulate all the water around her, she is stuck if the water is frozen into ice.
When she told her teammates about this one episode, they were confused, "But it's just frozen water!" However, she needs Wheeler to melt it with his fire before she can manipulate the water. Luckily, that is easy enough for him to do, of course.
5 BLOWING IN THE WIND
When they summon Captain Planet, the Planteers send their powers into him, so his energy blasts come from the fire ring and his water control powers come from the water ring. His ability to fly comes from the wind ring, which is more than a little bit weird.
It is odd because despite him flying with ease and her seeming ability to lift lots of other people, animals and objects with her wind, Linka is limited in actually lifting herself. For whatever reason, it actively tires her out.
4 THE TROUBLE WITH THE DARK SIDE
A downside, if you even wish to call it that, of being such a sweet kid is that Ma-Ti's heart ring specifically works off of Ma-Ti's awesome personality. Therefore, when he uses the heart ring, it has to be for good reasons.
In this context, "good reasons" mean defensively. He can tell a group of squirrels to help chew through ropes that were keeping him bound, but he would be unable to force them to attack his captors. He cannot make animals act aggressively. It's probably some sort of anti "Dark Side" aspect of his powers. Of course, he can get them to act defensively, as we have seen in the comics.
3 LIKE UNTO A FIST OF IRON
As you might have noticed, the Planteers' power rings all have their fair share of limitations. That is why it was easy for the manipulative Zarm to convince the Planeteers to swap their rings for special gauntlets that he designed called "iron fists." They could replicate the abilities of the power rings, just seemingly without their restrictions.
Of course, it turned out that it poisoned the minds of all of the Planteers and even served to turn Gaia mortal. Luckily, Ma-Ti was smart enough not to fall for Zarm's sales pitch, so he helped bring the others back to normal.
2 THE TROUBLE WITH RINGS
Just like how the Green Lantern Corps begot the Sinestro Corps, so, too, did the Planeteer rings lead to Doctor Blight to create the Rings of Destruction, which she gave to the other main Eco-Villains to wield (Duke Nukem, Verminous Skumm, Sly Sludge, Looten Plunder and, of course, Blight herself ).
The rings were labeled Toxics, Super Radiation, Deforestation, Smog and, of course, Hate. Besides being able to battle against the Planeteer power rings, the rings of destruction also summoned Captain Pollution, Captain Planet's evil counterpart!
1 YOU'LL NEVER FORGET THIS ELEPHANT
Few Captain Planet stories were ever as strange as what happened in the episode "Old Ma River." The Planteers traveled to India, but everyone but Wheeler got violently ill. Wheeler teamed up with Ma-Ti's monkey, Suchi, and a local Indian girl named Lita to find out what was the problem.
In the end, they were trapped, so Wheeler summoned Captain Planet with the other power rings. After the day was saved, though, he learned that the others had not heard his cries for help. No, the other four power rings were somehow provided by a Hindu Elephant Statue.