| Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
At an amusement park, Tenderheart Bear spots a magician's apprentice named Nicholas. While unloading a trunk of goods for his master, the "Great Fettucini", Nicholas finds an old book with a diary-style lock. When he unlocks it, an evil spirit appears as a woman's face, and starts corrupting him. With his help, it lays waste to the park, and begins a quest to remove all caring from the world.
Back at Care-a-Lot, some of the other bears are working on their new invention: the Rainbow Rescue Beam, a portal that can send any bear to Earth and back. The two Care Bear cubs belonging to Grams Bear, Baby Hugs and Baby Tugs, interfere with it and bring forth a group of unexpected visitors: Friend Bear, Secret Bear, Kim, and Jason.
The bears introduce themselves to the children, and give them a tour of their home. Tenderheart Bear returns on his now out of control Rainbow Roller just before a "Cloud Quake" caused by the spirit, which ruins Care-a-Lot. He informs the others of Nicholas' troubles on Earth.
Using the Rainbow Rescue Beam, he sends Kim and Jason to the park, along with Friend Bear and Secret Bear. They end up in the Forest of Feelings when the portal malfunctions. From a nearby river, the rest of the bears begin searching for them aboard a cloud ship called the Cloud Clipper.
Within the Forest, the children and their friends are introduced to Brave Heart Lion and Playful Heart Monkey, two of the Care Bear Cousins. Later on, the other bears discover more of these creatures, among them Cozy Heart Penguin, Lotsa Heart Elephant, Swift Heart Rabbit, and Bright Heart Raccoon.
During their stay, the spirit attacks them in several disguises: a spearfish, tree, and eagle. After the Care Bears and their Cousins defeat it, they venture back to Earth to save Nicholas from its influence.
At the park, Nicholas obtains the ingredients for his spell against the children and the creatures. After he casts it, the Care Bears and company engage in a long battle. The bears shoot beams of bright light on him, forming their "Stare"; the Cousins help with their "Call". As the creatures' power drains away, Nicholas and the spirit briefly regain control.
After Kim and Jason assist him, he finally realizes his misdeeds. With Secret Bear's help, he closes the spirit's face back into the book and saves himself, the park, and the world. He thanks the group and reunites with Fettucini while Tenderheart Bear inducts the Care Bear Cousins into the Care Bear Family and Kim & Jason find new parents who take them to one of Nicholas' shows.
As Mr. Cherrywood finishes his story, it is revealed that he is actually Nicholas, and that his wife is Kim. Tenderheart Bear, who has been listening from outside a window, returns to Care-a-Lot in his Cloudmobile. The film ends with every member of the Care Bear Family waving good-bye.
- Mickey Rooney as Mr. Nicholas Cherrywood
- Jackie Burroughs as The Spirit
- Georgia Engel as Love-a-Lot Bear
- Sunny Besen Thrasher as Jason
- Eva Almos as Friend Bear/Swift Heart Rabbit
- Patricia Black as Share Bear/Funshine Bear
- Melleny Brown as Cheer Bear/Baby Tugs Bear
- Bob Dermer as Grumpy Bear
- Jayne Eastwood as Birthday Bear
- Anni Evans as Secret Bear/Champ Bear
- Cree Summer as Kim
- Brian George as Mr. Fetuccini
- Jane-Laine Green as Wish Bear
- Luba Goy as Lotsa Heart Elephant/Gentle Heart Lamb
- Terri Hawkes as Baby Hugs Bear
- Dan Hennessey as Brave Heart Lion
- Jim Henshaw as Bright Heart Raccoon
- Hadley Kay Nicholas: Mr. Cherrywood (as a teenager)
- Marla Lukofsky as Good Luck Bear/Playful Heart Monkey
- Pauline Rennie as Grams Bear/Cozy Heart Penguin
- Billie Mae Richards as Tenderheart Bear/Mrs. Cherrywood
- Brent Titcomb as Additional Voices
- Harry Dean Stanton as the singing voice for Brave Heart Lion
"The Care Bears Movie" was one of the first films to be based directly on an established toy line.
It featured the ten of the original Care Bears (along with six additions to the lineup) and also marked the media debut of the Care Bear Cousins.
Produced for at least US$2 million the film was financed by American Greetings, the owners of the Care Bears franchise; General Mills, the toys' distributor; and television syndicator LBS Communications. The Kenner company also took part in the production.
Brought in under budget, The Care Bears Movie became Nelvana's second feature-length production and was made over an eight-month period that lasted until February of 1985.
Nelvana was responsible for the script and several special effects (including those for the "Care Bear Stare") and hired musicians and voice actors.
With this project, Arna Selznick became the third of only four women ever to direct an animated feature; prior to this, she worked on several Nelvana productions (including "Strawberry Shortcake and the Baby Without a Name").
The founders of Nelvana: Michael Hirsh, Patrick Loubert, and Clive A. Smith participated as the main producers.
The studio's roster included Charles Bonifacio, the director of animation and supervising animator David Brewster (who previously took part in the animation courses at Ontario's Sheridan College.
Dale Schott, who served as a storyboard artist, remarked that "Nelvana had a lot to do with reviving the low-budget feature" with its efforts on the film.
Four employees of the film's financiers served as executive producers: Louis Gioia Jr., president of Kenner's Marketing Services division; Jack Chojnacki, co-president of TCFC; Carole MacGillvray, who became president of General Mills' M.A.D. (Marketing and Design) division in February of 1984 and Robert Unkel, LBS' senior vice-president of programming A fifth producer, American Greetings staffer W. Ray Peterson, went uncredited.
Three associate producers worked on the film: Paul Pressler, another employee at Kenner; John Bohach, who later became LBS' executive vice-president and Harvey Levin. Lenora Hume, the director of photography on "Rock & Rule" was the supervising producer.
The movie was Nelvana's first foray into animation outsourcing. The production took place at Nelvana's facilities, Taiwan's Wang Film Productions (Cuckoo's Nest Studio) and the newly established Hanho Heung-Up and Mihahn studios in South Korea.
Delaney and Friends (a Vancouver-based outlet), did uncredited work.
Nelvana faced several problems with their Korean contractors among them the language barrier between the Canadian crew and the overseas staff and the unwieldy processes through which the film reels were shipped to the West.
At one point, Loubert, Smith and fellow staffer David Altman spent three days trying to persuade several unpaid animators to return important layout sketches. In exchange for the layouts, Nelvana gave them US$20,000 in Korean won.
By then, the production was falling behind schedule, and an opening date was already set. Loubert sent half of the work to Taiwan (where Lenora Hume supervised) while the remainder stayed in Korea under Loubert's and Smith's watch.
Back in the Americas, Hirsh tried to promote the unfinished feature before its deadline; unable to get available footage, he instead managed to show potential marketers some Leica reels and a few moments of completed colour animation.
According to him, it was the first time an animated "work in progress" was screened to exhibitors; this ploy has since been used by the Disney company, particularly in the case of the movie "Beauty and the Beast" at the 1991 New York Film Festival.
According to Hirsch about the experiment, "People loved the movie anyway. I was told it was considered great salesmanship. It made [them] feel that they were part of the process because they were seeing unfinished work".
In 1984 (before the film was completed), Carole MacGillvray offered "The Care Bears Movie" for consideration to major studios in the United States. Since they didn't see the financial potential in a picture that was aimed strictly at children, they declined the offer.
MacGillvray told Adweek magazine in April of 1985, "I made several trips, and I was really disappointed. They kept telling me things like 'Animated movies won't sell' and 'Maybe we'd consider it if you were Disney,' but most just said, 'You're very nice, good-bye."
When few takers were left, she took it to the Samuel Goldwyn Company. A newcomer in the independent market, it agreed to release the film.
Comparing the title characters' appeal to Hollywood stars like Barbra Streisand & Robert Redford, founder Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. remarked, "Having my [two] children, I know these bears are stars, too".
According to the 1985 edition of "Guinness Film Facts and Feats", the Samuel Goldwyn Company spent up to US$24 million on the publicity budget for "The Care Bears Movie" the largest at that time.
The film's advertising budget was US$4 million; Variety reported that "the beneficiaries of [its] merchandising tie-ins have earmarked [the remaining] $20,000,000 to promo Care Bear products in step with the film's release".
For the film's promotion, Goldwyn's staff partnered with Kenner Toys and fast food chain Pizza Hut. There were also tie-ins on Trix cereal boxes.
Parker Brothers published two tie-in books: "Meet the Care Bear Cousins" and "Keep On Caring" shortly after the film's release.
The Goldwyn staff came up with two advertising strategies which tested well with the company: one was aimed at the film's target audience of children as young as age five; another targeted grown-ups, parents and older children.
According to Cliff Hauser (thedistributor's executive director of marketing), he said, "We didn't want parents to think the movie was threatening. So the big debate was—although the formula for success in animated film is the triumph of good over evil—how can you do that in single-image ads?"
Jeff Lipsky (the vice-president of theatrical at Goldwyn) referred to the first one as "the cheery approach".
The ads therein featured the Care Bears on clouds and carried the tagline: "A movie that'll make the whole family care-a-lot".
Hauser said, "That's one that a mother can look at and know she can take the 2-year-old to it and not worry".
The other campaign (which Lipsky called "more Disney-esque") featured an evil tree whose hands reached out to capture the Bears with the tagline: "What happens when the world stops caring?" (which was also seen on the official poster).
Bingham Ray (Goldwyn's vice-president of distribution) was involved in the promotional efforts.
Around the film's opening time, Hirsh predicted that "The Care Bears Movie" would be its decade's response to "Pinocchio" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (both from Walt Disney Productions).
Loubert added, "These characters say something important to children. Our challenge has been to create a very distinct character for each Care Bear. A lot of effort went into bringing out their individuality".
Some time afterward, Hirsh conceded that parents had to come to the film, out of respect for the dark content within. According to him, "Frightening scenes are a necessity for the reality of the hero and villain—just as it works in nursery rhymes. Kids work out their fears this way".
TCFC's Jack Chojnacki offered this vindication in the Wall Street Journal, saying, "We consider a film one of the many products we license. When we started the whole Care Bears project we knew the importance of bears in the market but that there was a void. There were no specific bears. In the movie marketplace there was a void for good family-fare films".
Carole MacGillvray said, "Toy recognition drives this movie".
On March 24, 1985, "The Care Bears Movie" premiered in Washington, D.C. as part of a Special Olympics benefit.
On March 29, 1985, the movie opened in the United States and Canada as Nelvana's first widely released feature. Surprisingly, the movie became successful at the North American box office, playing primarily at matinees and early evening showings.
At the time, the North American film industry was bereft of children's and family fare.
With the movie, Hirsh said, "There's such a large audience for a film that appeals primarily to 6-year-olds" and later stated, "What we've done [at Nelvana] is tailor the film to a pre-literate audience, the very young. It's interesting to see the audience. The kids are fixated on the screen. [It's] awesome to them".
Clive A. Smith observed that some children came to showings with their Care Bears and long lineups held back its audience in several cities.
During it's release, the film made an appearance at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, Texas during its release.
When the movie was shown in theatres, it was immediately followed by Nelvana's television special "Strawberry Shortcake Meets the Berrykins." The feature was directed by Laura Shepherd and produced by Nelvana's founders (along with Lenora Hume).
In Canada, "The Care Bears Movie" was released by Astral Films and Criterion Pictures Corporation.
"The Care Bears Movie" opened at #4 at the box office, grossing $3,725,001 during its opening weekend.
After three months, it grossed about $23 million in the United States. In Canada, it grossed $1,845,000 by the end of 1985. It also became the highest-grossing release from Samuel-Goldwyn Films and saved Nelvana Studios from going out of business.
By 1989, the movie made over $34 million worldwide in the United States
"The Care Bears Movie" received mixed reviews from critics.
On Rotten Tomatoes, it was given a 60% rating based on 5 reviews with an average rating of 5.1\10. The audience score was given a 57% rating with an average rating of 3.1\5.
The New York Times' Richard Grenier wrote, "[The film] recalls vintage Walt Disney, both in substance and in the style of hand animation".
Rick Lyman of "Knight Ridder News Services" said, "Any movie—even an animated one—that has characters with names such as Funshine Bear, Love-a-lot Bear, and Lotsa Heart Elephant is obviously going to rank quite high on the cute meter. And this one sends the needle right off the chart. You've never seen such cuteness."
Adele Freedman also gave it a positive review, saying, "[It] has a lot going for it if you can tolerate the Bears."
Edward Jones of Virginia's The Free Lance-Star praised the movie, but stated that "more comedy would have helped broaden [its] appeal to older youngsters."
The Deseret News of Utah gave it three stars out of four (a "Good" grade) with the comment: "Sticky sweet, but a nice message."
In Michael Blowen's review, he said the film "satisfies the primary obligation of a bedtime story—before it's half over the children will be fast asleep" and added that "this sugar-coated trifle could only satisfy the most ardent Care Bears fan" and that "the characters themselves lack definition."
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said, "Who except a callous scrooge would carp about the fact that The Care Bears Movie espouses a psychopop philosophy of 'sharing our feelings' that seems drawn straight from the pages on one of those insufferable self-motivation tomes? No one, that's who."
The Washington Post's Paul Attanasio said, "The best cartoons recognize the dark side of kids, their penchant for violence, their fearful fantasies. [This movie] just patronizes them. It even has a child chortling, 'Aren't parents great!' Well, they are and they aren't, and kids know that."
The animation in the film received mixed reviews as well.
Adele Freedman praised the style and backgrounds and called the special effects "stunning".
Jim Moorhead of Florida's The Evening Independent said, "[Nelvana's] animation is not the best. Far from it. Everything's in pastels, fine details are largely missing, mouth movements are minimal and the motions of the figures are scarcely better than some of those awful Saturday morning cartoons on TV."
Variety magazine said that the "style ... tends towards a primer reading level".
The New York Times' Janet Maslin found that the movie's quality paled in comparison to Disney features.
The Los Angeles Times' Charles Solomon (in his 1989 book "Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation") and Michael Janusonis of Rhode Island's "Providence Journal" faulted the plot.
The Evening Independent's Moorhead and Jim Davidson of the Pittsburgh Press noticed at least two parallel storylines in the film (one of which involved the magician Nicholas).
The National Coalition on Television Violence counted at least 20 acts of violence throughout the picture.
Critics also questioned its purpose as a feature-length advertisement for Care Bears merchandise.
The Boca Raton News' Skip Sheffield said, "I couldn't help being bothered by the blatant commercialism of this whole venture."
The British magazine Films and Filming remarked, "The purpose of the film is presumably to sell more toys as it unashamedly pushes the message that without at least one Care Bear around life can be very lonely."
Stoffman observed, "one of the youngest target audiences of any animated movie" as did the Halliwell's staff: film critic Leonard Maltin (in his Movie Guide) and Henry Herx (in his "Family Guide to Movies on Video").
The 1986 International Film Guide called it "an elementary piece of animation lacking color and character with not much humor, quite lacking in charm, and indifferently scored."
According to Derek Owen of Time Out's Film Guide, "Adults forced to accompany three-year-olds to the movie would have had a little moment of satisfaction when the time came to shovel the Care Bears toys out of the house into landfill sites."
The mixed reception carried on in the years ahead.
In Lorraine MacAlpine's 1995 book "Inside Kidvid", she said, "If you can hack the sugarcoated attitudes of this group of cuddly bears, more power to you! There's nothing insidious about the Care Bears, but their overbearing sweetness may not appeal to all viewers."
She also cautioned parents about the merchandising aspect behind the tapes.
In 1998, Dave Gathman of Illinois' Courier-News wrote that "one Care Bears Movie ... can give all G-rated entertainment a bad name."
In 2003, the Erie Times-News acknowledged its financial success, but commented on its "lack of a creative title."
Animation expert Jerry Beck wrote in his 2005 book, The Animated Movie Guide:
"It's a simple, serviceable adventure with several standout sequences. ... There's no doubt about it, this is a children's film aimed at the under-seven crowd. But it's one of the better animated children's films produced during this period."
1986 Genie Awards
- Golden Reel Award: Michael Hirsh, Patrick Loubert & Clive A. Smith (won)
- Best Original Song: John Sebastian (nominated)
Young Artist Awards
- Best Family Animation Series or Special (nominated)
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Engelhardt, Tom (1986). "Children's Television: The Shortcake Strategy", Watching Television: A Pantheon Guide to Popular Culture. Pantheon Books (Random House), 82–83. ISBN 0-394-74651-1.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Selznick, Arna (director). The Care Bears Movie [Animated film]. The Samuel Goldwyn Company (distributor) / Nelvana Limited / American Greetings / CPG Products Corp. Retrieved on August 10, 2010.
- ↑ (1998) "What is the highest-grossing Canadian movie ever?", The Great Canadian Trivia Book: A Collection of Compelling Curiosities from Alouette to Zed. Dundurn Press. ISBN 0-88882-197-2. Retrieved on October 18, 2010.
- ↑ (1986) Film/Vidéo Canadiana, 1985–1986. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved on October 18, 2010.