Speaking of Dark Powers

A Twitter conversation reminded me that back in early 2021, when I was quarantining in rural western PA, I re-watched the first two Care Bears movies as well as the Rainbow Brite origin story episodes and feature film…and I took a few notes.

On Rainbow Brite’s origin:

They hold up…interestingly? Like, first of all, in 1984 I guess you could name the heroine’s fuzzy alien sidekick guy “Twink.” Twink is pretty adorable, not gonna lie.

His species exists to mine “Star Sprinkles,” as far as I can tell, and are happy about it, which…good? Between this and the Seven Dwarves, I feel like mining really got much better press before the mid-eighties. Was this a Thatcher thing?

Okay, so the backstory is:

Grim death world with the best of freaky-looking 1980s Monsters For Kids, including an excessively eyeballed giant centipede and homicidal purple buffalo. Well done on that. You don’t see enough homicidal buffalo in fantasy these days.

Actually there are curly horns, this may be a homicidal purple musk ox. Same deal.

Glowy Light Orb deposits a winsome orphan on the planet and asks her if she still wants to save it. She says yes, Glowy Light Orb tells her to find the Sphere of Light, which is…presumably a different sphere than the one talking to her.

Winsome Orphan is Wisp. Do we ever learn what her deal is or why she wants to save random horrible dimensions or indeed how she hooked up with a glowy light orb in the first place? WE DO NOT.

I’m honestly just assuming the orphan thing, because it’s SOP.

Wisp runs around and meets Twink and Starlight, a talking horse from back when you could have “constantly boasting about how awesome you are” as your only personality trait, and finds a random baby and a rainbow belt and creepy river pirahna and the Color Kids.

God, you could absolutely get three different 1990s RPG splatbooks out of the Color Kids.

What is the psychological damage that leads me to see 1990s RPG splatbooks in every system with more than three themed categories? Can I blame White Wolf? I bet I can blame White Wolf.

Also there are some Goofy Minions of a computery-generated Evil One who doesn’t appear onscreen until the last scene, wherein he manifests as a giant menacing cloaked thing with talons and glowy eyes and it’s actually pretty cool.

And the baby is actually the Sphere of Light because fuck it why not.

Rainbow Brite activates the Rainbow Belt, which…is a motion that’s kind of unnervingly pelvic-thrusty for a character who looks about eight, maybe “belt” was not really the way to go on this one? ANYHOW there are a bunch of rainbows, which I initially typed as “brunch of rainbows,” which would be great, and they tie up the Evil One and he…explodes? Implodes? The whole screen goes white and then there’s just his cloak.

And then the world is full of rainbows and Color Kids and inspirational speeches and everything’s great.

It’s not unengaging. I do feel like I should have gotten into writing cartoons in the 1980s, because apparently you could have a six-martini lunch before storyboarding anything and get away with it. I personally want to know more about the wider cosmos where glowy orbs befriend random orphans and take them to save planets. There are some interesting metaphysical implications there.

The dialogue is…very 1980s. Rainbow Brite always HAS TO do something, and she says so. A lot. Starlight is the most magnificent horse in the galaxy, and he says so a lot. Twink kind of wins on dialogue just because there are a lot of different G-rated ways to say “okay but there’s lava and evil birds and fuuuuuuck this”.

Also, “believing” is how you keep yourself from being turned into an ice statue by getting hit with a bolt of lightning.


Care Bears: “Share your feelings!”

Me: “As a WASP, I feel culturally offended by the message of this cartoon.”


Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer:

Actually never got around to seeing this one when I was a kid, and it’s a doozy in terms of kids’ cartoons that suddenly went hardcore for the feature film.

How hardcore? The villain has an army of mind-controlling Cylon-y “glitterbots” (I want glitterbots. Not necessarily these particular glitterbots, but glitterbots) and ends the film by exploding in her spaceship after trying to pull a murder-suicide on the universe.

This is interspersed with scenes of Endless Winter slash everyone going completely apathetic (and someone talking about the birth rate dropping, like, first of all, how long is this supposed to be happening, and second, did someone on Rainbow Brite just tell us that people aren’t fucking any more? I THINK HE DID) and nihilist as all light and color slowly fade from existence.

Y’know…for kids!

Said villain a) looks like Cyndi Lauper as drawn by Dr. Seuss, b) has a SPACE CASTLE, which TBH should feature in more media, c) spends the whole film talking to a gem like it’s her pet/child only to burn it for fuel, d) is apparently motivated by nothing more than wanting to own the biggest gem ever and honestly she is a very 2021 bad guy.

Also there’s a diamond planet. That’s reasonably badass.

This is Rainbow Brite in SPACE, and also introduces a dude who has borrowed a robot space horse and later gets an elemental wrist laser, which makes me suspect executives were like “…okay but let’s make the original show more for boys.” Usually I hate that, but both the weirdass space-based Diamond Planet Distributes Light And Thus Color to The Universe cosmology and the robot space horse were awesome. The elemental wrist laser was eh, it’s an elemental wrist laser, until it demonstrated that one of its elemental powers is polymorphing monsters into schools of technicolor fish, and I’m here for that.

Monsters continue the RB tradition of being appreciably scary, BTW. Thing That Turns Into Fish is huge and all about eating you, and there are both giant carnivorous lizards and giant carnivorous lizards in Jawa cloaks. I don’t know what the difference is supposed to be, the cloaked ones weren’t selling robots or anything, but I can’t deny that Jawas would be scarier if they were also eight-foot-tall carnivorous lizards.

Krys is really outdone by his borrowed space horse and Rainbow and everyone else, because his personality trait was Li’l Rascals-Style Misogyny, and every third line is “but GIRLS”. I am very glad we’ve moved past that in our cartoons, if nowhere fucking else.

In the tradition of this show, we have no idea where he comes from or what his non-misogyny deal is or why he’s hanging out with the oldest Sprite in the world. I will note that he, unlike our heroine, can’t seem to get his own mystical weapon *or* his own robot horse, so BOOYAH.

When I was eight, I probably would have thought he was dreamy, yes.

Both characters spend a lot of time describing what they HAVE to DO, and also exhorting themselves and each other and their horses to TRY and BELIEVE, and honestly if I was a mystical rainbow/robot space horse and got this shit, I would kick the pre-pubescent twerp into the next solar system, like why don’t you get up here and dodge fucking lasers while dropping accessories through an arrow slit if you think I’m not trying, KRYS?

They also say “Oh no!” a bunch, which I am willing to overlook, given the number of things trying to destroy the universe and/or eat them at any minute. I’d probably be saying it a lot too, only with very different second words.

Also Rainbow Brite may be the elemental goddess of spring? At least, there’s an elemental winter or storm goddess with a parallel horse, so…that’s a thing? It’s not really established. She’s for sure in charge of getting spring going, because the whole thing begins with Starlight singing a musical number (it’s an 80s cartoon feature film, there’s gonna be musical numbers) telling the flowers to wake up because he’s “been up for hours” when he’s been up for literal seconds after an Alarm Bee kicked in, so…not sure if we’re supposed to see him as a giant liar or if the songwriting team and the animators just didn’t talk this through.


The Rainbow Brite Movie threat and the threat from the Care Bears movie are the two parts of the Miranda drug from Serenity. THIS MEANS SOMETHING DAMMIT.

Care Bears 1: Wherein a guy starts hanging out with the Necronomicon, goes full incel, and starts casting Hate Plague on the world.

There’s a bit at the end where dude is chasing people through, OF COURSE, an abandoned amusement park, and the bears are all “we have to let Nicholas know we care about him!” and like I would have a Plan B in this situation but I am not a mystical emotions mammal.

Also the plot is resolved by two human kids saying “hey, we’ll be your friends” to the levitating swirly-eyed wizard, which I guess works out because he goes back to normal and becomes a great guy who raises orphans, but seems just a little Anthony Fremont in the moment.

I would offer to be your friend too, if you were glowing with eldritch power and about to destroy me. Seems like the best tactical move. Somehow I don’t think that’s the message DiC wanted us to take away from this scene.


Why is it the “Care Bear Stare” if it’s from their abdomens? What does this indicate about Care Bear anatomy?


For 1980s kids who were into guys, Dark Heart from Care Bears 2 is absolutely the Troubled Bad Boy to the Square-Jawed Hero of Justin from Secret of NIMH and the Good-Hearted Rogue of Fox Robin Hood. There…may be an alignment chart there.

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I'm Izzy. I write stuff: mostly vaguely fantasy stuff, and most notably the following books: Hickey of the Beast, published March 2011 by Candlemark and Gleam, written as Isabel Kunkle Raising the Stakes, a novella that was originally part of the Gambled Away collection Romance novels from Sourcebooks: No Proper Lady Lessons After Dark Legend of the Highland Dragon The Highland Dragon's Lady Night of the Highland Dragon Highland Dragon Warrior Highland Dragon Rebel Highland Dragon Master The Storm Bringer The Nightborn Blood and Ember I also like video games, ballroom dancing, and various geeky hobbies like LARPing. I have been known to voluntarily purchase and eat circus peanuts. Like, a whole bag at once.

One thought on “Speaking of Dark Powers”

  1. Diana Wynn Jones wrote in one of her books that mining in fantasy is entirely the work of people the tyrant has sentenced To The Mines. Never professional miners, let alone magical sparkly things. So yeah, I think mining’s rep has deteriorated.

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