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The Care Bears Movie
Nelvana‘s 1985 animated musical fantasy film The Care Bears Movie (after the 1983 film Rock & Rule). It debuted the Care Bears and the Care Bear Cousins in one of the earliest films based on a toy line. An orphanage owner (Mickey Rooney) tells a story about the Care Bears, who dwell in Care-a-Lot, a cloudy region. The Bears travel to Earth to save two lonely children, Kim and Jason, who lost their parents in a car accident, and Nicholas, a young magician’s apprentice, from an evil spirit. Kim, Jason, and their pals meet the Care Bear Cousins in the Forest of Feelings.
In 1981, American Greetings began developing a Care Bears movie. Later, the card business hired Nelvana to develop it, gave them character rights, and financed the film with General Mills and LBS Communications. Arna Selznick directed and Nelvana’s founders produced. Canada, Taiwan, and South Korea hosted the eight-month, $2 million production. Mickey Rooney, Georgia Engel, Jackie Burroughs, and Cree Summer provided their voices for the characters. Carole King and John Sebastian wrote many songs. The Samuel Goldwyn Company, a newly founded independent distributor, bought the distribution rights to the film and spent a record $24 million promoting it.
The film premiered on March 24, 1985, in Washington, D.C.. Strawberry Shortcake Meets the Berrykins, another Nelvana film, was shown in theatres. Critics questioned whether The Care Bears Movie was a full-length advertisement for the title characters. It earned $23 million domestically, won a Golden Reel Award, and was 1985’s highest-grossing Canadian film at C$1.845 million. It set a Canadian and non-Disney animation box-office record with $34 million in international sales and remains one of Goldwyn’s biggest earners. The picture saved Nelvana and revived US children’s films. It has since been acknowledged as influencing a wave of toy-based animated and live-action features. The 1986 and 1987 sequels, A New Generation and Adventure in Wonderland, failed to match the original’s success. The Care Bears franchise includes movies, specials, and TV shows.
Middle-aged couple Cherrywood run an orphanage. Mr. Cherrywood tells the orphans about the Care Bears and their cloud home, Care-a-Lot, one night. Friend Bear and Secret Bear search Earth for cheery people. They meet Kim and Jason, two lonely orphans whose parents died in a vehicle accident, on Earth. The children are introduced to Friend Bear and Secret Bear, who both remind the kids of their goals, but neither of them shows any interest.
Tenderheart Bear sees Nicholas, a mage’s apprentice, at an amusement park. Nicholas finds a diary-locked book while emptying a trunk for the “Great Fettucini.” He is brainwashed when he unlocks it. With his cooperation, it destroys the park and sets out to end caring.
Some of the other bears in Care-a-Lot are building the Rainbow Rescue Beam, a portal that can transport any bear to Earth and back. Friend Bear, Secret Bear, Kim, and Jason arrive when Grams Bear’s two Care Bear pups, Baby Hugs and Baby Tugs, intrude. The bears show the kids their home. Tenderheart Bear returns before a spirit-caused “cloudquake” destroys Care-a-Lot. He shares Nicholas’ Earthly woes. He sends Kim, Jason, Friend Bear, and Secret Bear to the park with the Rainbow Rescue Beam. They enter the Forest of Feelings when the portal fails. The rest of the bears search for them on the Cloud Clipper from a neighbouring river, leaving Good Luck Bear, Grumpy Bear, Grams Bear, and the pups in Care-a-Lot. Nicholas learns about Kim, Jason, and the Care Bears and summons a cloud-like demon to catch them.
The Bears and children meet Care Bear Cousins Brave Heart Lion and Playful Heart Monkey in the Forest. The other Bears on their ship discover more Cousins, including Cozy Heart Penguin, Lotsa Heart Elephant, Swift Heart Rabbit, and Bright Heart Raccoon. The devil attacks as a fish, tree, and eagle during their stay. After defeating it, the Care Bears and Cousins return to Earth to save Nicholas.
Nicholas gathers components for his “last spell” against the children, Bears, and Cousins at the park while Kim and Jason hide. After casting it, the Care Bears fight for a long time. After mending the Rainbow Rescue Beam, Good Luck Bear and Grumpy Bear help by unleashing rays of dazzling light on him. Nicholas and the spirit momentarily seize control as the Bears and Cousins’ strength wanes. Kim and Jason reach out to him, and Nicholas sees his mistakes and shakes off the spirit. Jason locks the closed book. Nicholas thanked them for saving him, the park, and the world. He rejoins Fettucini while Tenderheart Bear welcomes the Care Bear Cousins. New parents take Kim and Jason to Nicholas’ show.
Nicholas is revealed as Mr. Cherrywood continues his story. Tenderheart Bear smiles, giggles, and returns to Care-a-Lot.
DIC Entertainment created an 11-episode Care Bears TV series after The Care Bears Movie. Another series, Nelvana’s The Care Bears Family, began on ABC in the US and Canada’s Global in September 1986 and was later broadcast in 140 countries. Nelvana released two more films, Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation (1986) and The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland (1987), although none was as successful. Columbia Pictures’ A New Generation grossed US$8.5 million in North America and US$12 million globally. Adventure in Wonderland, released by Cineplex Odeon Films and self-financed by Nelvana, earned US$2.608 million domestically and US$6 million internationally, barely recovering its costs. “It was just one sequel too many,” Michael Hirsh said. In December 1988, Care Bears Nutcracker Suite appeared on television and media. The following motion picture in the series, Journey to Joke-a-lot, debuted on video in 2004. (via Lionsgate and Family Home Entertainment).
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