Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue is an animated drug prevention television special starring many of the popular cartoon characters from American Saturday morning television. Financed by McDonald's, it was originally simulcast on April 21, 1990 on all three major American television networks (by supporting their Saturday morning characters): ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS, most independent stations, as well as cable networks Nickelodeon and the USA Network. McDonald's also distributed a VHS home video edition of it, produced by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, which opened with an introduction from then-President George H. W. Bush, First Lady Barbara Bush, and their dog, Millie. It was produced by Southern Star Productions for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and was animated overseas by Wang Film Productions.
Nine-year-old Corey is very worried about her older brother, Michael. He is using drugs and he just stole her piggy bank to buy some more. Luckily, Corey has help. TV's most popular cartoon characters, including Winnie the Pooh, Bugs Bunny, Alf, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and a host of other animated all-stars, leap into action to help free her brother from the clutches of "Smoke," a deceptive and corrupting character who's leading Michael down the road to a drug-abuse dead end. What follows is a roller coaster ride through the perils, pitfalls, and realities of drug abuse in which the Cartoon All-Stars prove there's a smarter way to go! It's an adventure guaranteed to entertain children of all ages as well as educate them about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs!
In Corey's bedroom, an unseen person steals her piggy bank from her dresser. The theft is witnessed by Papa Smurf, who emerges from a Smurfs comic book with the other Smurfs, and alerts the other animated characters in the room (Garfield as a lamp, Alf from a framed picture, Baby Kermit as an alarm clock, Winnie the Pooh as a stuffed animal, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore from a record sleeve, and Slimer, who phases through a wall). The characters track down the thief and discover that it is Michael, Corey's older brother. Simon opens a box under Michael's bed and identifies its contents as marijuana. Meanwhile, Corey expresses her concerns about Michael's change in behavior. He storms out of the house, and the characters quickly realize that something must be done about his addiction. They set off, leaving Pooh behind to look after Corey.
At the arcade, Michael smokes marijuana with his old friends and Smoke, an anthropomorphic cloud of smoke with a mafioso-like appearance and personality. When one of Michael's friends shows everyone a drug that appears to be crack, a police siren begins blaring, prompting them to run off. Michael ends up hitting a dead end in an alley, and Smoke disappears through the wall, telling Michael "at times like this, you're on your own." The policeman is then revealed to be Bugs Bunny, wearing a policeman's hat. He traps Smoke in a garbage can and uses a time machine (which he borrowed from "some coyote") to see when and how Michael's addiction started. It is revealed that rather than wanting to get started on drugs, he was pressured into doing so by his "friends".
Back at home, Michael's father notes that two of his beers are missing, but is convinced by his wife that he drank them the night before while watching football (the implication is that Michael actually stole them, unknown to both). Michael's mother expresses her concerns about him to Corey and asks her if there is anything wrong, to which she replies no. Pooh comes to life soon after, and asks why she didn't tell her mother about Michael. She explains that if she does so, Michael will get in trouble, and she will be the first one he will suspect. Pooh admits that may happen, but asks her to think about what will happen to Michael if she doesn't. She tries to explain things to her father, but is unsuccessful.
In the park, one of Michael's friends says that she can buy crack cocaine for ten dollars. He is uncertain of this, but Smoke steals his wallet and tosses it to her, who runs off with it down an alleyway. Michael gives chase, but falls down a manhole with Smoke. There, they are greeted by Michelangelo, Baby Kermit, Baby Miss Piggy, and Baby Gonzo, where they proceed to go on a roller coaster ride through a drug-inflicted human brain. When it is over, he realizes that the brain they just toured is his own and that they are currently inside him, riding a skateboard. Realizing they're about to fall down, the babies escape, but Michael and Smoke are trapped in. After falling over, Michael wakes up at the feet of Huey, Dewey, and Louie who, with the other characters joined by Tigger, teach him the "Wonderful Ways to Say No".
Michael wakes up in his own bedroom and thinks the whole experience never happened. At that moment, Corey comes in and tells him that Pooh wants to know why he never talks to their parents about his problem. He tells her to tell Pooh to "mind his own business" and threatens her if she ever tattles him out. She runs off, frightened, and Michael immediately regrets his behavior. However, Smoke comes out from under the bed and claims that he did the right thing. He points out that Corey is his little sister and that he doesn't know what's right anymore. As he stares into a mirror inside his marijuana box, his reflection is replaced with Alf's, who pulls him through the box into a hall of mirrors. Smoke tries to follow but is left behind.
Inside the Hall of Mirrors, Alf shows Michael his reflection of how he is today, then his reflection if he doesn't stop taking drugs: an aged, corpse-like version of himself. When he insists that he could quit if he wants to and that he is in charge of his own life, Alf takes him to see 'the Man in Charge' ― Smoke.
Corey and Pooh re-enter Michael's room and finds his marijuana box. Smoke appears and tempts her to try it. When Pooh tries to persuade her otherwise, he is thrown into a cabinet by Smoke. Corey reasons that if she does what Michael does, then maybe they could have fun together, like they used to before he started doing drugs.
Michael comes to a fortune-telling tent and asks the stall tender (Daffy Duck) to see his future for him. It turns out to be him lying on his death bed, his face even more ravaged than what Alf showed him. He is horrified by the prospect of this being his future, but Daffy tells him that he can avoid all of that if he stopped doing drugs, with Alf, Bugs Bunny, the Muppet Babies, Huey, Dewy and Louie, and Michelangelo giving further words of encouragement. Now knowing the consequences, he asks where he can leave, to which they point to a door.
Michael runs through the door and back into his bedroom, just in time to stop Corey from using the drugs herself. He tells her that he never wants to see her end up like him, and admits he was wrong, though he is unsure if he can change. She advises him to talk about his problems to their parents and to her. Smoke tries to persuade him otherwise, but Michael, having "listened to him long enough," throws him out the window and into a garbage truck. Smoke says that he can't be rid of that easily and vows to return. Michael admits that Smoke will return, but Corey states that "when he gets here, we'll be ready for him", to which the cartoon characters, now appearing on a poster as a reminder for Michael to say no, agree with. After Michael lets Pooh out of his cabinet, Pooh jumps into the poster, and Michael and Corey proceed to go talk to their parents about his drug problem.
The characters, from 10 different franchises, are:
- The Smurfs: Papa Smurf, Brainy Smurf, Hefty Smurf (Although Smurfette is seen on the poster and VHS cover, she actually does not appear in the special.)
- ALF: The Animated Series: ALF
- Garfield and Friends: Garfield
- Alvin and the Chipmunks: Alvin, Simon, Theodore
- The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Winnie the Pooh, Tigger
- Muppet Babies: Baby Kermit, Baby Miss Piggy, Baby Gonzo
- The Real Ghostbusters: Slimer
- Looney Tunes: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck (Wile E. Coyote is mentioned but not seen, but his time machine was used by Bugs.)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Michelangelo (Although he appears in the special, he is not shown on the poster or VHS cover.)
- DuckTales/Mickey Mouse & Friends: Huey, Dewey, and Louie
Voices (in alphabetical order)
- Ross Bagdasarian Jr. - Alvin, Simon
- Jeff Bergman - Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck
- Townsend Coleman - Michelangelo, Dad
- Wayne Collins - Teenage Boy #2
- Jim Cummings - Winnie the Pooh, Tigger
- Joey Dedio - The Dealer
- Danny Goldman - Brainy Smurf
- Georgie Irene - Teenage Girl
- Janice Karman - Theodore
- Aaron Lohr - Teenage Boy #1
- Jason Marsden - Michael
- Don Messick - Papa Smurf
- Lorenzo Music - Garfield
- Laurie O'Brien - Baby Piggy, Mom
- Lindsey Parker - Corey
- George C. Scott - Smoke
- Russi Taylor - Baby Gonzo, Huey, Dewey, Louie
- Frank Welker - Baby Kermit, Slimer, Hefty Smurf
- Paul Fusco - ALF (uncredited)
- This is the second Disney film to feature non-Disney characters, after Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
- On the official poster and VHS cover, Smurfette can be seen, even though she never appears in the special.
- Joe Biden, the 46th president of the United States, is known to give this special his praises. Prior to the official airing, he stated in a press release that Cartoon All-Stars is "the single most ambitious and important drug education program ever attempted anywhere".