COMMENTARY: Captain Planet Returns!

A new venture in fundraising for the eco-hero

Captain Planet works the room atop New York City"s Sherry-Netherland hotel.© Photos Brita Belli

Captain Planet is back. He was last seen in the mid-nineties battling eco-crooks on his own cartoon TV series, sporting a green mullet and sky-blue skin. Formed of the powers of five "Planeteers," the earnest superhero set out to right the planet’s wrongs battling villains like the radioactive Duke Nukem and toxic waste polluter Sly Sludge. But maybe it was all a little too earnest for the public at large, as kid’s tastes turned to more fast-action, graphic affair and away from not-so-thinly-veiled educational messages.

That hasn’t dissuaded Ted Turner any. At the fundraising party for his Captain Planet Foundation last Thursday, held at Producing Director Anthony Pratt’s penthouse atop New York City’s Sherry-Netherland hotel, a costumed Captain Planet worked the room, flexing his muscles and posing with cocktail-sipping guests.

Chevy Chase auctions off items like a signed Paul McCartney guitar.

The media mogul addressed the room to talk about the foundation and the show, with a few barbs directed at Time Warner. "Tell them they own the Captain Planet series," Turner said with his signature drawl "and when they phased me out they put some violent Japanese thing instead… If they put [Captain Planet] on in a good time period, it would still be doing good." Wearing a light grey suit, a neat mustache adorning his upper lip, Turner stood before one of many plate glass windows offering a panoramic view of the city’s skyscrapers at sunset.

Servers passed trays of tiny grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken satay and mini versions of Mr. Turner’s famed bison burgers (he’s got a restaurant chain called Ted’s Montana Grill), decorated with little toothpick American flags. The man is the largest individual landowner in North America, with some 15 ranches, over which roams the largest bison herd in the world. In addition to running a media empire, and his philanthropic and environmental commitments, Turner would like to see a lot more bison in the American diet. But bison was a side attraction at this event where talk quickly turned to the new foundation—which aims to support environmental education programs for K-12 kids. Apparently the Captain Planet Foundation had its roots in the early "90s, but it’s only recently parted from TBS to become its own nonprofit.

Mini bison burgers, a Ted Turner special.

That’s where the auction, and actor Chevy Chase, came in. Chase and his enthusiastic eco-advocate wife Janie were the celebrity du jours of the evening. They gamely posed for pictures, and Janie discussed the importance of greening the nation’s schools from top to bottom, and educating kids about the process while they’re at it. She mentioned the traveling art show called Cool Globes, which brings attention to global warming solutions by various artist renderings on actual globes. The globes are beautifully detailed and colored, some with striking designs, some with technical wizardry, and the project involves a whole curriculum for classrooms.

Taking the microphone, Chevy acted the part of the auctioneer, eliciting bids for items like a signed Paul McCartney guitar, a signed Bob Dylan guitar, a trip to Costa Rica or to Turner’s Vermejo Park ranch. A dinner with Mr. Turner was snatched up for $9,000. We’re guessing bison’s on the menu.

CONTACTS: Captain Planet Foundation; Cool Globes

BRITA BELLI is editor of E.