Last night, bethje showed me something from her childhood, the Rainbow Brite movie. The official title is Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer, despite the fact that the object of attempted theft is a planet, not a star. I'd never seen Rainbow Brite, an eighties series spun off from a series of Hallmark greeting cards, but I guess that's typical for guys. I don't know. I never really watched a whole lot of TV as a kid, although there were certain shows I'd catch every week. I guess I'm still much the same way, really. Anyway, the basic idea of the series is that Rainbow Brite and her posse of Color Kids are responsible for bringing color to the world. In the movie, Rainbow Brite attempts to end winter and restore the colors of spring, but is unsuccessful. On-X, a robotic horse from space with a tendency to stutter and a constant need to be reset (I hope they gave him some memory upgrades after this adventure, as 640K obviously ISN'T enough for anybody), explains that the problem is that a bratty space princess wants to take the diamond planet Spectra for her own. Without Spectra, there would be no light in the entire universe, which doesn't make a whole lot of scientific sense, but I guess we should just go with it. Since eliminating light would mean the death of every living thing, that technically makes this princess worse than Hitler. The princess is portrayed as a spoiled teenage girl with a crazy eighties hairstyle, and Beth suspects that she was supposed to represent a typical Rainbow Brite fan's older sister. She also has the quirk of treating a giant emerald like a pet.
Rainbow Brite and her horse Starlite, who speaks in a rather stuck-up faux-British accent, follow On-X to Spectra by means of the rainbow. There, they learn that the princess' Glitterbots have brainwashed the furry Sprites in charge of polishing the planet into building nets around the entire place so that the princess can haul it back to her castle. Rainbow meets a boy named Krys (and I wouldn't have known that was how he spelled it if I hadn't looked at the IMDB page; I was wondering while watching why the character had such a normal name), and despite his refusal to accept that a GIRL could accomplish anything worthwhile, he accompanies her to the princess' castle. Not only does this wicked royal refuse to listen to reason, but she locks Rainbow and Krys in her dungeon and steals the belt that gives Rainbow most of her powers. With help from the two horses, the kids manage to escape and regain the belt, and then spend some time on a few alien worlds that I believe are called the Padding Planets. Finally, they meet a wise old Sprite named Orin, who provides Krys with a magical device that only works when powered by the rainbow, meaning the two heroes have to work together. So what does the device do? Well, pretty much whatever it needs to at any particular time, including freezing guards and trapping monsters in bubbles.
While all this is going on, we also get several comic interludes with the franchise's regular villains, Murky and Lurky. The former is a diminutive mad scientist who, for some reason, really hates color. Lurky, a furry guy with a big nose, is his henchman, and kind of reminds me of Grimace. He speaks in a dense voice, and is always eager to help but incompetent, often resulting in injury to his boss. Fortunately, Murky seems to be resistant to things that would kill an ordinary person, like being run over by a dune buggy. The two of them set out in a rickety spaceship (considering how slowly it moves, I have no idea how it manages to achieve escape velocity) to try to steal Spectra for themselves, but their attempts to do so are predictably pathetic.
Finally, Rainbow Brite and Krys sneak back into the princess' castle through a secret entrance, and use their powers to destroy the jewel that supplies all the royal brat's magic. When it becomes clear that she won't be able to steal Spectra, she makes a last desperate attempt to destroy it by crashing her ship into it, presumably killing herself in the process. Considering that the planet is made of diamond, I don't think there was much chance of the ship doing any real harm, but it doesn't matter because the good guys blow it up first. And since there's no shot of the princess parachuting out at the last minute or anything...I guess she dies? That's pretty morbid for a children's cartoon, isn't it?
One thing I didn't get about the movie was how little the Color Kids feature in it. From what Beth told me, they were more significant in the regular cartoon episodes, while here they just get a few interchangeable lines. Since there was some pretty obvious padding to get this thing up to feature length, why not give them more to do? Anyway, I get the impression that this was a pretty typical plot for eighties cartoons turned into movies. The regular characters face a threat more severe than what happens in a standard episode, and have to obtain some new power to get it. The Transformers cartoon movie worked much the same way, right down to the aimless wandering from one planet to another. Then again, Optimus Prime died, and Rainbow Brite didn't.
I'm kind of surprised they still haven't made Rainbow Brite into a crappy live-action/CGI film, but it seems like the girls' series are being overlooked in this trend. We also haven't seen any big-budgets crapfests based on My Little Pony, the Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Sailor Moon (okay, maybe that one's a little too new, but it also seems to have more male fans than most of those others), or even Raggedy Ann. Part of it is probably because the producers and directors involved are usually going for over-the-top action plots, but I also have to wonder if it has anything to do with the idea that women don't tend to have the same nostalgia for childhood stuff that men do. Granted, pretty much all the women I know are counterexamples, but just look at how common the Hollywood trope is of guys refusing to grow up while girls mature without really thinking about. If this is how the movie industry thinks of the genders, perhaps it's no surprise that we see constant remakes of old boys' toy-based cartoon series, and not of the girls' equivalents.