Saturday, 11 January 2014

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Powerpuff Piece

Not long ago, I left an issue of IDW's The Powerpuff Girls comic book sitting on my desk at work. A puzzled male employee picked it up and informed me that I was an 8-year old girl. "Not so", I declared, skimming to page 20, where I referenced a panel that depicted arch villain Mojo Jojo quoting the lyrics to Canadian singer Lawrence Gowan's "Criminal Mind". The still puzzled co-worker than referred to me as a 50-year old senior citizen. "That's better", I said.

I've received many a concerned look over my love of The Powerpuff Girls. But unfairly so. To those who don't know them, their name invokes comparisons to Strawberry Shortcake or Holly Hobbie. But while being very appropriate for that young female demographic, it's also one of the most colourful and clever cartoons ever produced - for men, by men! I mean, they do jokes about Canadian classic rock, for chrissakes!

The Powerpuff Girls were originally called The Whoopass Girls. Creator Craig McCracken debuted them on a birthday card to his brother in 1993, and then later showcased them in a short that ran in underground animation festivals called 'Whoopass Stew! The Whoopass Girls in: A Sticky Situation'.

Even in that original form, most of the show's familiar elements were in place. The Girls (though more gaunt) were very similar to their eventual, more-streamlined forms. The narrator (though differently voiced) set up the episode like all future instalments would. And the stylized violence (though less extreme) enhanced the puns, but still maintained a sense of cuteness for some reason.

Obviously, to expand this world beyond the festival circuit, Cartoon Network needed to ensure certain safeguards were in place. For example, "whoopass" wasn't the most kid-friendly term out there (their origin source of power also had to be re-imagined), so their title was changed to The Powerpuff Girls.

They were first featured as one-offs in the mid-90's. According to Wikipedia, the first short from 1995, called 'The Powerpuff Girls in: Meat Fuzzy Lumpkins', wasn't well received by test audiences, and plans for a series were postponed in order to put another Cartoon Network classic on the air, Dexter's Laboratory, which Craig McCracken also worked on. Despite that workload, McCracken made another Powerpuff Girls short in 1996 called 'Crime 101' .

Not long after, in November 1998, The Powerpuff Girls'  full-length series premiered to huge ratings, which continued for 6 seasons until 2005. Craig McCracken left the series in 2003 to work on a new series, Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends, but the show continued on without him - 78 episodes in total. There was also a Christmas special, a 2002 theatrical feature film (and surprising box office dud) called The Powerpuff Girls Movie and countless merchandising tie-ins, most of which I purchased. Because I'm an 8 year old...I mean, 50 year old senior citizen!

Let me show you a few of my favourite episodes to try and make known my very manly and mature tastes. My absolute favourite episode is called 'Octi Evil', because it introduced one of the most disturbing villains in animation - HIM. Basically he (or she?) is the devil. But probably a more effeminate version than you'd expect. It's as if Satan was a cross-dresser, crossed with a lobster. Whatever he she it is, there's no possible way you can watch this and still be under the impression it's meant solely for 8 year old girls. Hell, that's his/her blood spattering all over the opening credits!

How about destructive, break-dancing robots? You don't see that in any episodes of My Little Pony!

What about rock operas? Are those still popular with the kids? I'm surprised there wasn't a Gowan reference in this!

Actually, this episode was banned in the US and wasn't aired. The internet gives several reasons for this - depictions of communism, comparisons to cults, seizure-inducing visuals. Not sure what the real, official reason was, but that infamy makes this episode even cooler. Originally, this was intended to be the series finale, but was instead (supposed to be) released in the middle of the 5th season.

And I just dare you to try and add up the Dick jokes to be found in 'Knock it Off'?

Damn it, this could be the manliest cartoon of all time!!!

There isn't a misstep to be found in the entire 6 seasons. It's one of the greatest TV cartoons ever made. And the reason I'm telling you about it today, is because it's being resurrected later this month, which I'm a little uneasy about.

Craig McCracken actually resurrected The Powerpuff Girls once already in 2009, in a TV special called The Powerpuff Girls Rule!. It can be found on The Complete Series DVD set that came out that same year. Said to be based on one of McCracken's unreleased Whoopass shorts, it's considered to be the official finale to the series.

Then last year it was announced that The Powerpuff Girls would return - in CGI form! Frequent readers of this blog know how I feel about CGI, and will understand why I'm incredibly nervous about this decision. Also making me nervous is the fact that creator Craig McCracken had nothing to do with it.

Still, that didn't stop the 5th and 6th seasons from being great. And one of the original show directors and storyboard artists, Dave Smith, is back to direct. Whoever's involved, I will try and put on a brave, manly face - and seek out a suitable torrent to watch it from, after its original airing coming up Monday, January 20th on Cartoon Network.

What are your first initial thoughts on this? I'm not a big fan of the needless character redesigns (which just seems to include scruffier hairstyles), but the hyperactive humour seems intact. And it's always great to hear that original voice cast back behind a microphone.

The mathematician is voiced by Ringo Starr, who also performs an original song called "I Wish I Was A Powerpuff Girl"

What, Lawrence Gowan wasn't available? 

These older songs are way better! ('Music Inspired By The Powerpuff Girls' - natch!)

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