By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
HERE IS CRAIG MCCRACKEN IN HIS (fairly) new office, full of toys and piñatas and picture books, in a (fairly) new building in the city of Burbank. Shaggy-haired, droopy-eyed, amiable, low-key, casual, a regular-guy sort of guy. He hardly seems 29, for that matter, which might have something to do with the toys and picture books, might have something to do with his line of work. You would not suspect his power: It is the power of the pen, or the pencil, which in either case is mightier than the sword (especially if it’s one of those spy pens that’s also a gun). Mightier than death rays, meat rays, dog rays. Mightier than the power of your grown-up skepticism, your classical aesthetics, your pathetic sales resistance. Foolish humans! Resistance is futile.
Craig McCracken is 29 years old, and the whole second floor of the Cartoon Network building has been set aside for him, for him and his three superpowered little girls.Blossom! Bubbles! Buttercup!
The official story is that they were created by a certain Professor Utonium from a mixture of sugar and spice and everything nice, with the accidental addition of Chemical X. Thus, as it is said, the Powerpuff Girls were born! But the truth is that McCracken made them up himself. He was 20 then and an animation student at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, and they were called the Whoopass Girls, which is not really as good as Powerpuff Girls; it certainly doesn’t travel as well. With their horizontally oriented oval heads and eyes as big as dessert plates, their fingerless hands, their feet drawn to resemble, according to McCracken’s instructions, "socks filled with wet sand," they are not your average little girls, not even your average cartoon little girls, not even your average cartoon little girl superheroes. They’re littler, for one thing: They’re only in kindergarten. They don’t much like bugs. Bubbles wouldn’t mind the hall light being left on at bedtime, once they are done saving the day.
"I wanted to do a superhero show," says McCracken, "where you really felt these characters being strong and tough and heroes and kicking ass — and what better contrast than to have them be three cute little innocent-looking things? That’s basically the heart of the show, this cute little girl punching a bad guy and his teeth flying out. That’s the visual soul of the show."
THE CITY OF TOWNSVILLE, AS NARRATOR TOM Kenny begins every episode of The Powerpuff Girls, is where the Powerpuff Girls kick that ass. They kick a lot of ass, a lot of monstrous villain ass. Sometimes they kick nonmonstrous ass just because they get carried away. (Though they always apologize when they do.) They never walk when they can float or fly, they rarely use a door when there’s a wall they can break through, and they have many times razed the (amazingly resilient) city of Townsville in order to save it. By Rugratsstandards it’s a violent cartoon, but it’s cartoon violence, because it’s, you know, a cartoon. As Tara Charendoff Strong, the voice of Bubbles, says, "I think all children love to watch cartoons because it’s a fantasy world where anything can happen — if someone gets mad at someone else, they throw them off a cliff or pull off their head or whatever."
The PpGs (as they are commonly abbreviated) may not offer children the most desirable model for conflict resolution, but history has shown that you can’t reason with giant flying eyeball monsters, giant inflatable pond-things, alien broccoli, smog monsters, snot monsters, the Gangreen Gang, the Amoeba Boys, the frightfully territorial Fuzzy Lumpkins, the creepy androgynous devil-headed thigh-high-spiked-heel-boot-wearing Him, or their favorite foe, the mutated supermonkey Mojo Jojo, whose huge and powerful brain was produced by the same laboratory accident that created the Powerpuff Girls. Cruel irony! Notwithstanding Mojo’s claim that "Evil geniuses are made, not born," the fact is that even before he was an evil genius he was a naughty little monkey. ("You were the worst lab assistant I ever had," remembers the Professor.) In the universe the Powerpuff Girls inhabit, villains are with few exceptions naughty by nature, and heroes are congenitally heroic.
"We’re going to fight crime," says Blossom.
"That’s what we do," says Buttercup.
"Duh!" says Bubbles.
And when they can’t fight crime — as when bad little rich girl Princess Morbucks became mayor and declared crime legal, or when Sedusa disguised as Ima Goodlady worked womanly wiles upon the Professor and got the girls grounded so that she could steal the Mayor’s jewels undisturbed — they get fidgety and cranky and sad. "And the worst thing is we won’t get to save the world anymore," Bubbles lamented when they were thrown in jail (victims of a villainous plot, I assure you). Once, when it was raining out and there was no crime to fight, they resorted to playing at being themselves, humming their own theme music and pretending to fly through the house, though nobody wanted to be Bubbles — who has a reputation as "the scarediest," though she can kick yourass — except Bubbles.
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