By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"Everything we do really starts with the show," says Bob Bryant, who as head of Cartoon Network’s Off-Channel Commerce group is the man in charge of all the official stuff. He speaks a secret professional language made up of phrases like "character branding," "awareness opportunities" and "creative integrity model," but he also says "neat" and "cool" a lot and, like everybody else connected with the show, talks about "the girls" as if they were real. "It’s really just collectively being out there as ambassadors to the show and the girls themselves. You just hope for any given piece you can pull off the shelf that anybody who is really a real core fan would either want it or understand it or certainly not be turned off by it."
Notwithstanding that today’s Powerpuff Girls PVC Figurine Gift Set may be tomorrow’s nonbiodegradable landfill, the PpG product is unusually smart and attractive and, for the moment, irresistible. There are dolls of different sizes, some with Velcro strips that let them hold hands, a Style Salon Blossom with heart-shaped comb and mirror, backpacks in vinyl and canvas, blankets, a sleeping bag, a pink pearlized handbag, metal boxes (rectangular, star-shaped) for keeping stuff or carrying lunch, T-shirts, embroidered jeans, socks, underwear, pajamas, talking key chains with squeezable foam heads, mouse pads, luggage tags, beach towels, a beanbag chair, umbrellas, foaming bath crystals, coin purses, alarm clocks, animated watches, picture frames, pencil boxes, diaries, calendars, magnetic memo boards, books, comic books, coloring books, sticker books, videos, posters, a board game, an Ultimate Art Studio, videos and DVDs — Nintendo has just released Bad Mojo Jojo for Gameboy, with Painting the Townsville Green and The Powerpuff Girls Battle Him set for December and January. There is a Pokey Oaks Kindergarten play set with a little chalkboard and real chalk and a breakaway wall for breaking through, and there is a Professor’s Laboratory complete with sugar, spice, everything nice (hearts, flowers, bunny) and a beaker of Chemical X. There is a plush Talking Blossom who, when you squeeze her squeezable plush stuffed stomach, says, "C’mon, girls, Townsville’s in trouble," and a Talking Buttercup who says, "Yeah, yeah, but all the fun stuff happens at night," and a Talking Bubbles who says, "And I would’ve kissed his little boo-boo" and "But then I remembered he was a bad monkey so I kicked in his face." Oh, Bubbles!Sales of Powerpuff product are projected to exceed $300 million this year, not counting piñatas.
CARTOON NETWORK'S NEW ONE-STOP ANIMATION studios commenced operations in May in a three-story building as unassuming as a superhero’s hideaway — the Burbank Police and Fire building across the street is twice as flamboyant. In the lobby, there’s a Powerpuff Girls totem pole, a big poster for Dexter’s Laboratory, furniture you might find in a cartoon, and Red Vines and pretzels for the taking. The interior might be called rough-hewn office-industrial with subtle atomic overtones. The walls of the back stairwell are covered with animator graffiti, which had to be redrawn when it was mistaken for ordinary graffiti and painted over. Here and at Rough Draft Studios in Korea, the third season of The Powerpuff Girlsis being finished; the fourth is in process, and when it’s completed sometime next spring, says McCracken, "we’ll just be full-on on the movie."
"Everybody here kind of has their own world," says Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of Dexter’s Laboratoryand director of many Powerpuffepisodes, whose own office is on the third floor, "but we’re all friends, and everybody loves each other’s shows, and I’ve never been in a studio where everything that’s being made is great and you can’t wait to see it."
"Cartoon Cartoons," which is not redundant but specific (the first word modifies the second), is the slogan of the network, which went on the air in October 1992, the year after Turner bought Hanna-Barbera and four years before it merged with Time Warner, creating an empire of animation that pools the cartoon libraries of Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros. and MGM and makes strange bedfellows of Bugs Bunny and Fred Flintstone, ý Scooby-Doo and Droopy. Says Linda Simensky, "I think the main difference between us and other studios is that what we’re making really are cartoons — they use all the elements of cartoon making, right down to the occasional lapses of logic, where a character can pull out something enormous from behind his back or a tiny character can beat up an enormous character. Their logic is cartoon logic. I think the other networks’ cartoons are a little more about real kids and real kid issues."
Cartoon cartoons are without redeeming social content, except in the sense that they are funny and exciting and sometimes beautiful. The Powerpuff Girls are daily engaged in questions of right and wrong, but they are pretty simple questions, and the cartoon isn’t made to teach anyone a lesson. (Just as Popeyewasn’t about the nutritional value of green vegetables.) When Craig McCracken’s mother told him that the little girl across the street started flossing her teeth after she learned that the Powerpuff Girls did, his response was, "Really? I didn’t mean to be responsible for that."