"Bubbles is sweet," says Tara Charen doff Strong (who is also the voice of Dylan Pickles on Nickelodeon’s Rugrats), "and kind, and willing to do anything for a friend, but she can also be very strong and pigheaded. If someone says she can’t do something, she’ll do anything to prove them wrong. She can be pretty forceful. And she can also be a baby that denies she’s a baby. You know, she sleeps with her little stuffed octopus."
Spicy Buttercup, says E.G. Daily (who also voices Tommy Pickles on Rugrats— she’s Strong’s brother there and her sister here), "is feisty. She’s passionate about things, and a little bit aggressive — I get to rage out every now and then. You have to be pretty contained a lot of the time, and Buttercup sometimes gets a little leaky."
And of Blossom, the everything nice in the PpG trinity, Catherine Cavadini says, "She means really well. She takes herself a little too seriously, I think. She’s a leader, so it’s a fine line that I have to play, because I can’t go too cutesy with her; even though she is cute, I have to maintain that she’s serious and she’s smart. She’s the one who’s always ordering everyone around. I have to keep that in there, but also make her likable."
ONE NIGHT, WHEN HE WAS ABOUT 12 years old, Craig McCracken said to himself, "‘Tomorrow I’m going to start working on a comic book. I’m going to start trying to do it.’" And he did, coloring it in with Magic Markers. "And from that time, basically until I came up with the Powerpuff Girls, I was always trying to invent the character that was my defining character." He began with "a generic mouse character named Marty Mouse. I was into Tintin comics at the time, and I wanted to try to write those kinds of adventure stories. I had a dream-detective character that was inspired by Will Eisner’s Spirit, I got into a George Herriman phase and tried to come up with a Krazy Kat–type character, I had an angry dog character called Crud Puppy for a while, and right before I did Powerpuff, I had a Mexican-wrestler hero named El Fuego, but I never could really get into it so much."
But comics were too static for the pictures in his head, and so he applied to the CalArts school of animation, the Harvard Law of its field, where he was accepted on the strength of his sketchbook. Illustrious alumni include Tim Burton, John Lasseter (Toy Story), Brad Bird (The Iron Giant), Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and various high-placed players in such Disneyworks as Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Tarzan.
"It was great meeting a bunch of people who were into the same things I was into," says McCracken. "We could communicate on a higher level than I could with kids I knew in high school. Most of the learning I did there was from other students, ’cause you’d all kind of help each other on your projects. At a certain point I kind of stopped going to class and just focused entirely on my film. I went to design class and a couple animation classes, but most of the time I just stayed up in my cubicle and worked. I was on this rotating schedule where I would be up one or two more hours every night, so I was never either a night owl or a day person, it would fluctuate every week, it would just keep rotating."
"I always used to go by his desk," remembers classmate Genndy Tartakovsky, "and his assignments were just amazing. Craig’s one of the first guys who, when I looked at his drawings, I realized how much further I had to go." They got to be friends, Craig helping Genndy with character design, Genndy helping Craig with animation. Tartakovsky — who’d lived in Moscow until age 7 and learned English from TV and comics — had transferred from a school in Chicago along with his friend Rob Renzetti, who would go on to work on Dexter’s Laboratory and Powerpuff. "I was kind of cocky at the time," Tartakovsky recalls, "because I thought, ‘Here I am after two years at this one college, and I’m pretty much the best in the class,’ and I get to CalArts and I was like the bottom 10 percent. It was very intimidating."
McCracken and Tartakovsky shared a vision. "The details might be different, but the ultimate goal is pretty much the same," says McCracken. "We both wanted to make the cartoons that were what we thought cartoons were like when we watched them as kids. A lot of times, shows that you saw when you were young you see when you’re older and you’re like, ‘What was ý I thinking? This was . . . terrible.’ So we wanted to make the cartoons we thought we watched, the memory of what we thought they were."