Animated series were in their prime in 1998. “The Powerpuff Girls” is one of the most beloved creations of this period.
The show was created by the young, but talented animator Craig McCracken. He partnered with the legendary Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. Together, they created an Emmy-nominated and award winning show for Cartoon Network Studios.
The lead characters of the show were the adorable Blossom, Bubble, and Buttercup—three kindergarten-aged girls with amazing superpowers. They could fly, fight, and save the day with ease.
The city of Townsville was where the trio lived with their father and creator, Professor Utonium. The people of Townville regularly called upon “The Powerpuff Girls” for assistance.
Unending waves of iconic criminals and monsters would pay Townsville a visit. So, the day frequently needed saving with help from the Powerpuff Girls.
The legendary voice actors of “The Powerpuff Girls” animated series
The series featured the amazing and lovable talents of well known voice actors, including:
- Blossom—Cathy Cavadini (An American Tale: Fievel Goes West)
- Bubbles—Tara Strong (Teen Titans Go!, Rugrats, The Fairly OddParents, Family Guy)
- Buttercup—E.G. Daily (Rugrats)
- Professor Utonium and HIM—Tom Kane (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Wild Thornberrys)
- Narrator and Mayor—Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants, Johnny Bravo)
- Mojo Jojo—Roger L. Jackson (Ghostface from the Scream film series)
- Ms. Keane, Princess Morbucks, and Sedusa—Jennifer Hale (The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?)
- Ace, Big Billy, Grubber, Major Man, Professor Dick Hardley, Squirrel, and more—Jeff Bennett (Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Laboratory, The Land Before Time, and The Penguins of Madagascar)
- Ms. Sara Bellum—Jennifer Martin (Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory, Men in Black: The Series, Johnny Bravo)
- Fuzzy Lumpkins—Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Pete, Tasmanian Devil)
About the show’s production and writing
The look and feel of the characters
McCracken attended the character animation program at CalArts. There, he developed a series titled, “No Neck Joe.” This early work exhibits some personality and style we would later see in “The Powerpuff Girls.”
McCracken drew the first illustration of three girls with large eyes, that would become “The Powerpuff Girls,” in June 1991 as part of a birthday card for his brother. The “Waif” series of paintings by Margaret Keane inspired and influenced the style used for “The Powerpuff Girls.”
Additional character development for “The Powerpuff Girls”
The girls appeared next in the animated short, “Whoop Ass Girls.” The organizers of the “Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation” selected McCracken’s new cartoon for their 1994 festival.
Evolution of the series title and terminology
McCracken feared how the Cartoon Network executives would react to the show’s language. “No one would make children’s toys with the word ass in it,” said McCracken.
The “can of Whoop Ass” became “Chemical X” and the show title changed to “What a Cartoon!” and again to “Powerpuff.”
The next animated short released, “The Powerpuff Girls in: Meat Fuzzy Lumpkins,” aired on Cartoon Network’s “World Premiere Toon-In” on February 20, 1995 and later on MTV.
Initial reception for “The Powerpuff Girls”
Initial buzz for the show was positive. Cartoon Network had launched multiple shows via their “World Premiere Toon-In” event. “Dexter’s Laboratory” was one of those other shows. It was proving to be much more popular initially.
One interesting side note, “Dexter’s Laboratory” was created by Genndy Tartakovsky―who was a friend and classmate of McCraken at CalArts. They each worked on one another’s shows over the years.
Cartoon Network executive Mike Lazzo still gave McCraken approval to produce another animated short of “The Powerpuff Girls.” “Crime 101” aired in 1996.
This episode featured veteran ABC voice announcer Ernie Andersen narrating the action. The role was taken on by Tom Kenny after Andersen died of cancer in 1997.
From multiple pilots to a complete Powerpuff Girls series
The show was approved for a full season. “The Powerpuff Girls” that the world knows and loves debuted November 18, 1998. The series ran for a total of 79 episodes and were written by McCracken, Amy Keating Rogers, John McIntyre, Chris Savino, Laurent Faust, Craig Lewis and many more. The show consistently scored the highest ratings for both young children and adults.
Production and animation for the series
Production took place in New York City at Hanna-Barbera and in Burbank, California at the Cartoon Network Studios.
Episodes ran 30 minutes with commercials. Each was hand-drawn at Rough Draft Studios in South Korea. The “What a Cartoon” shorts were done by Animal House in Japan and Fil Cartoons in the Philippines.
The series was presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio. The audio featured Dolby SR, Dolby Surround 7.1, and Dolby Digital. The negative was processed in Technicolor from 16mm digital negatives and used the Digital Intermediate Spherical cinematographic process.
Evolution and further refinement
It’s amazing how the style of the show evolved from 1992 through 2016.
Theme music from the “The Powerpuff Girls”
Three leading composers worked on the theme music for the show.
- Thomas Chase—whose other writing credits include: Adventures of the Gummy Bears, Alvin & the Chipmunks, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Codename: Kids Next Door, Dexter’s Laboratory, The Batman, The Pirates of Dark Water, The Real Ghostbusters, The Woody Woodpecker Show, and The Wuzzles.
- Steve Rucker—who also composed for Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Quest, and Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland
- James L. Venable—who also wrote music for Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and Samurai Jack.
Praise for Blossum, Bubbles, and Buttercup
“The Powerpuff Girls” received acclaim from many publications. Including Entertainment Weekly, who noted the “spot-on pop-culture acumen” and an inspiring “unparalleled sense of fun” the show offered its viewers.
The New York Times gave a nod to the adult humor and pop culture references, writing that the show featured “the sort of playful satire that can appeal as much to a viewer of 37 as 7.”
TV Guide ranked “The Powerpuff Girls” #13 in their list of the greatest 50 cartoon characters of all time.
Live-action “The Powerpuff Girls” television series
In 2020, The CW announced the start of production on a live-action television series based on “The Powerpuff Girls.” This edition would feature twenty-something renditions of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup. The premise for the show maintains that “The Powerpuff Girls” exist to save the world.
The girls lost their childhood fight against crime. As a result, the dynamic trio are now feeling despondent. A very different tone from the sweet and positive vibes the original animated series offered.