The Powerpuff Girls: Complete Season 1 Review
Sugar. Spice. And everything nice. These were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little girls. But Professor Utonium accidentally added an extra ingredient to the concoction...Chemical X. Thus the Powerpuff Girls were born. Using their ultra-superpowers, Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup have dedicated their lives to fighting crime and the forces of evil!...The Narrator
The Powerpuff Girls is the kind of cartoon that almost as soon as it establishes a format, it goes about trying to wriggle out of it. Think of Tom & Jerry defying all known rules in their chaotic dashing about the home they share, Tom squashed like a concertina somewhere between the sink, the floor and a giant anvil hanging above the hobs. Or the Roadrunner passing without effort through a scribbled-on-the-side-of-a-mountain tunnel while Wile E Coyote pings off the stone wall, bounces down the mountain and, falling off the ledge, disappears into the canyon before a puff of dust signals the end to his descent. Think even of Ren & Stimpy and how freely it trampled all over the domestic contentment (or lack of it) implied by a dim cat and an astonishingly violent dog. Think of anything, in fact, that packages ultraviolence, laughs and primary colours into a single cartoon and makes it available to children. Responsible adults would be outraged, and have been.
The Powerpuff Girls continues this long tradition by bending its rules for the sake of glorious comedy, sweetness and bloodshed. It might well be one of the only cartoons made for children in which one of its lead characters disappears beneath a giant octopus and, stretching and groaning, reappears by bursting out of the creature's giant eye in a bright green wash of vitreous fluid. The Powerpuff Girls isn't unique in bringing an animated devil to the screen but might be the first showing him being struck so hard as to colour the screen bright red with blood. And I can't think of any other show that has one of its heroines kicking a monkey so hard as to snap the bandage around his head and embed a foot in his giant brain. The Powerpuff Girls does all that and features a song so sweet that it will have you humming, "Love Love Love! La-la-love! Makes the world go round!"
The Powerpuff Girls opens with Professor Utonium attempting to create three little girls but accidentally adding Chemical X to the mix. Blossom...commander and the leader. Bubbles...is the joy and the laughter! And Buttercup...she is the toughest fighter! Together, they pack their schoolbags and attend Pokey Oaks kindergarten but the city of Townsville is a dangerous place and it isn't long before the Powerpuff Girls get called on their playphone hotline to punch, kick and drag various villains to the ground, often leaving them literally broken. Brain matter litters the floor, blood drips from skyscrapers and various unidentified substances ooze. And then the girls giggle, Bubbles picks up her Octi stuffed toy and it's all sweetness and light. "The city is saved thanks to the Powerpuff Girls!"
Created by Craig McCracken, The Powerpuff Girls were stars from the moment they first appeared on the Cartoon Network. Unfortunatley, without any showings on terrestrial channels, many children were doubtless blank-eyed at seeing the lunch boxes, woolly hats and pencil cases with the likenesses of the Powerpuff Girls upon them. Immediately identifiable via their huge eyes, colour-coordinated outfits and smiling expressions (except for Buttercup), the Powerpuff Girls were designed for the kind of cartoon fame that only comes to a rarified few...but it wasn't really to be. A disappointing movie came and went, the show carried on for six seasons and those toys kept on getting produced but became stockpiled in stores as fashions moved elsewhere. Eventually, Craig McCracken moved on, Genndy Tartakovsky moved to Lucasfilm and Clone Wars and the Powerpuff Girls, though fondly remembered I'm sure, will have to wait a few years before making the kind of comeback that Scooby Doo has been making for his entire career.
However, back with this first season, The Powerpuff Girls was a joy. Smart, sassy and with more snap than a deck full of aces, it gleefully pillaged pop culture, kindergarten and three girls who really are sugar and spice and all things nice. It had great songs, great villains and the kind of style that seemed so effortless at that stage in the Cartoon Network's life. Atop it all sat the three Powerpuff Girls, who attend nursery school by day but await a phone call from Townsville City Hall to say that they're needed. Loyal support was provided by Miss Sara Bellum, Mayor Mayor, a talking dog and Professor Utonium, who may also being called Professor as well as being one. Oh, and a Narrator who is never what you might call impartial. Making up the other side is Him, Fuzzy Lumpkins, the Gangreen Gang and Mojo Jojo, the last of them a super-evil monkey with a giant brain hidden beneath a bandage. Not only does this give him such intelligence to plan dastardly acts but a vocabulary that will see him make do with five words when one will do. A typical Mojo Jojo ransom note will read, "Dear Powerpuff Girls, I have kidnapped Professor Utonium! I have taken him someplace against his will! If you look for him in the spots he likes to be, you will not find him! He's with me, but not by choice! I took him and he didn't like it! This message is from, and was written by, Mojo Jojo." It also gives him the power to create, out of slugs, snails and puppy dog tails (and Chemical X), the Rowdyruff Boys, Brick, Boomer and Butch.
This set contains all thirteen episodes from the first season of The Powerpuff Girls, eleven of which feature two stories, one each before and after where the break would have been. Opening with Insect Inside, in which the Powerpuff Girls learn that it's good to stomp on certain bugs, to Uh Oh Dynamo, where the professor invents a giant robot to protect the Powerpuff Girls with everything that could go wrong going wrong. Along the way, three criminals disguise themselves (badly) as the Powerpuff Girls, Mojo Jojo turns everyone, Powerpuff Girls included, into dogs and the professor gets married. To Sedusa! Him takes over the town spreading evil and paying homage to FW Murnau's Faust (1926) while Buttercup falls for Ace from the Gangreen Gang.
The Powerpuff Girls battle a zombie magician and then take a back seat while Fuzzy Lumpkins, Him and Mojo Jojo join forces to sort out a crank-call-making Gangreen Gang. And, at the end of the first disc, we learn the origins of Mojo Jojo and what he did to create the Powerpuff Girls. "I did it! I did it! I did it!" Onto the second disc and Blossom finds that she has the power of ice breath, which doesn't sit well with Bubbles and Buttercup. It comes in very useful on the hottest day of the year, though. Bubbles turns violent, Fuzzy Lumpkins is made mayor and the professor is controlled by a cat brought in by the Powerpuff Girls. Then they save the day and the show's colour with Love Makes The World Go Round before they have to fight the Rowdyruff Boys and Dynamo.
It would get more inventive - the dialogue in Meet The Beat-Alls comes from Beatles lyrics - get funnier and, with the movie, look much more expensive but there is such charm in this first season that it's almost impossible not to like. The characters are well-developed, the situations are funny and it leaps from the peace and quiet of Pokey Oaks to manga-inspired apocalypse. But more than that, it's shot through with such a knowing sense of the possibilities that come with animation that The Powerpuff Girls is never less than hugely enjoyable. Almost perfect for a cartoon.
I tend to be rather complimentary of Warner Brothers' transfers, particularly as regards those on Region 1. Their work restoring their archive is without peer and they have been consistent in producing the best-looking DVDs in my collection, including The Adventures Of Robin Hood and Casablanca. I had high hopes for The Powerpuff Girls.
Unfortunately, The Powerpuff Girls isn't presented particularly well on this set. It was never the most detailed of shows and looking at it now it's easy to see how corners were cut in the making of the show but there's a fair amount of flecks, lines, spots and other blemishes marking the prints that were used in the making of this DVD. Clarity isn't so much of an issue with The Powerpuff Girls as the DVD doesn't have to work with a great deal of detail and what there is just about acceptable, as are the bright colours of the series, making it the quality of the print that's the main problem. Given what they've done with other releases, one would have expected Warners to have done much more with The Powerpuff Girls.
The DD2.0 audio track is fine. There is some background noise, a small amount of hiss that seems always present, but it's able to be overlooked once the action begins and the Powerpuff Girls zip around Townsville. With the Bis theme and the manga-style audio effects sounding bright and fizzing, it's not bad but shows up an absence of restoration. Once again, it would appear as though Warners simply transferred what they had onto DVD with no more than a reasonable amount of care.
The Whoop*ss Girls (3m53s): They weren't always known as Powerpuff Girls. Craig McCracken's original short had Professor Utonium adding a can of Whoop Ass to his normal concoction of sugar, spice and everything nice and so created the Whoop*ss Girls. Or, avoiding the PG censorship, WhoopAss Girls. This short cartoon, which also comes in a Pencil Test Version (3m38s), shows how complete the concept was from the very beginning. Apart from some minor details, Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup look exactly the same as they would in The Powerpuff Girls, as do The Gangreen Gang and the Amoeba Boys, who the Whoop*ss girls do battle with. And do something that the Powerpuff Girls would never do, taking them through space to be incinerated by the sun.
What A Cartoon! (x2): Before Season 1 began, Craig McCracken produced two pilots to be shown on the Cartoon Network, Meat Fuzzy Lumpkins (7m35s) and Crime 101 (7m33s). Though these lack the, "Sugar! Spice! And everything nice!" beginning of The Whoop*ss Girls and The Powerpuff Girls, these are closer to the format and running time of the episodes in Season 1 but miss the unique design that would come later.
CNN Shorts Interview (2m40s): Looking to have been made some years back - it begins with interviews with William Hanna and Joseph Barbera and to have been shot on a particularly fuzzy videotape - this shows a very young-looking Craig McCracken pitching an episode of The Powepuff Girls to a room full of, I suspect, producers. He and Van Partible then describe the animation process to CNN viewers but, given the running time, only in the briefest of terms.
Space Ghost - Coast To Coast (15m51s): "Tonight! Live From Ghost Planet!" Space Ghost hosts the first ever Annual Toon In. Before the usual panel of Brak, Zorak and Moltar, several of Hanna-Barbera's animation directors (Craig McCracken, Genndy Tartakovsky and Van Partible) talk about their shows in an increasingly surreal style before being judged. If you plan on watching this to see The Powerpuff Girls, I wouldn't bother as this contains less than one second of the actual show but does feature an interview, however bizarre, with McCracken. The full interview with the Powerpuff Girls' creator is also included as a Raw Interview (5m17s) and features an offscreen interviewer asking McCracken if he could rephrase comments as though he were actually talking to Space Ghost.
Promos (7m13s): These are a set of sixteen advertisements produced by the Cartoon Network around the time of the first season of The Powerpuff Girls.