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Powerpuff Girls, The

Entry updated 20 February 2023. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (1998-2005). Hanna-Barbera Cartoons (1998-2001); Cartoon Network Studios (2002-2005). Created by Craig McCracken. Directors include John McIntyre, Craig McCracken, Randy Myers and Genndy Tartakovsky. Writers include John McIntyre, Amy Keating Rogers and Chris Savino. Voice cast includes Catherine Cavadini, Elizabeth Daily, Roger L. Jackson, Tom Kane, Tom Kenny and Tara Strong. 78 23-minute episodes (usually with two stories), plus three shorts and three specials. Colour.

Using the traditional ingredients, Scientist Professor Utonium (Kane) tries to create the perfect little girl, but Chemical X is accidentally added to the mix. The result is the Powerpuff Girls: three kindergarten-aged Superpowered Superheroes who beat up criminals. The gentle and sensitive Bubbles (Strong) is sugar; the tomboyish and stroppy Buttercup (Daily) is spice; and their leader, the smart but sometimes bossy Blossom (Cavadini), is everything nice. A narrator (Kenny) enthusiastically comments on events.

The girls live with the Professor in the city of Townsville, answering calls for help from the not-too-bright mayor whenever Supervillains or giant Monsters (see Kaiju) attack. Stories include Mecha, one a mechanical human piloted by an impatient cockroach, another a giant Powerpuff Girl piloted by the trio; a villain entering a Time Gate to change the Professor's childhood decision to become a scientist, only to cause that choice (see Time Loop); a nanotech cloud raining on the city (see Nanotechnology), stealing all the carbon – the girls are Miniaturized to fight the bots one-on-one ("Let's kick some nano-butt."). Other tales have them trapped in a silent movie, being Cloned, learning to swear and confronting a giant Alien Spaceship. There are many villains, but the main two are Mojo Jojo (Jackson) and HIM (Kane). The former is a brilliant but somewhat prolix chimpanzee whose brain was expanded by Chemical X (see Uplift); the latter an androgynous, lobster-clawed Satan who is absurdly powerful, able to change the Earth's orbit with a gesture – but preferring to torment humanity, including Dream Hacking the trio.

Though many adventures are fairly straightforward, the show delights in injecting segments of dark Humour, surrealist imagery and nightmarish situations into others. In one the trio race home from school and approach the speed of light, arriving 50 years in the future (see Time Distortion): with their absence Townsville has become a Dystopian ruin ruled by HIM, the inhabitants having surrendered to despair; pointing to the trio, they declare: "Powerpuff Girls – you did this!". There are also jokes for older viewers: in one story it may be inferred that, as the Professor prepares for a date, Buttercup slips condoms into his pocket.

The thick-lined animation is stylized: landscapes and characters tend to be angular, save for our big-eyed, round-headed heroines. A very successful series, critically and commercially (having generated over $2.5 billion in revenue), it won two Primetime Emmys. The show is amusing, visually interesting and manages to be to be both cute and violent – often simultaneously. Seasons five and six are lighter in tone, McCracken having left after the fourth, though he wrote and co-directed the twentieth-anniversary special The Powerpuff Girls Rule!!! (2009); he also directed and co-wrote The Powerpuff Girls Movie (2002).

A rebooted series ran 2016-2019 (122 episodes, 10 shorts, 1 special), to mixed reviews: neither McCracken nor the trio's original voice cast were involved. A pilot for a possible live-action series was commissioned in early 2021. The original show was partly influenced by Anime and Tokusatsu works, so it is fitting that there was an anime tv series, Powerpuff Girls Z (2006-2007; original title Demashita! Pawapafu Grevāruzu Zetto), with 52 episodes: it features many of the original's characters (some – particularly the trio – radically redesigned), though here it is Tokyo that has to be protected. There have also been Comics, Manga, Videogames and Gamebooks including The Powerpuff Girls Plus You Club: Rainy Day Professor (2002) by Scott Westerfeld. [SP]


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