Believe me, I have no illusions about the "power" of anything I say.
But when I see Scooby Doo
becoming the #1 movie in the country, it really
I just don’t know how you guys do it. I mean the way you still get excited
when you hear about a movie adaptation of a TV cartoon series. I know the promise
of big budget special effects and big name actors is seductive, and all…
But seriously, how often have you seen one of these things that wasn’t a
slight, if not utter disappointment?
Scooby Doo is not even the best example of this. On top of starring
(ugh!) Freddie Prinze, Jr., and being purposefully stripped of its minute fibers
of subtext in favor of making it more kid-friendly (i.e.; bankable), the original
Scooby Doo cartoons were dog crap (sorry) to begin with. Honestly, if
you ever see a good episode of Scooby Doo, it would be a good idea to
run out and buy a lottery ticket.
A much better example would be Beavis & Butthead, which for its
time was one of the sharpest, edgiest, and yes, most vulgar cartoons out there.
The possibility of how far a movie version, devoid of network censors, could
go made my mouth water. So I was kinda let down that Beavis & Butthead
Do America, while not a bad movie, was so much tamer than the TV show.
I understand the economic realities all too well at this point—those backpacks,
lunch boxes and home pregnancy kits aren't gonna sell themselves. So it intrigues
me even more that The Powerpuff Girls Movie decided to go a different
Now, before discussing the movie I think it only fair that I tell you that
The Powerpuff Girls is my oldest daughter’s favorite TV show and
I’ve seen every episode several times over. As such, I’ve reached
the conclusion that…
I HATE THE POWERPUFF GIRLS!
What d’you mean, “Why?" Isn’t it obvious?
Have you never seen the show?
"Using their ultra-super powers, Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup have dedicated
their lives to fighting crime and the forces of evil!"
Every week (daily now) this little show about three super-powered kindergarten
girls, that looks like it’s gonna be a cross between My Little Pony
and Sailor Moon, comes on and turns out to be a kickass, action-packed
superhero/ Japanese anime deconstruction designed with a 60s retro style and
infused with obscure pop culture references covering the full spectrum—anywhere
from breakfast cereal mascots to Van Halen song lyrics. Even the girls’
father, Professor Utonium, was modeled after Dave Seville, the "father"
from the original Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoons.
Now do you see why I hate The Powerpuff Girls?
Hmmn. Maybe you just don’t know the history:
It all started with a little bit of sugar, spice, everything nice and a liberal
spillage of Chemical X…Thus, the Whoop Ass Girls were born!
You heard me right. The Whoop-Ass Girls was a side project that creator
Craig McCracken worked on in between his increasingly annoying segments of No
Neck Joe, which ran along side Beavis & Butthead as one of the
staples of the Spike and Mike’s Sick & Twisted Animation Festivals
for years. Simultaneously, Ted Turner was creating the Cartoon Network as a
vehicle to milk some value out of his recently purchased backlog of forgotten
Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Inasmuch as Hanna-Barbera was maybe the least original
of all the old 'get it done by Tuesday' animation studios, the Cartoon Network
was virtually unwatchable.
That was until they got the idea to hold a contest for new animators to surrender…
er, submit their own creations, with the winners receiving their own series.
The results were mixed but mostly positive. Of the handful of properties chosen
to go into production on weekly series, the two most requested cartoons were
from the creative team of Gendy Tartakovsky, Paul Rudish & Craig McCracken:
Dexter’s Laboratory and the newly modified Whoop Ass Girls,
with a slight name change…
…Thus, The Powerpuff Girls were born!
Even though Dexter premiered months before, The Powerpuff Girls’
popularity far surpassed it. It did for the Cartoon Network what South Park
did for Comedy Central.
Even though both shows (as well as the team's latest creation, Samurai Jack)
are executed with the same cross-generational sensibilities, The Powerpuff
Girls’ break out status can probably be chalked up to its enormous
cross-gender appeal. The three heroines, with their distinctive personalities,
make the perfect role models for little grrrls everywhere. Finally, a superhero
cartoon that welcomed girls AND boys to the party.
Now is it clear why I hate The Powerpuff Girls?!
Because… I… didn’t… come up with it! There!
As a semi-successful (and I stress the word ‘semi’) comic book artist
and animator, I’ve spent the better part of my career trying to create
such a property with so many creative possibilities, not to mention marketability.
I mean… Dammit, I’m at a loss for what to do with the rest of my life
It is only logical at this point that there would be a Powerpuff Girls
movie, but let me first assure you that unlike Hey Arnold! The Movie
(which should’ve been titled Hey, Arnold, You Suck!), it’s
no straight-to-video movie blown up twice-size. It is a REAL movie with enhanced
animation and an oddly sophisticated script.
If you’ve watched the show even once, you already know the origin of
the Powerpuff Girls because it’s announced in the intro—and if you’re
a “true believer” you probably caught the episode that reveals that
the Chemical X accident was actually caused by the Professor’s lab assistant
Jojo, who would in turn became the Girls' arch-enemy, Mojo Jojo. Turns out there
was quite a bit that happened between that event and their officially becoming
the weekly saviors of Townsville. The Powerpuff Girls Movie is a detailed
account of their first week of life and I guarantee, whether you’re a huge
fan or have never seen the show, it’s not what you expect.
The birth of the girls is truly adorable, with an undercurrent of sterile
creepiness that’s usually reserved for Stanley Kubrick movies. It gave
me the same shiver I got from the first third (the good part) of A. I.,
or better yet, Edward Scissorhands. This mood continues through their
first day at Pokey Oaks Kindergarten, when an innocent game of tag leaves Townsville
all but a smoking crater. From here the movie gets… well, um, a lot darker.
The citizens of Townsville are not at all amused by six year olds with the
powers of gods and are merciless in showing their abject hatred. The movie borders
on being downright depressing at times. Surprisingly, none of the kids at the
screening I went to seemed too broken up about it, but we adults were constantly
muttering to ourselves, "Daaaaammn."
Just before you’re about to refill your prescription of Zoloft, the fun
comes back into the movie in the third act, in the form of an all out war between
the girls and Mojo Jojo’s enormous battalion of super-simians. The action
is off the scale and the jokes fly so fast and furious that there’s no
way you’ll be able to catch them all in one viewing. It blows anything
from Star Wars or Wind Talkers right off the screen and is worth
the price of admission alone.
It’s a ballsy move, for sure. Considering that there is no “bad”
episode of The Powerpuff Girls, they had every reason—and right—to
make the movie just an extended episode of the show. Yet they used the opportunity
to make something of substance, and remind everyone that the show was always
written for adults first.
Even when they have the perfect opportunity to sell out, they still come out
The Powerpuff Girls stand as a monument to my own failures. And so,
like Antonio Salieri and J.Jonah Jameson before me, I will continue to hate
and plot their destruction…
….Come to think of it… Considering that The Powerpuff Girls Movie
is aimed at an ambiguous demographic, opening opposite Men in Black 2,
and is being released by a non-Disney studio, it’s very likely it will
suffer the same ill-fate as The Iron Giant—‘the greatest animated
movie no one went to see.’
…Ha! Ha! Ha!…
…that’ll probably just give them more street cred and an even bigger
cult following… Thus, leaving me like Mojo Jojo:
And green with envy…
Curse you, Powerpuff Girls!
*sniff* Curse you.