On Monday, animation fans should set their TV sets and celebrate. That day, Cartoon Network will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the debut of Craig McCracken’s Powerpuff Girls with an all-day marathon. They then cap it off with a brand new episode entitled, appropriately, “PowerPuff Girls Rule!!!”
If that isn’t enough, parent company Warner Bros. Home Video will release a box set featuring, as creator McCracken puts it, every televised thing featuring the Girls, from all 78 original episodes to every interstitial promotion featuring the population of Townsville. It also includes McCracken’s original student project, “Whupass Girls,” which evolved into the PPG’s. If that is not enough, there’s also a fairly lengthy all-new documentary on the origins and impact of Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup.
When we had the opportunity to interview McCracken, it was done with one proviso, and that was we also had the opportunity to spread a little shine on his other projects, particularly Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends and the recently launched Cartoonstitute. Admittedly, you will have to wait until part two of this article to get that information. Then again, this is the Girls’ party. They should be the center of attention.
That said, here’s what McCracken had to say:
Newsarama: I think it’s amazing to think you and Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, the original Clone Wars) were roommates in college.
Craig McCracken: Yeah, yeah. Right out of college it was myself, Genndy and Rob Renzetti. We were all living together in an apartment while working on Two Stupid Dogs.
NRAMA: Now was Rob a comic book fan. In past interviews you said you and Genndy were.
CM: : We were all big comic book/drawing nerds.
NRAMA: But you were the guy who was into Bob Burden, right?
CM: : Right. I’m a big Flaming Carrot fan. Genndy was more Marvel comics. I was more independent/underground kind of stuff. Rob was more the old time, classic animation fan. He was more into the Fleischers, stuff like that.
NRAMA: What’s interesting to see now, it’s been like 10-15 years…
CM: : It’s been much more than that. We’ve known each other since 1991-2.
NRAMA: But what I was leading to is there’s kind of a core seven, you, Genndy, Chris Savino, Paul Rudish, etc, are all pretty much still together.
CM: : Sort of. Rob and I are still working together. A lot of the people at the Cartoonstitute are guys I went to college with. Genndy is still doing some projects for Cartoon Network. He’s doing a short for us at the Cartoonstitute.
NRAMA: So let’s get seriously Powerpuff-centric here. How does it feel to be talking about the 10th anniversary of their debut on Cartoon Network? When you first came up with Whupass Girls, did you ever think we’d be talking about this?
CM: : I knew I had something cool that was entertaining to watch. I didn’t know what would come of it. When I was an animation student at Cal Arts in the early 90s, the idea of selling a television show to a network just didn’t exist. No one had really done that. Yes, John K(ricfalusi) had sold his own television show but he had been working in the industry for years. He was an established veteran when he sold Ren & Stimpy. In my case, the possibility of becoming a creator just wasn’t a possibility. At the time, none of us thought that was an option. We had fantasies and pipe dreams of it, but there was no practical application at that time.
NRAMA: So was it Linda Simensky or Mike Lazzo coming up to you at that time?
CM: : We were all fortunate enough to be working at Hanna-Barbera at the time when the merger happened with Turner. Then Cartoon Network got launched in 1992. Then they started the shorts program. We were just there, kids with ideas, when they said we’re looking for ideas. Do any of you artists have ideas? It really was just good timing.
NRAMA: Yeah, because in the documentary that’s now included in the boxed set, you had the Girls, Van Partible talked about Johnny Bravo. They were already created before the World Premiere Toon program.
CM: : Yeah. Johnny Bravo was Van’s student film when he was going to Loyola. Dexter was actually Genndy’s second-year student film. When we were all working at H-B, one of our line producers, Larry Huber, saw it and said he should pitch it as a short. Genndy hadn’t even considered it. It was another producer who had come up with the idea he should do the boards and then he went with it.
NRAMA: Wasn’t that sort of the same for you?
CM: : No. I had pitched Whupass before the shorts program was developed. I had always thought it would have been a television program. It was in development as far back as 1992, 1993. I had originally shown it to the development department and they immediately loved it. We were already starting to negotiate for a television series. That was before What A Cartoon was developed. I was talking contract for a 13-episode series. While we were negotiating, then they came up with the shorts program.
That actually stopped the green light. Fred Seibert saw the potential in the Whupass Girls, very early on. The really weird thing about it is I thought I was going to get that contract when they called me in way back in 1993 and it took until 1997 for me to finally get it.
NRAMA: Do you think, in the long run, having that period kinda helped the Girls?
CM: : Absolutely! The show would not have been good if I had made it in 1993. It probably would have been too weird, a little too quirky. Timing-wise, it was a thing certain people were ready to see. Still, working on Dexter for four years; getting to be a better board artist, storyteller and the whole thing, just improving in the way to make cartoons, it really made me prepared to make PowerPuff Girls later on. It really helped me refine my voice.
NRAMA: What do you think is just the plain appeal of Powerpuff Girls?
CM: : They’re just kind of iconic characters. They represent cuteness and are cool looking. Then combine with their aggressiveness, their hardcore attitude, made them become iconic cartoon characters.
NRAMA: Now one thing I’ve recently realized is Mojo is not the first villain you thought of.
CM: : I thought of a lot of different villains and one of them was this evil monkey, but I hadn’t fully developed him. I hadn’t realized his personality and what he was really about. I didn’t really come up with Mojo until the show got greenlit.
In fact, I remember when we had to record and were auditioning actors. I came in and hadn’t even written dialogue for Mojo. I wasn’t sure what he was going to sound like. I remember literally writing his dialogue, thinking he should talk like Speed Racer, on my way to the session. He would over-enunciate, over-describe everything he does because he’s so obsessed with it. I really came up with it that quick. Then we started recording on that.
NRAMA: Did you have Roger Jackson then to help you along?
CM: : Roger was just one of the guys auditioning. Roger just came in and added something that took Mojo to a new level. That’s why we hired him. As soon as we heard him we knew that was the guy.
NRAMA: In a past interview you mentioned some book from DC comics, too?
CM: : It was a book called The Super Dictionary. It was basically a dictionary for little kids that described words in paragraphs. For instance, it would say something like “Krypto made Superman laugh. It makes a positive sound come from Superman’s belly.” Reading it made me think what were these guys doing? We would sit around reading that book and just laugh over it.
NRAMA: So the parents of Mojo are Peter Fernandez and DC Comics.
CM: : Yeah. I guess so. Absolutely.
NRAMA: Now I guess the reason you originally stopped Powerpuffs was moving to Foster’s.
CM: : That was what it was. After we had finished The Powerpuff Movie, Mike Lazzo approached us about coming up with another show. I said I couldn’t develop a new show and run another one. So, we ultimately put Chris Savino in charge of Powerpuff Girls seasons five and six while went off to develop Foster’s.
So, when I did pitch Foster’s, they said great and we started producing it. As soon as we started production, everyone from left and it was fully in the hands of Chris to work on Powerpuff.
NRAMA: So you decided to go out on a plus note.
CM: : That’s kind of how it went. There was a period where they sat Chris down and asked him if he wanted to do a seventh season. He actually said no. He thought the show was still OK but it was getting to be time to move on. The thing is, the crew Chris was working on wasn’t really the same crew that started with. Genndy had pulled a lot of guys to work on Samurai Jack and Clone Wars. I had taken some people for Foster’s. Chris was starting with an entirely new crew.
NRAMA: So getting on to this new episode. Was this more or less the return of the original crew?
CM: : We didn’t have everybody come back. A lot of people who were originally involved in the show were not with the new episode. My whole goal was to make the show as if we had never missed a single day. It would be just like the end of season four, before I left.
NRAMA: Honestly, I don’t know if I should punch you or congratulate you. I don’t know if I can ever listen to “Everyone Wants to Rule The World” by Tears For Fear and hear it the same way again.
CM: : It just seemed too perfect to not use it. It really all was just us going back and looking at the show and saying this was a really silly, funny show. That story idea was really how I always wanted the story to end. It's as if the network had allowed me to do a real final episode, but never really do a true finale.
NRAMA: Did you have any trouble getting the voice crew together?
CM: : They were all really excited to come back. The cool thing about it was we also got it done like we hadn’t missed a day. There was no re-figuring about what their characters were about. When we went into that booth to record, everybody was instantly back in character.
It was the same thing for the writing and boarding for me. It was just like this weird muscle memory, even though I hadn’t been doing it for a long time.
NRAMA: If I’m not mistaken, we do get a heck of an easter egg in there. You actually give us a glimpse of Sarah Bellum’s face.
CM: : Yeah yeah! It’s in there for a few frames. I had to give something to all the TiVo users.
NEXT COLUMN: Some more PPG’s, a little Fosters and a lot about plans for the Cartoonstitute.
BANDAI GOES TECHNICOLOR
Bandai Entertainment announced today it will begin operations with Technicolor on many of its upcoming Japanese animation titles with specific titles to be announced later.
“Many of our upcoming titles and back catalog will be replicated by Technicolor,” said Director of Marketing Robert Napton. “They have a pedigree in the realm of DVD replication that few can match and we are excited to be working with them moving forward on our releases.”
Recognized as an optical industry pioneer, Technicolor is the world’s largest manufacturer of DVD and Blu-ray Discs based on a total combined output. The company has the capacity to produce 2.1 billion discs per year.
“We’re very pleased to be working with Bandai Entertainment to replicate their Japanese animation DVD titles,” said Stephan Corti, senior vice president, worldwide sales for Technicolor. “This relationship further demonstrates Technicolor’s commitment to continued growth in DVD replication.”