Out this month, the new Powerpuff Girls series has stirred up a lot of old memories. Some fans are glad to see the old characters back, others shake their heads that it just isn’t the same without old cast members or series creator Craig McCracken.
Still, whether you’re gathering evidence for an argument for or against the new series (spice), or just looking to enjoy some old cartoons on a few new levels (sugar), this treasure trove of trivia should have something nice for you (everything nice, and maybe also Chemical X… okay, this metaphor is getting a little out of hand).
Here are 12 Things You Need To Know About The Powerpuff Girls.
12. The darker series that could have been
McCracken sometimes claims there wasn’t much of a jump from his original rough idea to the series we remember from the turn of the millennium. “The core concept hasn’t changed at all. The only thing that’s changed is the name: They used to be called The Whoop-Ass Girls, and we had to do The Powerpuff Girls for obvious reasons.”
He left out the part about how in his original three-minute short for CalArts, the “Whoopass Girls” fried their enemies, the Amoeba Boys, on the surface of the sun. It’s true that we don’t see the Amoeba Boys actually melt or die, but this was still a little more brutal than Cartoon Network was willing to get for a children’s TV series.
11. The show’s problem with Satan
As if “Whoopass” wasn’t problematic enough, the Powerpuffs’ rogues’ gallery included an effeminate version of the Devil Himself, a few years before South Park presented its take. Cartoon Network wasn’t about to start saying “Satan” in a show that had so many young fans with concerned parents, so the show instead introduced HIM – a being “so sinister, so evil, so scary, so horribly vile that his real name can never be said, lest fear be struck into the very hearts of men.”
10. The Sleeping Beauty connection
Not all the influences on the show came from such eyebrow-raising sources. The three good fairies of Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty share the Powerpuff girls’ color scheme, but that’s not too remarkable: red, blue and green are the additive primary colors and show up together in lots of different cartoon trios (like Huey, Dewey and Louie and Alvin and the Chipmunks).
However, their names are Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, loosely corresponding to Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup, and their personalities, like the Girls’, boil down to “the sweet one,” “the spunky one” and “the tough one.”
9. The Batman connection
The show took much of its tone from the campy 1960s Batman series, and it also borrowed one of the sets: the mayor of Townsville has an office that resembles the posh workplace of 1960s Batman‘s Commissioner Gordon. McCracken called it his favorite childhood show:
“When I watched it as a kid, it was totally real and intense and bad things were happening, but my parents were laughing at it, and I couldn’t understand what they thought was so funny. When I saw it again when I was older, I realized that it was a comedy. I realized I needed to try to make a show that works both ways.”
In a sense, “Batman” returned this tribute: Christian Bale, of all people, sang the Powerpuff Girls theme song on the air during an interview.
8. Buttercup outdid Gene Simmons
The producers tried not to keep the pop culture references too topical, hoping that the show would enjoy a long afterlife in reruns (as it certainly has). So you didn’t see too many references to the latest movies or TV shows (except for Dexter’s Laboratory.) But musicians who have had decades-long careers are a different story.
In “Nuthin’ Special,” Buttercup spends half the episode trying to find some special power or talent she has that her sisters don’t. Thinking she’s failed, she sticks her tongue out in frustration – only to discover that she can curl her tongue but her sisters can’t. In fact, NOBODY ELSE IN TOWNSVILLE can… not even legendarily long-tongued Simmons.
7. The Ringo Starr connection
Starr went much further for the Girls than just okaying the use of his likeness. For 2014’s “reunion episode,” “Dance Pantsed,” he played fey mathematician Fibonacci Sequins and wrote and performed the short, peppy tune in the video above, ending with a very Beatleish sentiment: “I wish I was a Powerpuff Girl. Cause then I’d save the world, and afterward, cuddle up with a puppy or two. / But most importantly, spread the word of peace, and love. / Throughout the land…”
6. Powerpuffing Yourself
The Powerpuff Girls have inspired style parodies for pretty much its entire existence, but to kick off the new series, Cartoon Network unleashed an interactive site that lets you enter your vital stats – or those of any friend, relative or celebrity whom you’d care to give this treatment – and boom, in less than five minutes, you’ll have a portrait as crisp as if the animators had made it to order.
This is hardly a new idea – see Get Peanutized and SigFig Creator for The LEGO Movie and doubtless others – but by playing up a slightly busier version of the PPGs’ familiar style, the series effectively advertised that it’d at least look much like you remembered it.
5. The location of Townsville
“The city of Townsville,” begins the narration with every episode, and sure enough, the Powerpuff Girls’ stomping grounds are as generic as possible. That hasn’t stopped some fans from trying to track down where they should be, though. In the episode “Him Diddle Riddle,” the girls are sent on a wild puzzle hunt with the Professor’s life in the balance, and the final location is given as 32 degrees north and 212 degrees west (that is, 148 east).
But would-be scavenger hunters were disappointed to realize that this would put Townsville in uncharted waters in the Pacific Ocean, 462 miles from the nearest known land. Either these are bogus coordinates or the PPGs’ world is way more futuristic than it looks.
4. The new-voice controversy
It’s safe to say that the original actresses for Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup are not among the new series’ fans, and their fans may find themselves conflicted. “I don’t remember ordering a stab in the heart today,” tweeted Tara Strong shortly thereafter. EG Daily soon followed up with “Owie! Rt in the kisser,” and Cathy Cavadini completed the set with “I wish the new girls well but Wow! does this hurt my heart.” (Daily and Strong quickly echoed Cavadini’s well wishes. McCracken gave the show his blessing but is also not participating.)
Amanda Leighton, Kristen Li and Natalie Palamides have big shoes to fill, but the series isn’t totally recast: it still has Roger L. Jackson as Mojo Jojo and the Tom Ks – Tom Kenny as the Mayor and narrator, and Tom Kane as Professor Utonium.
3. The movie was not a success
The animated series was still Cartoon Network’s flagship property at the time the film came out and Cartoon Network promoted the HIM out of it, but Time-Warner, Cartoon Network’s owners, all but ignored it. While reviews were positive overall, the influential Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper pronounced it too violent.
What really killed it, though, was going up against Men In Black II on the same opening weekend and the recently opened Spider-Man and Scooby-Doo. With $16 million in box office receipts, it barely made back its budget and led Cartoon Network to scrap plans for any more theatrical releases.
2. The many animator self-portraits
The animators dropped lots of hidden references throughout the series, as we’ve already seen with the Beatles and KISS, but one of their favorite subjects was naturally themselves. McCracken appears as the founder of eBay in “Slumbering with the Enemy,” and with Paul Rudish and Don Shank in “Criss Cross Crisis.”
“Genndy McCracken,” a fusion of McCracken’s name and that of producer Genndy Tartakovsky, appears in a roll call of Townsville in “Collect Her.” McCracken showed up one more time in a newspaper in the movie, and in the movie’s big finale, a giant Mojo Jojo rips open Cartoon Network Studios’ second floor, and caricatures of the employees flee in panic.
1. The banned episode
If you only caught the original series on TV, especially in America, you might not have seen “See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey,” a later rock-opera episode that was only released in certain markets and then in the DVD collection. The Powerpuff Girls give their powers to a gnome who does his best to rid the world of evil, but in doing so may have become evil himself.
There was never official word on why this episode wasn’t aired in the U.S., with theories ranging from possible communist or anti-religious readings of it to its heavy use of strobe animation which might cause occasional seizures.
Those are the best Powerpuff details we can think of. What about you? If there’s anything we’ve missed, putting it in the comments helps not only us, but other readers, and that’s what it’s all about.