The Whoopass Beginnings of the Powerpuff Girls!

A look back at Whoopass Stew!, the birthplace of the original Powerpuff Girls, and so much more!
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December 07, 2020
Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, young and old...

I present to you my twelfth article here on RetroJunk.

Before there was The Powerpuff Girls who hailed from the City of Townsville...



There was...



WHOOPASS STEW!



Starring the Whoopass Girls, of course.

Anyway, 29 years ago, in the year 1991 (which may also be this writer's birth year)…



Cathy or Catherine Cavadini, the future voice of the Powerpuff Girls' commander and leader, Blossom Utonium, was providing the speaking and singing voice talents of Fievel's sister Tanya Mousekewitz in An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West for Hollywood filmmaker Steven Spielberg's London, England, UK-based Amblimation Studio (which is also itself the ancestor of DreamWorks Animation, the latter being the studio behind The Prince of Egypt, the Road to El Dorado, Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and even How to Train Your Dragon, among other films), like in this brief 15-second video clip below in which Tanya tells Fievel that she wants to be a big star acting or singing a song for the whole wide world to hear:



Meanwhile, up north, Tara Strong, the future voice of Bubbles (the joy and the laughter of the Powerpuff Girls) was working on Canadian shows like this Canadian cartoon called The Racoons:



Also in the meanwhile, Elizabeth or E.G. Daily, the future voice of Buttercup, the toughest fighter of all three Powerpuff Girls, was voicing a talking baby named Tommy Pickles for Nickelodeon's Rugrats, having co-starred with Paul Ruebens in ex-Disney animator turned Hollywood filmmaker Tim Burton's 1985 debut feature film, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, six years earlier.



Here is an edited clip from a Rugrats episode called Toy Palace where Tommy Pickles and Chuckie Finster (the latter of whom was voiced by the late Christine Cavanaugh, who also voiced the title characters in Genndy Tartakovsky's Dexter's Laboratory as well as in the acclaimed 1995 family film, Babe, about a talking pig who herded sheep, of course!) bear witness to a spoof of King Kong Vs Godzilla in which the show's King Kong ripoff, Thorg, became locked in mortal combat with the show's Godzilla spoof, Reptar, in a losing battle which, of course, ends with Reptar pushing Thorg into a time machine nestled somewhere in the titular toy store and wound up being zapped back in time to the American Revolutionary War:



And you can see the shocked faces of George Washington and his soldiers when Thorg ends up in the time and place of the American Revolution as they tried to cross the Delaware river! Ha ha!

Also, in 1991, a Cartoon Network has yet to be founded by Atlanta, Georgia-based media mogul, Ted Turner, for another year, and finally in 1991, a young sophomore animation student at the California Institute of the Arts (or CalArts, for short) named Craig McCracken (whose friends include future Dexter's Laboratory and Samurai Jack and Primal creator Genndy Tartakovsky and Paul Rudish, the latter of whom had recently worked on a series of Mickey Mouse cartoons for Disney) was planning on drawing a Mexican wrestler-like being for his own superhero, when he just so happened to draw three cute little girls who will go on to become one of the most famous if also the youngest, female crime fighters or superheroines in popular culture:



But these girls weren't called "The Powerpuff Girls" back then.

For back in the days of Craig McCracken's formative years as an animation student attending CalArts back in the early 1990s, these cute but crime fighting little girls were once called the 'Whoopass Girls'.



Also, the exploding substance that ultimately gave birth to the girls just so happened to not really be the infamous and mysterious superpower-granting Chemical X potion at the time, but simply a rather meaty opened can of whoop-ass.



In addition, Professor Utonium, the girls' creator-father, doesn't look like Samurai Jack at all, but rather like the title character in Dexter's Laboratory:



But within six years, and a name change to the Powerpuff Girls at the suggestion of Paul Rudish along the way, The Powerpuff Girls, which are undoubtedly feminine characters who were completely unbound by gender constructs by kicking the living daylights out of grown men, outsmarting bad guys and saving the day without ever relying on male assistance, will do more than help destroy a few or so animation gender stereotypes; It also help rewrote the way animation (especially on television in America) view female characters, changing forever the way that even TV animation saw female characters, how it viewed female characters trying to save the world for the better, and how it even defined the word (super)heroine.



Anyway, inspired by Joe Horne's bizarre little animated MTV serial, The Adventures of Stevie and Zoya, Craig decided to try a superhero/good guy/supervillain/bad guy kind of narrative story, which is what led him to come up with the girls, as exemplified in two versions...

One being the original pencil test featuring the Whoopass Girls in A Sticky Situation in which the girls ultimately used the solar powers of the sun to kill all the Amoeba Boys to which they are stuck:



The other being the final color version of the same student film animation pencil test featuring the Whoopass Girls in the same Sticky Situation:



And as soon as he started to create just such a short film, he believed that this was the kind of idea that could put him on the map. And that year, he planned to make not one, not two, not even three, but four different cartoons featuring the Whoopass Girls, writing and storyboarding all four of them, recording them all, did layouts for two, but only finished one!

Here are three of the other Whoopass Girls animatics that Craig McCracken did at CalArts:



Monkey See, Doggy Do, with an early appearance by Mojo Jojo…



Monster Trouble, which later evolved into the episode, Uh Oh Dynamo!…



And finally, Whoopass A-Go-Go!, featuring an early version of what became the lobster-clawed, cross-dressing demon known as Him, who is also no doubt inspired by the Chief Blue Meanie in the 1968 animated Beatles cartoon movie, Yellow Submarine.

And to describe Craig McCracken as 'driven' is really an understatement. Anyway, Whoopass Girls took up so much of his time at CalArts that he really pretty much stopped attending classes or doing all his other assignments, but nevertheless, it was one of Craig's animation instructors, Becky Bristow who was the very first person to be impressed by his work on Whoopass Girls as well as being the very first person to encourage McCracken to confirm his notion that Whoopass Girls had the potential to be a TV series.

Becky Bristow also just so happened to be friends with Linda Simensky, who was then Nickelodeon's director of development at the time. Bristow manage to convince her to drop by and take a look, and Linda Simensky liked what she really saw, but she really couldn't do anything with it back then.

Linda would go on to say that the Whoopass, or Powerpuff, Girls, wasn't exactly right for Nickelodeon, which weren't definitely going for superheroes or action after all, since with them, it was a lot more about characters sort of going through exploration and finding themselves and things like that!



Anyway, the girls first sprang to life as a small thumbnail drawing, and so small in fact, that Craig McCracken couldn't give them too many distinctly articulated features, and even when he tried and tried and tried to enlarge the image to refine the girls, he discovered that some things should really not be tampered with!



You see, we all know that the Whoopass or Powerpuff girls don't have any fingers or anything else at all, even though they look very cute even with their great big huge peepers for eyes! And because Craig McCracken just so happened to draw the girls in such a tiny state that when he tried to add fingers to them, he was like, 'Okay, I'm not really going to screw with it, for I accidentally stumbled into something that works, so, I'm just going to leave these girls just the way they are!"

And once Craig McCracken conceived the girls, with their very stylized designs and their great big huge peepers for eyes, which is a nod to 1960s artist Margaret Keane's paintings of big-eyed kids like this one...



Well, even the Powerpuff Girls' kindergarten teacher, Ms. Keane is named after Margaret Keane, herself the subject for another Tim Burton movie, Big Eyes...



Craig McCracken basically hatched the whole concept that we know today as the original Powerpuff Girls show, including such wild supporting characters as the evil monkey with hilariously stilted evil proclamations, the Mojo Jojo!



(Well, City of Townsville where the Powerpuff Girls lived, since, my friends, you have revealed your deepest fears...)

Anyway, it would take a total of six years for the Powerpuff Girls who hailed from the City of Townsville themselves to make it to TV as the stars of their very own series, for a HUGE variety of reasons whatsoever, and not the least of which would have to be Craig McCracken's full-time work on future Samurai Jack and Primal creator Genndy Tartakovsky's early first hit TV cartoon creation, Dexter's Laboratory!



At one point, in fact, Craig McCracken was so convinced that The Powerpuff Girls would never get picked up by Cartoon Network that in fact, he actually shopped the girls around town to many another studio! Most of the other studios claimed they like the idea, but said it wasn't really enough for them to buy such an idea from Craig McCracken! Oh the shame! Oh the shame!

Well, thank Almighty God that the Powerpuff Girls who hailed from the City of Townsville didn't really happened elsewhere for if many another studio would have ever, ever, EVER picked up the Powerpuff Girls, they'll end up having to have the Powerpuff Girls idea shelved or canned or whatsoever! If Powerpuff Girls would had ever ended up at Nick-Nick-Nick-Nick-Nick-Nick-Nick-NICK! NICKELODEON!, the Powerpuff Girls would never have been Powerpuff Girls, and it would have been dissected entirely into something just so different even in tone!

And one part of the problem with Powerpuff Girls in the beginning, was that Cartoon Network had taken the two original PPG shorts around to all the focus groups in town, wherein the children woyld watch them and offer their reactions to any of them. Either way, there was a very mixed response from the kids focus groups to the Powerpuff Girls who hailed from the City of Townsville!

Craig McCracken went to one such focus group in Los Angeles, in the indefinitely earthquake-and-wildfire-riddled state of California, where a bunch of 11-year-old boys called the Powerpuff Girls who hailed from the City of Townsville "the worst show we've ever seen!" and "a terrible cartoon!"



Oh, the humanity!! And meanwhile, Dexter's Laboratory by Genndy Tartakovsky, the future creator of Samurai Jack, Sym Bionic Titan and The Primal Show with Spear & Fang, as well as the upcoming Unicorn Warriors Eternal, tested very well with those otherwise meddling 11-year-old kids, prompting the Cartoon Network to put the Dexter and Dee Dee show into production first!



By then, anyways, Linda Simensky jumped ship from Nickelodeon to join the Cartoon Network, and very much wished that the Powerpuff Girls who hailed from the City of Townsville would one day, and eventually, become a full TV series, so much so, in fact, that Linda became the PPG's biggest advocate.

And you know, of course that nobody said "Well, this Powerpuff Girls who hailed from the City of Townsville show didn't test very well with those meddling 11-year-olds, so let us all fix it eventually!"



Also, Linda Simensky wanted to keep the Dexter's Lab crew together for they are such a great team of animation guys, who, at that point, Genndy and company were on the third season of Dexter's Lab, and she told Mike Lazzo to keep them all together, but not have them just leave aster Dexter's Lab's season four, and that if Cartoon Network could get Powerpuff Girls fixed at the time, they could segue into another show like the Powerpuff Girls! Luckily, Mike Lazzo said yes, prompting him and Linda to push the idea at Cartoon Network.

Anyway, Craig McCracken went back to work on the Powerpuff Girls who hailed from the City of Townsville, beginning by addressing this issue:



What are the differences between Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup?

Well, Craig McCracken worked out a chart that explained everything about them. When he made the fist shorts, Craig was focused more on weird concepts and less on character development, and that was his biggest early mistake! Anyway, Craig knew the characters very well because he had worked with the girls for years, but he made the early mistake of forgetting that he wasn't telling the virgin audience who they really are!



And so, this time around, he made sure that the distinct personalities of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup were very evident from day one, and he also made the Powerpuff Girls who hailed from the City of Townsville's backstory -- their very creation and birth, thanks to their creator-father, the scientist Professor Utonium, that is, in a single day and night somewhere in the city of Townsville using things that are sugary, things that are very spicy, and things that are very nice indeed, plus one accident in the very name, shape, and form of the infamous and mysterious, superpower-granting Chemical X potion, rather than a opened can of meaty whoop-ass that so way back in the wild old days of Craig McCracken's CalArts years -- play into the main stories of the Powerpuff Girls even more!





Craig McCracken also refined the world of the Powerpuff Girls themselves...



And he also added more and more wacky supporting characters until it finally became such a solid concept...and finally, Cartoon Network said yes to the Powerpuff Girls who hailed from the City of Townsville at long last! Hallelujah!

And now, we (along with Genndy and Craig and company, of course!) can finally segue from Genndy Tartakovsky's Dexter's Laboratory to Craig McCracken's original bona-fide classic Powerpuff Girls show:



And so, as post-production work progressed on Season 4 of Dexter's Laboratory (which as far as we know should really have stay concluded with Last But Not Beast and the Ego Trip special!), the rest of the Dexter's Lab crew really just slid all the way to the Powerpuff Girls show with Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup and their friends and allies and enemies! But on the following condition as far as leadership goes: that Genndy Tartakovsky stayed on as a supervising producer and a co-director, and Genndy's attitude is that Craig had worked on Genndy's Dexter show, and now Genndy would still work on Craig's Powerpuff show as a supervising producer and a co-director on the Powerpuff Girls' earlier, more action packed moments, but only, The Powerpuff Girls were Craig McCracken's babies far along, and this time around Craig is ready for Powerpuff to become a full TV show on Cartoon Network!

I mean, Craig McCracken had learned so very much from doing the first 52 Dexters plus Genndy Tartakovsky's long lost 1999 made for TV Ego Trip special that he is so very much like a whole different person from the shorts to the very first Dexter series, and it was very brilliant indeed when he did the very first storyboard for the now-redeveloped show that is the original classic Powerpuff Girls show!



The original Powerpuf Girls show is very distinguished by very clever writing suffused with very tongue in cheek humor, very strong design, and very glorious use of color; the now-blacklisted Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi (who had already lost control of his Ren and Stimpy creation in 1993), once said that by looking at the original Powerpuff Girls series, the color combinations are very perfect indeed, while Glen Hanson, who designed MTV's ill-fated but still strikingly imagined Spy Groove in the year 2000 (20 years ago to be exact), even called the original Powerpuff Girls show "one of the most beautifully art directed animated [cartoon] shows ever [made]," and said that the bold lines around the characters are a very wonderful, simple and strong sense of design.



Craig McCracken's creative hand is very evident in all aspects of the original show, presiding over every story session, supervising the board artists, directors and writers of his show, and they would throw ideas around before coming up with stories that feel very good for them before structurally breaking it up in beats; for each original Powerpuff Girls episode, a 3-to-4-page long outline is written based on those very story sessions, and once it is completed, Craig would proofread it, and then what Craig will do is write really detailed notes, like how he want the sequences to be boarded, some inspirational stuff to look at, what the goal of the sequence really is, and also, from whose perspective it is really supposed to be drawn, putting notes on it as he goes.



The original Powerpuff Girls storyboard artist will take it from there, generally getting up to 6 weeks to board a typical 11-minute Powerpuff Girls cartoon and adding their own creative input along the route; I mean, everyone has got a certain voice as well as a certain style, and Craig, Genndy and company tried to give shows to people because, as they know, if 'he or she can do this amazingly well, this is perfect for him or her', and so they would do their rough storyboards, cut stuff out, re-storyboard things, and then the artists would then clean up the revised storyboard, and once Craig McCracken gets the storyboard back, he will go through it, and maybe redraw certain stuff, or, if they misinterpret a certain note that Craig had, he will re-board a sequence and redo it. It is just the nature of the TV animation business just to get the shows exactly right!



So anyway, the original classic Powerpuff Girls became a huge hit for Cartoon Network as well as their first monster marketing success, and before long there were Powerpuff Girls toys, storybooks, activity books, stickers, tattoos, glitter pens, puzzles, CDs, audio and videocassettes, DVDs, posters in stores from all around the world, and even, in 2002, a theatrical big screen feature film spinoff, The Powerpuff Girls Movie.



Anyway, ever since Craig McCracken finally left Cartoon Network in 2009, efforts have been made by Cartoon Network and WarnerMedia not only to diminish his contributions to the Powerpuff Girls franchise, but also to diminished Cathy Cavadini, Tara Strong, and Elizabeth 'E.G.' Daily's contributions to the voice talents of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup, as demonstrated by the outcry over the notorious and controversial 2016 reboot of the Powerpuff Girls:



I mean, many, many, MANY fans of the Powerpuff Girls will forever be deeply frustrated with but also very bitterly disappointed to this very day and date that the actual 2016 Powerpuff Girls reboot not only leave out a certain myriad characters and things that the original Powerpuff Girls series had once hold dear (most notoriously, the deletion of the Mayor's secretary, Ms. Sarah Bellum)…



But the 2016 PPG reboot didn't even used the original voice actresses for Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup (as in the aforementioned Cathy Cavadini, Tara Strong and E.G. Daily) like in the original Powerpuff Girls show...



But rest assured that the original 1998-2005 television series of The Powerpuff Girls (and maybe the 2002 movie) is not only unbeatable especially in terms of classic status, but also rest assured that the original Powerpuff Girls cast and crew (not only creator Craig McCracken, as well as supervsing producer and co-director Genndy Tartakovsky, but also the original artists behind the voices of the Powerpuff Girls themselves, Cathy Cavadini (Blossom), Tara Strong (Bubbles) and E.G. Daily (Buttercup), among many others who were once invovled in the Dexters and the Powerpuffs and the very like of them) will still remain, and always will remain the guiding forces:



Remember, folks, that The Powerpuff Girls themselves (Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup, respectively) actually didn't come from a once-popular kids TV network such as the aforementioned Cartoon Network or a Nickelodeon or a Disney Channel, nor do they really actually come from a group of executives in a room, but rather, they do come from the wild and wacky imagination of Craig McCracken himself way back when he was an animation student at CalArts in the early 1990s, and especially by way of a 1992 student film by the very name of WHOOPASS STEW! aka A Sticky Situation.

(and then The Powerpuff Girls become bigger than that for a while once the original 1998-2005 show aired on Cartoon Network)

I mean, as much as I loved Genndy Tartakovsky's Dexter's Laboratory, I still very much loved Genndy's former Cartoon Network crewmate Craig McCracken's original Powerpuff Girls series, however...so much so in fact, that having come to know both the original Powerpuff Girls as well as Dexter's Laboratory's respective cast of characters, having watched certain episodes of both shows even in reruns when I was growing up back in the late 1990s to early 2000s era, ever since my own boyhood, or even since high school, I have been trying and always will be trying to someday work with the very likes of both Dexter and Dee Dee from Dexter's Laboratory as well as all three of the Powerpuff Girls who hailed from the City of Townsville themselves, especially in some form or other; not only that, and this has never been done for any of our screens outside of the pages of a comic book, but I also wanted to someday pursue a long overdue crossover between Genndy Tartakovsky's Dexter's Laboratory and Craig McCracken's original Powerpuff Girls series as a potential true passion project, even for me myself and I!



And whether the long-mooted (among old classic Cartoon Network fans, that is), long-promised and long-overdue crossover between the original Powerpuff Girls and Dexter's Laboratory (respectively, two of the early TV cartoon creations of Samurai Jack/Sym Bionic Titan/Primal creator Genndy Tartakovsky as well as Genndy's former Cartoon Network crewmate Craig McCracken) would, could and should really be an animated feature-length film or perhaps a hour long special or whatsoever, such a Dexter's Laboratory/classic Powerpuff Girls crossover would certainly one day be, either way, a labor of love even for me, and even a true testament to my own love of the original Powerpuff Girls as well as of Dexter's Lab that has been growing ever since my own 1990s-early 2000s childhood, as long as even I would go to great, and sometimes extreme lengths to try to get almost everything about Genndy Tartakovsky's Dexter's Laboratory as well as Craig McCracken's original classic Powerpuff Girls exactly right if also better than anything else that came after the respective movies of Dexter and the PPG, and also go to great and sometimes extreme lengths to try and very clearly get as very close to the look, the feel, the spirit, the soul, the action, the humor, the charm, the original classic designs, the colors, and even the very heart of both Genndy Tartakovsky's Dexter's Laboratory as well as Craig McCracken's original Powerpuff Girls series as humanly possible!



Anyway, so much for all that for now, but anyway...



All Hail to the Powerpuff Girls, the very defenders of a certain City called Townsville!(and I mean the original Powerpuff Girls, that is!)



Let all respect Blossom, their commander and leader; Bubbles, the joy and the laughter of the three; Buttercup, the toughest fighter of them all; and the Professor Utonium, their creator-father!



There shall be none among you, and all others, who will be as mighty and cute as the Powerpuff Girls who hailed from the City of Townsville!



Let all enemies of the Powerpuff Girls, villains and monsters and criminals alike, beware of that, for they shall be fighting crime, trying to save the world, here they come just in time...The Powerpuff Girls! Powerpuff!



So much for all that, but anyway, what do you like about the Powerpuff Girls themselves, especially the individual girls?

Also, what do you really like about the original 1998-2005 Powerpuff Girls TV series itself?



Anyway...and so once again, the day is saved thanks to the Powerpuff Girls who hailed from the City of Townsville!



THE END
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Comments
9 months, 29 days ago
You forgot to mention that the narrator was voiced by Ernie Anderson (yeah, never heard of him either, sounds like a bootleg Gary Owens to me) in the Whoopass Stew shorts, and by Tom Kenny in the series proper. I mention this because as embarrassing as it may sound, I had a crush on the narrator growing up. I also had a crush on Swayzak from Toonami...
    27 days, 22 hours ago
    the power puff girls used to beat the villians but not anymore
      9 months, 29 days ago
      Well, that's okay with me. Thanks for the correction!
        11 months ago
        Good article, thanks for the info on what was a great cartoon
          11 months ago
          You are very much more than welcome, Magus!
            11 months, 29 days ago
            I love your writing. Very entertaining and easy to read
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